“I Think The Money Is Mine. Nobody Will Take It.”
October 31, 2013
Just three days before he races for $500,000 and the 2012-2013 World Marathon Majors crown on Sunday, a relaxed and jovial Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia was full of smiles today at day two of the 2013 ING New York City Marathon pre-race media days.
The $500,000 prize, which Kebede refers to as the “jackpot,” will be Kebede’s unless Stephen Kiprotich wins on Sunday or unless Kiprotich finishes second and Kebede is not in the top three. (If Kiprotich wins, Kebede’s placing is irrelevant. Please note, in our initial men’s preview, we made a mistake and said Kebede only needed to be top five if Kiprotich was second instead of top three).
While media members repeatedly tried to flummox Kebede with hypothetical question after hypothetical question, Kebede remained unfazed by all the hypotheticals about pace and money.
Over and over as different reporters showed up, Kebede was asked essentially the same question along the lines of, “What will you do if Geoffrey Mutai or someone else takes it out really fast? Will you go with them or will you play it safe to watch Kiprotich?”
Kebede’s answer was very simple, yet profound. “If I can go, I will. If I cannot, (then I won’t).”
Another time, when asked the same question he said, “If I can (go fast), I go with him. If I can’t, I will not.”
Never once did Kebede seem worried that he’d find himself in a spot in the race where he wasn’t sure what tactic he should employ. And for good reason.
Kebede knows his body very well. Perhaps better than any other marathoner in the sport today.
Remember, Kebede won the London Marathon in April because he knew his body so well. Kebede sensed before 30k the pace was too hot and fell off the lead pack. At 30k, he was some 18 seconds arrears of the leading quartet, and at 35k was 49 seconds behind the leader. Yet at the finish, after every one ahead of him totally cratered, he was your champion.
Additionally (see the chart to the left), Kebede has run 15 career marathons. After his debut where he was eighth in 2:08:16, he’s finished in the top 5 in all of the next 14. Talk about Mr. Consistency. He’s been averaging 2.5 marathons a year since the start of 2008 and ALL OF THEM have been good performances.
Tsegaye Kebede’s Marathon Career
2:08:16 8 Amsterdam 21 Oct
2:06:40 1 Paris 6 Apr
2:10:00 3 OG Beijing 24 Aug
2:06:10 1 Fukuoka 7 Dec
2:05:20 2 Flora London 26 Apr
2:08:35 3 WC Berlin 22 Aug
2:05:18 1 Fukuoka 6 Dec
2:05:19 1 Virgin London 25 Apr
2:06:43 2 Bank of Am Chicago IL 10 Oct
2:07:48 5 Virgin London 17 Apr
2:07:14 3 ING New York NY 6 Nov
2:06:52 3 Virgin London 22 Apr
2:04:38 1 Bank of Am Chicago IL 7 Oct
2:06:04 1 Virgin London 21 Apr
2:10:47 4 WC Moskva
Kebede has finished top three in 12 of his last 14 marathons and that’s a key stat as well because if Stephen Kiprotich finishes second on Sunday, he will win the $500,000 jackpot if Kebede isn’t in the top three.
In terms of the $500,000 jackpot, which Kebede came incredibly close to winning in 2010 when he came up just short in an epic back and forth one on one battle with Sammy Wanjiru on 10/10/10 in Chicago in what proved to be Wanjiru’s last marathon ever (Kebede also was the WMM runner-up in 2011-12 but was 29 points behind winner Geoffrey Mutai), Kebede didn’t want to answer what he’d do with the money until he actually won it for fear of jinxing himself.
“I think the money is mine. Nobody will take it.”
That being said, Kebede did admit he very much wants to win the jackpot.
“This is the big one. I do not like to lose this money,” said Kebede, who was confident that ultimately it would be his:
“(In Chicago in 2010), I tried (really hard). He (Wanjiru) pass me. I pass him. But when he passed me (at the very end), I say (to myself) ‘This is not my money.’ ” I forget it (and moved on).
But this year, I have 65 points. Stephen has 50. I think this (the money) is mine (this year). Nobody will take it,” said Kebede with a laugh.
How’s His Training Been?
Kebede got over his disappointment from finishing fourth in Moscow at the World Championships 11 weeks ago in August, where a victory would have locked up the WMM majors title for him, very quickly.
Asked when he started training for New York, Kebede said, “I started immediately – the morning after Moscow.”
As for how his training has been, Kebede sounded confident and said he’s in a better spot now than he was going into Moscow.
“I’m good. Now I’m better than Moscow,” said Kebede who attributed some of the better fitness now to the fact that it’s no longer the winter/rainy season in Ethiopia. Kebede added that he actually thought his training for Moscow was good but the race just didn’t go great for him in the warmish conditions.
Other Tidbits From Kebede
When asked why he ran Worlds in Moscow instead of defending his 2012 Chicago Marathon crown, Kebede responded patriotically, “You have to love your country. It’s not always for money so I chose my country.”
A reporter followed up and asked Kebede if the Ethiopian Federation forced him to run Worlds and Kebede responded, “Of course.” That being said, it wasn’t 100% certain in our minds that he was indicating he was forced to do it because when asked if he was disappointed that the Federation left him off the 2012 Olympic team even though he won a medal in 2008, Kebede said he was only a “little bit” disappointed.
If he had gone to the London Olympics, Kebede said casually, “Maybe I get something,” meaning a medal but clearly thinking and worrying about hypotheticals is not something this pragmatic 26-year old doesn’t waste time or energy on.
Video of our chat with Kebede below. We’ve got it embedded to begin where Kebede talks about his greatest victory ever – 2012 London – and how he thinks the 2012-13 jackpot will be his.