Ten Thoughts About The Marathon For 2013

by David Graham
December 10, 2013

LetsRun.com note: We are publishing a guest column here by LetsRun.com super visitor David Graham who takes back at what a year 2013 was for men in the marathon.

It is December, and knowing that next Sunday’s hot & hilly Honolulu Marathon has not had any athlete in its first 40 years who could sustain sub-5:00 pace for the distance (CR = Jimmy Muindi’s 2:11:12 from 2004 = 5:00.2/mile), I believe it is safe to say that all of the fast marathons for 2013 have been completed.

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So here is a look back at 2013 and ahead to 2014 in the world of marathoning. My 10 Thoughts About The Marathon For 2013.

First, a reminder of the top 10 times of 2013, headed by Wilson Kipsang’s World Record.  All times came in three races.

If you break the World Record LRC says you get to drink more than 22 ouncex.

If you break the World Record LRC says you get to drink more than 22 ounces.

1.   2:03:23   Wilson Kipsang (Berlin)
2.   2:03:45   Dennis Kimetto (Chicago)
3.   2:03:52   Emmanuel Mutai (Chicago)
4.   2:04:05   Eliud Kipchoge (Berlin)
5.   2:04:45   Lelisa Desisa (Dubai)
6.   2:04:48   Berhanu Shiferaw (Dubai)
7.   2:04:49   Tadesa Tola (Dubai)
8.   2:04:52   Endeshaw Negesse (Dubai)
9.   2:04:53   Bernard Kiprop Koech (Dubai)
10. 2:05:16   Sammy Kitwara (Chicago)

It is impressive to think that the #10 time on the list this year is still 22 seconds faster than Khalid Khannouchi’s WR 2:05:38 in 2002 (Tergat set the WR of 2:04:55 in 2003).

The #1 time this year is 2:15 faster than KK’s WR (which would be nearly a half-mile lead)…


Next: Various Marathon winners (listed in order of month)

Xiamen:                            Nergari Terfa              2:07:32
Marrakech                        Stephen Tum               2:06:35
Dubai:                               Lelisa Desisa              2:04:45
Tokyo:                               Dennis Kimetto           2:06:50
Rotterdam:                       Tilahun Regassa         2:05:38
Boston:                             Lelisa Desisa              2:10:22
Hamburg:                          Eliud Kipchoge           2:05:30
Paris:                                 Peter Some                 2:05:38
London:                             Tsegay Kebede           2:06:04
World Champs (Moscow) Stephen Kiprotich       2:09:51
Berlin:                               Wilson Kipsang          2:03:23
Chicago:                            Dennis Kimetto          2:03:45
Amsterdam:                      Joseph Kebet              2:05:36
Seoul:                               Franklin Chepkwony    2:06:59
Toronto:                            Deressa Chimsa         2:07:05
Beijing:                             Tadese Tola                2:07:16
Frankfurt:                          Vincent Kipruto          2:06:15
New York:                          Geoffrey Mutai          2:08:24
Valencia:                           Felix Kipkemboi Keny 2:07:14
Fukuoka:                           Martin Mathathi         2:07:16

Third: Since there was a World Record run this year, I thought I’d selectively list the world record progression for the marathon over the last century (inclusive list since 1981) with the increasingly rapid pace per mile, in order to better see the evolution of the sport.

1913    Harry Green             2:38:16    (6:02.2/mile)
1913    Alexis Ahlgren         2:36:07    (5:57.3/mile)
1925    Albert Michelsen     2:29:02    (5:41.1/mile)
1953    Jim Peters                2:18:40    (5:17.3/mile)
1960    Abebe Bikila            2:15:16    (5:09.5/mile)
1967    Derek Clayton          2:09:36    (4:56.6/mile)
1981    Rob De Castella       2:08:18    (4:53.6/mile)
1984    Steve Jones              2:08:05     (4:53.1/mile)
1985    Carlos Lopes            2:07:12     (4:51.1/mile)
1988    Belayneh Dinsamo  2:06:50    (4:50.3/mile)
1998    Renaldo de Costa     2:06:05    (4:48.5/mile)
1999    Khalid Khannouchi    2:05:42    (4:47.7/mile)
2002    Khalid Khannouchi    2:05:38    (4:47.5/mile)
2003    Paul Tergat               2:04:55    (4:45.9/mile)
2007    Haile Gebrselassie   2:04:26    (4:44.8/mile)
2008    Haile Gebrselassie   2:03:59    (4:43.7/mile)
2011    Patrick Makau           2:03:38    (4:42.9/mile)
2013    Wilson Kipsang         2:03:23    (4:42.4/mile)

Bookends: With Wilson Kipsang running his race under cool conditions (and having better shoes, more advanced training, more liquids stations, pacemakers, the advantage of history, etc.), he managed to run 1:19.8 faster per mile in 2013 than Harry Green‘s WR in 1913 (4:42.4/mile vs. 6:02.2/mile).  Another way to look at this would be to say that if these races were run on a track, Kipsang would almost lap Green each mile…


Fourth: Just as the WR has progressed, so has the fastest non-winning mark (i.e., 2nd placers) in the marathon (I compiled this list myself & hope it’s accurate):

2013  Emanuel Mutai         2:03:52   (Chicago)
2013  Eliud Kipchoge          2:04:05   (Berlin)
2012  Dennis Kimetto         2:04:16   (Berlin)
2009  James Kwambai        2:04:27   (Rotterdam)
2003  Sammy Korir              2:04:56   (Berlin)
2002  Paul Tergat               2:05:48    (London)
1999  Moses Tanui             2:06:16   (Chicago)
1999  Tesfaye Jifar             2:06:49   (Amsterdam)
1999  Takayuki Inubushi     2:06:57    (Berlin)
1988  Ahmed Salah            2:07:07    (Rotterdam)
1986  Kunimitsu Ito            2:07:57    (Beijing)
1985  Djama Robleh           2:08:08     (Chicago)
1985  Takeyuki Nakayama  2:08:15    (Hiroshima)
1983  Carlos Lopes             2:08:39    (Rotterdam)
1983  Takeshi Soh               2:08:55    (Tokyo)
1982  Juma Ikangaa           2:09:30     (Brisbane)
1981  Kunimitsu Ito            2:09:37     (Fukuoka)
1980  Takeshi Soh              2:09:49     (Fukuoka)
1975  David Chettle           2:10:20     (Fukuoka)

Note that Kunimitsu Ito and Takeshi Soh made this list twice (candidates for unluckiest marathoner in history?)

*Excluded from this list due to races on an aided course:

2011  Moses Mosop   2:03:06 at Boston
1982  Dick Beardsley  2:08:53 at Boston
1979 Toshihiko Seko    2:10:12 at Boston
1978  Jeff Wells           2:10:15 at Boston


Fifth: Six all-time marks for place were run this year, with Kipchoge’s 2nd place mark of 2:04:05 in Berlin getting replaced by Mutai’s Chicago race:

1st Place: Wilson Kipsang            2:03:23    (Berlin)
2nd Place: Emmanuel Mutai        2:03:52    (Chicago)
3rd Place: Tadesa Tola                 2:04:49    (Dubai)
4th Place: Endeshaw Negesse     2:04:52    (Dubai)
5th Place: Bernard Kiprop Koech  2:04:53    (Dubai)

The best marks for places 6 – 17 belong to the phenomenal 2012 Dubai Marathon.  The 6th place time in that race was Yami Dadi’s 2:05:41.  (7th & 8th place finishers were both timed in 2:05:42, the same time as Khalid Khannouchi’s 1999 WR at Chicago.)

The 17th finisher at Dubai in 2012 was Chala Dechase, in 2:09:22!!!!   Yes, 2:09:22 was only good enough for…17th place.


Aside: Did Dubai 2012 replace the remarkable 2011 Frankfurt Marathon as the deepest elite marathon in history?  Or was the 2012 Men’s U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon the deepest?  It is hard to say.  Dubai 2012 has the best marks-for-place of 6th through 17th positions, but Frankfurt 2011 had the faster winning time (Kipsang’s 2:03:42) and the best marks for 18th and 19th places (and possibly many places beyond that – anyone know best ever marks-for-place for 25th or 30th place?)

18th place at Frankfurt in 2011 was a 2:10:18 by Bernard Rotich.

25th place at Frankfurt 2011 was a 2:12:34 by Marius Gizynski.

Can you imagine being a friend of Gizynski and asking,
“Hey, how’d your race go?”
“What was your time?”
“Excellent!  Top 10 finish, then?”
“Nope.  25th.”

On the other hand, places 37 and beyond were faster at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, e.g., 40th place at the 2012 U.S.O.T. was Chris Erichsen’s 2:17:52, better than Robert Krupicka’s 2:18:43 for 40th at Frankfurt in 2011…50th place at 2012 U.S.O.T. was Tyler McCandless 2:19:56, better than Hannes Rungger 2:23:40 at Frankfurt 2011 (but three seconds slower than Ecuador’s Miguel Ángel Almachi’s 2:19:53 for 50th at the 2012 Summer Olympics); 60th place at the USOT 2012 was Jason Ordway’s  2:21:57 vs. Iwan Schwarz 2:26:57 at Frankfurt 2011 or Mexico’s Carlos Cordero’s 2:22:08 at London 2012, etc.

Sixth: my tentative Top 10 Rankings for 2013, based on times, level of competition, head to head races, and placing, are:

Photo of Lelisa Desisa

Lelisa Desisa (shown here getting 2nd in Hengelo in 2012 – just .28 behind eventual bronze medallist Tariku Bekele) moved to the marathon quite well in 2013.
*More 2012 Hengelo Photos

1. Lelisa Desisa – win in supercompetitive Dubai 2:04:45, win at Boston 2:10:22, Silver medal world champs 2:10:12
2. Dennis Kimetto – win in Tokyo in 2:06:50, win in Chicago in 3rd fastest marathon in history 2:03:45
3. Tsegay Kebede – win at London in 2:06:04, 4th place World Champs in 2:10:47, 2nd place New York 2:09:16
4. Wilson Kipsang – 5th at London in 2:07:47, win at Berlin in a world record 2:03:23
5. Emmanuel Mutai – 2nd London 2:06:50, 2nd in Chicago in a super fast 2:03:52
6. Eliud Kipchoge – win at Hamburg in 2:05:30, 2nd Berlin in really fast 2:04:05
7. Tadesse Tola  – 3rd in a fast 2:04:49 at Dubai, Bronze Medal at World Champs in 2:10:23, win in Beijing 2:07:16
8. Stephen Kiprotich – 6th London in 2:08:05, gold medal at World Champs, 2:09:51, 12th New York 2:13:05
9. Bernard Kiprop Koech – 5th Dubai in fast 2:04:53, 3rd Amsterdam 2:06:29
10. Sammy Kitwara – 3rd Rotterdam 2:07:22, 3rd Chicago 2:05:16

Honorable Mention:
Geoffrey Mutai – DNF at London but a win in New York in 2:08:24
Negari Terfa – win in Xiamen in 2:07:32, win in Rome in 2:07:56
Vincent Kipruto – win in Otsu 2:08:34, win in Frankfurt 2:06:15

(Desisa, Kimetto, Terfa, and Kipruto were the only double marathon winners at sub 2:09 races in 2013)

1. It was a coin toss between Desisa and Kimetto for #1.  Two wins – one quite fast – and a silver at world champs vs. two wins, with one a blazing fast marathon that beat another sub 2:04 runner.  In the end, Desisa’s world champ silver tipped the scales in his favor.
2. Kebede beat Kipsang, Mutai, Kiprotich, et. al at London, had two more high finishes at World champs & NYC (to get him the World Majors title), so he gets #3.
3. Kipsang’s WR was sandbagged by his 5th at London, so he gets #4.
4. I had a difficult time deciding between E. Mutai and Kipchoge for #5 – two 2nd places vs. a win and a 2nd place.  Mutai had the faster time for the year, by 13 seconds, though Kipchoge’s 2nd marathon beat Mutai’s by 1:20.  In the end, the quality of competition at London/Chicago outweighed that of Hamburg/Berlin, so Mutai got the nod.
5. Kiprotich is only on the list because of his gold at the World Champs.
6. Kiprotich beat Tola at the World Champs, but Tola’s other two marathons were clearly better performances than Kiprotich’s races in London & New York, so Tola got the nod for 7th.  How much weight to give to a World Championship?  That’s a question I’m still mulling over, especially since other races had more competitive fields.  Kiprotich is clearly a fine hot weather, championship racer, as the Olympics & World Champs prove.  Outside of those venues, he so far hasn’t shown exceptionally fast wheels…
7. Koech vs. Kitwara – Koech’s fastest was better than Kitwara’s and his 2nd fastest was better than Kitwara’s 2nd.  Since the level of competition they faced was about the same, Koech gets the higher ranking.


Seventh: In his own category is Yuki Kawauchi.  Here are his ten marathons in 2013 (with one more planned, at Hofu):

2:12:24 Luxor 1st (18 Jan)
2:08:15 Oita 1st (3 Feb)
2:08:14 Seoul 4th place (17 March) – this is his lifetime PR
2:14:27 Nagano 1st (21 April)
2:18:29 Chitose 1st (2 June)
2:10:01 Gold Coast 1st (7 July)
2:15:35 Moscow World Champs 18th (17 Aug)
2:11:40 Melbourne 2nd (13 Oct)
2:12:29 New York 11th (3 Nov)
2:09:05 Fukuoka 3rd (1 Dec)

Five wins, a 2nd, two sub 2:09’s, three sub 2:10’s, a PR, a top 20 finish at the World Champs, and his slowest time of the year was actually a Course Record…beating the former 25 year old mark by one minute, thirty-two seconds: about 80% of the Chitose Marathon is run on gravel and dirt roads, not to mention an elevation difference of 150 meters.

All this while working a regular day job.

Gotta tip your hat to the guy.


Eighth: In the category of Whatever Happened to”

1) Evans Rutto?  He won Chicago in 2003 with a 2:05:50, at that time the fastest debut marathon ever.  He won the 2004 London Marathon in 2:06:20 and later defended his Chicago title with a 2:06:16, the fastest marathon time of the year.  When Track & Field News ranked him #1 marathoner in the world for 2004, he was 26 years old.  He had what looked like a promising career in front of him.

Then in 2005 he finished 10th at London, followed by a 4th at Chicago in 2:07:30.  In 2006 he again finished 10th at London…then disappeared from the news, though not from running marathons.

In 2008, he finished 7th at Mumbai in 2:17, then in 2009 and 2010 won three low key marathons: Hanover (2:10:47), Keulen (2:08:36), and Ljubljana (2:10:17).  In 2011 he finished 11th at Mumbai (2:13:39) and 7th at Daegu (non-World Champs race 2:10:38)

This April, it was originally reported that at 35 years of age he had finished 5th in Düsseldorf Marathon in April in 2:10:10.  Turns out that wasn’t him.  He certainly has an unusual collection of victor’s trophies: Chicago (2), London, Hanover, Keulen, and Ljubljana.  But what happened to all of that talent he showed in 2003 & 2004?

2) Duncan Kibet?  In 2005 & 2006 he ran a few one hour half-marathons, in 2008 ran 2:08 and 2:07 to finish 2nd and 1st in Vienna & Milan (respectively), then in April of 2009, had a brilliant sprint finish with James Kwambai to win Rotterdam, both men timed in 2:04:27.  At that point, only Haile Gebrselassie had ever run faster for the marathon (2:04:26 in 2007 and 2:03:59 in 2008).  Expectations were high.  He went to Berlin that September to race Haile G…..but ended up with a DNF.  The next March, he produced another one hour half-marathon, a 1:00:21 in Lisboa, then disappeared.  Injuries.  Silence in 2011.  Silence in 2012.

In 2013 he turned up as a pacemaker at the Seoul Marathon and then was to try his hand at the full distance in the Düsseldorf Marathon in April…and wound up out of the results.

Both Rutto and Kibet are now 35.  Like Rutto, Kibet had a flash of brilliance, then came injuries and a slide into obscurity…


2013: In all, yet another exciting year in marathoning, with lots of amazing performances, especially in Dubai (2:04:53…for 5th place?!), Berlin (World Record), and Chicago (2:03:52 for 2nd place!!).


Ninth: My hope for 2014?  That Haile Gebrselassie runs a marathon.  I’d like to see him go after Andrés Espinosa’s Master’s WR of 2:08:46 from 2003 (run in Berlin on the same day Paul Tergat broke the marathon WR).

Master’s WR Progression

Andrés Espinosa           2:08:46       2003      Berlin
Mohamed Ezzher          2:10:32       2001      Paris
John Campbell              2:11:04       1990      Boston
Jack Foster                    2:11:18       1974     Christchurch
Mamo Wolde                2:15:08       1972      Munich

Consider the following:

1) Except for a notoriously tailwind-aided 1994 Boston Marathon, how many sub 2:10 performances did Espinosa produce in his previous 21 marathons before he ran 2:08 at 40 years of age?

2) How many marathons had Ezzher run before he turned 40 and ran his marathon record at Paris?

The answer is the same for both: None

These are things that make you go “Hmm…”


Tenth: My wish?  That it were possible to still have Sammy Wanjiru with us, competing against all the big guns and going after spectacular times…

Guest columnist David Graham is a general surgeon who works at a mission hospital in Shell, Ecuador.  A fan of LetsRun.com since 2002, Graham’s pieces have appeared many times on LetsRun. He can be rearched at kex86@hotmail.com:

We asked him for a bio and he wrote: “I was never a highly talented runner (good enough to make All Conference in high school in Johnson City, Tennessee and make varsity at a division III school – Wheaton College, west of Chicago, where I graduated in 1986 – but I was never an elite runner).  However, I’ve always been a fan of the sport.  One of my first real inspirations was a guy named John Stewart, a 4:02 miler for Tulane who made it to the finals of the 1972 Olympic Trials in the 1,500.  He gave me a pair of his old spikes back in the early 70s (back when the tracks we ran on were cinder) and from there I got started.  By vocation, I’m a general surgeon By avocation, I’m a running enthusiast.  I’ve been a fan of Letsrun.com since someone first told me about it in 2002.”

If you are interested in writing a guest column, please email us at letsrun@letsrun.com.

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