April 6, 2014
The marathon debut of 5,000 and 10,000 world record holder Kenenisa Bekele was very successful today as he battered both the Paris course record and the debut marathon times of times of past legends Haile Gebrselassie, Paul Tergat and Samuel Wanjiru by running 2:05:03 to win the 2014 Paris Marathon. The previous Paris course record was 2:05:12.
The 31-year-old Bekele was full of run today, as when the pace slowed significantly after the leaders hit halfway in 62:09, he dispatched the pacemakers and ran all alone for the last 45 minutes of the race. He took the lead roughly 1 hour 20 minutes into the race and never looked back. No one else in the field stayed close to Bekele. Fellow Ethiopian Limenih Getachew was second in 2:06:49, with Luka Kanda of Kenya, the 2012 Rome winner, third in 2:08:02.
How did Bekele’s debut compare to some other notable distance greats of the past? Well, the professional 26.2 debuts of both Haile Gebrselassie, the former 5,000 (12:39.36) and 10,000 (26:22.75) world record holder like Bekele, who went on to run a marathon world record of 2:03:59, and Sammy Wanjiru, the 2008 Olympic champ, were very similar – 2:06:35 and 2:06:39. Former 10,000 and 26.2 world record holder Paul Tergat (26:27.85, 2:04:55 PR) debuted at 2:08:15.
Bekele was significantly better than those three legends when they first made the move to the classic 26.2 distance, although he did come up short of Dennis Kimetto‘s debut marathon record of 2:04:15 (which was run on the faster and flatter Berlin course in 2012).
Quick Takes, video highlights and screen shots from the race appear below. Top results are here.
Quick Thought #1: Bekele at 31 is officially very relevant again in the world of elite distance running.
If Bekele’s victory over reigning Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 meter champion Mo Farah (and Haile Gebrselassie) in the half marathon at the BUPA Great North Run last September 15th didn’t prove that he’s still got some run left in him, then today’s marathon certainly did.
It can not be underestimated how important this race was for Bekele. Remember, he hasn’t medaled on the track in nearly 5 years, since he took down double gold at the 2009 World Championships.
We’re sure some will harp on the fact that Bekele didn’t break 2:05:00 but not us. The Paris course is far from pancake flat (see photos of the hills at the bottom of this article) and certainly not super fast (Elevation chart here. Ace stat man Ken Nakamura has emailed us to report that “Paris’ course record is now 8th fastest” as it moves ahead of New York (2:05:06) thanks to Bekele. Nakamura says the “top 10 Average time for Paris is now 2:06:01, just behind Amsterdam with 2:06:00, making Paris the 9th fastest marathon in the world” based on top 10 times).
As a result, his 2:05:03 today isn’t too far being equivalent to the best debut ever by Dennis Kimetto (2:04:15). And when you are a 2:04 mid guy, you are a contender for a win in every marathon you run. The beauty of the marathon is there are a handful of contenders at each major. On the track, there are generally only a couple of people with realistic chances of taking gold in a long distance race.
After this race, we 100% agree with what the message board poster wrote after this race ended: “THE KING IS NOT DEAD.”
Quick Take #2: Looking ahead to future races, equally as important to the win and course record time for Bekele was the fact that he handled the 26.2 distance very well.
At 25km (74:00 – 2:04:54 pace), Bekele must have realized the pacemakers had slowed a great deal as they went from 2:04:18 pace at halfway (62:09) to 2:04:54 pace in the span of less than 5 km. Bekele was totally relaxed at this point and was smiling at times and acknowledging spectators. Seeing the slowing of the pace, he started to push and took off and was soon all alone and didn’t really slow down at all over the final 17km on the way home. On 2:04:54 pace at 25k, he finished in 2:05:03. That’s a good sign.
That’s not to say, the 26.2 distance was easy for Bekele. He did run a marathon after all.
After the race, Bekele said, “It was very tough but it was the time I expected. After 25km I pushed alone but it was very tough.”
It should be noted that Bekele did motion with his hand to his left hamstring a few times before the 35km mark. When that happened before 35km, we feared he might fade to over 2:06:00. Far from it. He looked good coming home. Don’t believe us? Watch the final 85 seconds of the race on the video on the right.
As for the hamstring, Bekele said the following to the AFP after the race, “The hamstring wasn’t good after 25km. It was cramping but it’s okay. I’ll feel it more in the morning. 5km from the finish, my hamstring cramped up again and I couldn’t accelerate. I think in the future, I’ll do better but it’s very positive.”
Unofficial splits for Bekele were as follows:
5k: 14:43 (2:04:12 pace)
10k: 29:35 (2:04:50 pace)
15k: 44:15 (2:04:29 pace)
20k: 58:57?? (2:04:23 pace)
Halfway: 62:09 (2:04:18 pace)
25k: 74:00 (2:04:54 pace)
30k: 1:28:39 (2:04:42 pace)
35k: 1:43:36 (2:04:54 pace)
40k: 1:58:31(2:05:02 projected)
Quick Take #3: Bekele’s debut is the 6th fastest in history on a loop course (Moses Mosop ran 2:03:06 on the wind-aided Boston course in 2011) and the fastest by anyone over the age of 30.
Fastest Debuts In History – Time/Athlete/Country/Age/Site/Date
1. 2:04:16 Dennis Kimetto KEN 28y 2 Berlin 30 Sept 2012
2. 2:04:23 Ayele Abshero ETH 21y 1 Dubai 27 Jan 2012
3. 2:04:32 Tsegaye Mekonnen Asefa ETH 18y 1 Dubai 24 Jan 2014
4. 2:04:45 Lelisa Desisa ETH 23y 1 Dubai 25 Jan 2013
5. 2:04:53 Bernard Koech KEN 25y 5 Dubai 25 Jan 2013
6. 2:05:03 Kenenisa Bekele 31y 297 days Paris 6 April 2014
Ken Nakamura points out interestingly enough that of the five men who have debuted faster than Kenenisa did today, “so far only Dennis Kimetto improved his debut time.”
Quick Take #4: The latter stages of this race were quite strange. There were only a few fans in the final miles and there was no security at all and spectators were running and riding bikes right next to Bekele. See for yourself below. You’ll see people surrounding Bekele and also see how the course was far from pancake flat. An elevation chart appears here.
Click on the images below for larger images.