Worlds Start With A Blast As This Race Is Stacked
August 19, 2015
The 2015 World Championships kick off Saturday at 7:30 a.m. (Friday night in USA primetime – 7:30 p.m. ET) in Beijing, China, with the men’s marathon. Often times the marathon at Worlds can be a bit watered down, both with star power and depth, as countries can only enter three runners and many big-name athletes save themselves for a fall marathon payday.
However, in 2015, the men’s marathon at Worlds is anything but watered down. The best in the business have come to play as this race features the world record holder, the reigning Olympic and World champion, five out of six of the fastest in 2015 and two of the top three from each of the World Marathon Majors races except for Chicago (but plus Dubai). Lead by Wilson Kipsang, Dennis Kimetto, Stephen Kiprotich and Lelisa Desisa, this race has a ton of star power. But with six runners in the 2:05-range or faster (and 24 with sub-2:10 PRs) this race has a good amount of depth as well.
Below, we give you a run through of the top names to watch out for in Saturday’s race and tell you who we think has the best shot to win and medal.
The Guys You Already Know
Wilson Kipsang: Kenya, 33 years old, 2:03:23 PR (2013 Berlin)
Recent Marathons: 2nd, 2015 London (2:04:47); 1st 2014 NYC (2:10:59)
Tune-Up Race: 62:09 for 5th at the Mattoni Olomouc Half on June 20th
What does he have going for him? Kipsang is hands-down one of the greatest marathon runners of all time. The former world record holder (currently 3rd all-time) has dominated the World Marathon Major circuit the past three years with two wins in London, one in NYC and one in Berlin. Stretching back to 2010, he has eight victories out of eleven marathon starts. And even when he doesn’t win, he’s always at least in contention. His three losses come from the Olympics, where poor pacing cost him the win and he got bronze, London 2013, where he faded to 5th after a suicidal early pace was set by the rabbits, and London 2015, where he lost to one of the all-time greats, Eliud Kipchoge, by five seconds in the final minute of the race. In that London race he still finished well in front of Dennis Kimetto, 2nd-fastest man of all time Emmanuel Mutai and a slew of other fast Africans.
Yes, even when he loses, Kipsang runs great. He doesn’t have a truly bad race or blow-up to his name in the last five years and it’s hard to imagine why he would start now in Beijing.
What does he have going against him? As consistent as he is, Kipsang really doesn’t have too much going against him; if you’re looking for a safe bet at the marathon distance, he’s about as solid as they come. But as mentioned above, one of Kipsang’s only three marathon losses over the past five years came at a global championship. At the 2012 Games, Kipsang threw in a crazy 14:11 5K split from 10K to 15K (1:59:41 marathon pace), which very likely cost him the race. In London 2013 he went with the fast early pace and died. So he has shown that he can at times have overconfidence in his fitness and bite off more than he can chew pace-wise. But, considering he’s only done that twice in the past five years (this year in London he just got beat by someone who was better), it’s hard to call it a big weakness. If you’re looking for a reason to bet against Kipsang for some reason, he was only 5th in his tune-up half-marathon, finishing almost two minutes behind the winner.
Dennis Kimetto: Kenya, 31 years old, 2:02:57 PR (2014 Berlin)
Recent Marathons: 3rd, 2015 London (2:05:50); 1st, 2014 Berlin Marathon (2:02:57)
What does he have going for him? The big thing Kimetto has going for him is obviously the fact that he’s the fastest marathoner in history — the first man to run under 2:03. However, Kimetto isn’t just a time trialer that runs fast on his own. He’s a competitor that runs well when he’s head-to-head with someone. When he set the WR and when he won Chicago 2013, Kimetto duked it out for a long time with Emmanuel Mutai, who ended up 2nd both times. In races that he finishes, Kimetto is like Kipsang in that he is always a contender. He has five marathon finishes: wins in 2014 Berlin, 2013 Chicago and 2014 Tokyo; runner-up in his debut at 2012 Berlin and 3rd at 2015 London. When he’s on, he’s very hard to beat.
What does he have going against him? Well, he lost to Kipsang and Kipchoge in London in April. And his loss wasn’t the close five-second margin between the top two. When he fell off, he lost more than a minute over the last two miles. (We’ll note though that afterwards Kimetto said he could have won, but a knee injury flared up.) So in their only head-to-head race ever, Kipsang came out on top. Also, Kimetto isn’t “without bombs” like Kipsang. We noted Kimetto’s five marathon finishes above, but he also has two DNFs at 2013 London and 2014 Boston. So unlike Kipsang, Kimetto isn’t without his “off” days.
Lelisa Desisa: Ethiopia, 25 years old, 2:04:45 PR (2013 Dubai)
Recent Marathons: 1st, 2015 Boston (2:09:17); 2nd, 2015 Dubai (2:05:52); 2nd, 2014 NYC (2:11:06)
What does he have going for him? Desisa is the returning World silver medalist as he finished 21 seconds behind Stephen Kiprotich in Moscow 2013. He’s coming off a win at the 2015 Boston Marathon, where he won in tough conditions over countryman Yemane Adhane Tsegay (also in Beijing). Desisa is someone who has shown he can compete in both tactical and fast rabbited races. Besides his World silver, he’s won Boston twice (2015 and 2013) and was runner-up to Kipsang in NYC last year. But he’s also run well in the very flat and fast Dubai Marathon where he ran one of the fastest debuts ever (2:04:45) to win in 2013 and then was a close runner-up there this past January. He’s actually never finished a marathon outside the top two as in his six career marathons he’s been 1st, 1st, 2nd, DNF (injury Boston 2014), 2nd, 2nd and 1st. Whether it’s fast or slow on Saturday, Desisa is someone you can expect to finish near the front.
What does he have going against him? Desisa’s three second-place finishes come against guys in this race as he’s lost to Wilson Kipsang, Stephen Kiprotich and Dubai winner Hayle Lemi Berhanu. Particularly discouraging was his loss to Kipsang in NYC where Kipsang appeared to give Desisa “a look” and then just destroy him over the final meters. While Kipsang and Kimetto’s losses came to other studs like Eliud Kipchoge, Desisa has lost to guys further down this list.
Stephen Kiprotich: Uganda, 26 years old, 2:06:33 PR (2015 Tokyo)
Recent Marathons: 2nd, 2015 Tokyo (2:06:33); 5th, 2014 NYC (2:13:25)
Tune-Up Race: 63:07 for 10th at the Mattoni Olomouc Half on June 20th
What does he have going for him? Kiprotich is the reigning Olympic and World champion and obviously runs very well in championship races. He shocked the world when he beat Kipsang and two-time world champion Abel Kirui in London 2012 and then proved it was no fluke when he won his second global title in Moscow 2013. The more challenging the race and the conditions, the better Kiprotich performs. Since the forecast is calling for temperatures between 74 and 78 degrees at the start and between 78 and 83 at the finish, this bodes well for Kiprotich.
What does he have going against him? Kiprotich’s big weakness when it comes to world beater status is his non-super fast PR. At 2:06:33, he is over three minutes slower than Kimetto’s world record (just over eight seconds a mile). He’s managed to beat guys way
better faster than him when it counts in championship races, but he has also been well-beaten in big city marathons, finishing as far back as 12th in London and NYC. In his only 2015 performances he was runner-up at the Tokyo Marathon (losing to an Ethiopian who isn’t at Worlds) and was 10th in the Olomouc Half (where Wilson Kipsang was 5th). Kiprotich pulled off the miracle in 2012 when Kipsang shot himself in the foot and in 2013 when Lelisa Desisa was his biggest competition, but it’s hard to see him coming out on top of both Kipsang and Kimetto.
The Guys You Might Not Know By Name, But Are Very Good
Hayle Lemi Berhanu: Ethiopia, 20 years old, 2:05:28 PR (Dubai 2015)
Recent Marathons: 1st, 2015 Orlen Warsaw (2:07:57); 1st 2015 Dubai (2:05:28)
What does he have going for him? At the start of 2015, Hayle Lemi Berhanu was a complete unknown as a young Ethiopian who hadn’t broken 2:10 in the marathon. All that changed though in January when he won the richest marathon in the world by running 2:05:27 to win in Dubai, beating a good field including Lelisa Desisa (runner-up). Berhanu is actually undefeated at the marathon distance as he has four finishes and four wins to his name. Following up his Dubai win with another sub-2:10 victory at Warsaw shows Dubai wasn’t a fluke.
What does he have going against him? Inexperience. Berhanu hasn’t ran any tactical championship races or even any big city marathons beside Dubai. His only performances registered online are marathons so he hasn’t even raced much (or at all) at the shorter distances.
Mark Korir: 30 years old, 2:05:49 PR (2015 Paris)
Recent Marathons: 1st, 2015 Paris Marathon (2:15:49); 5th, 2014 Shanghai (2:11:35).
What does he have going for him? Korir, a former All-American for the University of Wyoming, set a 1-minute and 19-second PR when he won the Paris Marathon in April. He is 30 years old, but that was only his 4th career marathon (he made his debut with 2:07 in 2013). After that race he said, “Although today was a great, injury-free race, I think I can go even faster than my time today. I believe I can go as fast as 2:04.” Before that race he also set a half-marathon PB of 60:48 finishing runner-up at the Paris Half in March.
What does he have going against him? No experience in global championships and his time in Paris is well beyond other performances he’s put up. Will he be a “one-and-done” or can he stay at that level?
Yemane Adhane Tsegay: 30 years old, 2:04:48 PR (Rotterdam 2012)
Recent Marathons: 2nd 2015 Boston (2:09:48); 5th 2014 Honolulu (2:17:54), 1st 2014 Ottawa Marathon (2:06:54)
What does he have going for him? Tsegay ran a solid race in April to finish 2nd, 31 seconds behind Lelisa Desisa at the Boston Marathon. Finishing that close to Desisa is definitely a good sign, especially since Tsegay complained that hamstring trouble hindered him. Even though his second-to-last marathon in Honolulu doesn’t look pretty, keep in mind the winner was only 2:15 and Tsegay was great in his other two 2014 marathons, winning both the Daegu and Ottawa marathons in the high 2:06-range. He also has experience and success at Worlds, as he was 8th at Moscow 2013 and 4th at Berlin 2009 (only a heart-breaking seven seconds away from a medal).
What does he have going against im? Unlike Mark Korir, who is the same age and a relatively “young” marathoner Tsegay is the opposite. He has been racing marathons since 2008 and has racked up an impressive 22 marathon finishes. While the experience factor could be considered a positive, Tsegay is a lot farther removed from his PR than these other guys as his is over three years old. Don’t expect a big breakthrough performance from Tsegay. That said, he’s ran plenty of consistent, respectable performances and sometimes that’s enough.
Best Of The Rest (Sub-2:10ish Guys Who Probably Won’t Medal, But You Never Know)
- 19-year-old Ghirmay Ghebreslassie set a 2:07:47 marathon PR to finish 2nd at the Hamburg Marathon in April. It was his second marathon as he debuted with a 6th-place finish in Chicago 2014 (2:09:08).
- Amanuel Mesel has a 2:08:17 PR and ran 2:08:18 for 4th at the Warsaw Marathon in April.
- 35-year-old Beraki Beyene ran a 2:08:27 marathon PB in 2014, but ran 2:16 in his only race this year. He was 11th at Worlds in 2013.
- Bahrain’s Shumi Dechesa (of Ethiopia until September 2013) has a 2:06:43 PR from last year and finished 4th at this year’s Tokyo Marathon in 2:07:20.
- Essa Ismail Rashed of Qatar (formerly of Kenya) ran a 2:07:54 marathon PR last year, but was only 2:14:06 (17th place) in Seoul this year.
- Japan’s Kohei Matsumura (no quotes around his Asian-ness) ran a 2:08:09 PR to finish 8th in Tokyo 2014. This year he’s been running shorter stuff between 5K and half-marathon with his best performance a 28:45 10,000.
- 2:07:39 man Masato Imai was on the original startlist and in our prediction contest, but has withdrawn with illness.
- Italian Daniele Meucci set his 2:11:08 PR winning the European Championships last year. This year he ran a 2:11:10 at Lake Biwa for 2nd and was 5th at Peachtree on July 4th.
- Aleksey Reunkov of Russia has a 2:09:54 PR from 2011, is the European bronze medalist and was 9th in London in April (2:10:10).
What About The Americans?
Representing Team USA in Beijing will be Jeffrey Eggleston (2:10:52), Ian Burrell (2:13:26) and Scott Smith (2:14:40). Of these three, Eggleston is the one with the best shot to finish well and the top American. He has the best PR by two and a half minutes, and has placed well in some big marathons before (12th in Boston 2015, 8th in Boston 2014, runner-up at Australia’s Gold Coast Airport Marathon) and has World Championship experience as he was 13th at the 2013 Worlds. Given the quality of this field, bettering his place from last time would definitely be a success.
Remembering The Late Sammy Wanjiru And 2008
We would be remiss to talk about a global championship marathon in Beijing and not mention Sammy Wanjiru’s historic run from the 2008 Olympics where he said “screw it” to the heat and tactics, taking off at a suicidal pace and winning gold in an Olympic record of 2:06:32. Wanjiru broke the mold that day and changed the world of marathoning forever, setting a precedent by taking control with a hot early pace and moving to the marathon at an earlier age. You can read our recap of Wanjiru’s 2008 victory here and see the homepage from that day here.
Like 2008, this year’s race will be a hot one with temperatures predicted to be between 74 and 78 degrees at the start, between 78 and 83 at the finish. (When Wanjiru ran in 2008 it was 74 degrees in the shade and 84 on the course.) Will anyone be inspired by the memory of Wanjiru and take it out hard from the gun? If they do, when they cross the finish line after a lap around the Bird’s Nest stadium, they’ll be following in Wanjiru’s footsteps in more way than one.
LRC Prediction: 1) Wilson Kipsang 2) Dennis Kimetto 3) Lelisa Desisa
The only time Kipsang has lost in the last five years is when he’s ran too hard too early or when he’s up against someone named Eliud Kipchoge. Since Kipchoge isn’t here and Kipsang beat Kimetto in London, we give it to Kipsang. Desisa has proven to be extremely consistent as a top-3 finisher in both races that are fast and tactical.
Full Start List:
|ORDER / LANE||BIB||ATHLETE||COUNTRY||SB 2015||PB|
|1||185||Edwin Kipchirchir KEMBOI||AUT||2:14:05||2:12:58|
|3||224||Abdelhadi EL HACHIMI||BEL||2:13:46||2:11:30|
|4||263||Solonei DA SILVA||BRA||2:13:15||2:11:32|
|8||285||Aadam Ismaeel KHAMIS||BRN||2:07:59|
|9||287||Ali Hasan MAHBOOD||BRN||2:12:38|
|24||597||Mohammad Jaafar MORADI||IRI||2:17:41||2:17:41|
|30||684||Dennis Kipruto KIMETTO||KEN||2:05:50||2:02:57|
|31||688||Wilson Kipsang KIPROTICH||KEN||2:04:47||2:03:23|
|43||849||Thabiso Benedict MOENG||RSA||2:10:21|
|53||928||Alphonce Felix SIMBU||TAN||2:12:01||2:12:01|
|60||972||Munyo Solomon MUTAI||UGA||2:10:42||2:10:42|