2016 London Marathon Men’s Preview: Can Eliud Kipchoge Win An Unprecedented 4th Straight Major? Stanley Biwott, Wilson Kipsang, Dennis Kimetto, Kenenisa Bekele & More Hope Not
April 22, 2016
If you’re a fan of marathoning, then you’re already excited for Sunday’s 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon. With its huge talent acquisition budget, London annually attracts the top fields of any big city marathon and that’s certainly the case again this year. But in 2016, with Olympic berths on the line, London takes on an even greater meaning.
For Great Britain, London serves as the official Olympic trials, with the top two finishers (assuming they have the British standard of 2:14:00; note that this is five minutes faster than the IAAF standard) earning a spot in Rio. London isn’t the official Kenyan Olympic trials, but with defending champ Eliud Kipchoge, two-time champ/course record holder Wilson Kipsang, world record holder Dennis Kimetto and New York City Marathon champ Stanley Biwott all entered, the results of Sunday’s race
will should (with Athletics Kenya, you never know) go a long way toward determining who lines up for Kenya in Rio.
And we haven’t even mentioned Eritrean world champ Ghirmay Ghebreslassie or the great Kenenisa Bekele, who will race for the first time in 15 months. In all, the top five finishers from last year are back, with a total of eight men who’ve run under 2:06. Initially World XC/World Half Marathon silver medallist Bedan Karoki of Kenya was scheduled to make his debut here but he missed some training in January and decided to change up his schedule this year, per Alberto Stretti.
It all makes for a truly compelling race, and we’ll have coverage all week long, starting with the men’s elite preview you’re reading right now.
What: 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon
When: Sunday, April 24, 2016. Women’s elite start at 9:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m. ET); men’s elite start at 10:00 a.m. (5:00 a.m. ET)
Where: London, England
How to watch (U.S. viewers): Live on NBC Sports Network or streaming via NBC Sports Live Extra. Coverage begins at 3:30 a.m. ET.
How to watch (UK viewers): Coverage begins on BBC One at 8:30 a.m. (local time), which will run through the end of the elite races. BBC Two has an additional hour of coverage starting at 1:30 p.m.
Prize money (amount is the same for men’s and women’s races)
1st: $55,000 6th: $7,500 11th: $1,500
2nd: $30,000 7th: $5,000 12th: $1,000
3rd: $22,500 8th: $4,000
4th: $15,000 9th: $3,000
5th: $10,000 10th: $2,000
Several time bonuses, from $100,000 for sub-2:05 or $75,000 for sub-2:06 down to $1,000 for sub-2:11
Course record (2:04:29): $25,000
World record (2:02:57): $125,000
Abbott World Marathon Majors
London is one of six Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM) events (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York). London 2016 is the second race of Series X, which began with Monday’s Boston Marathon and concludes at the 2017 Boston Marathon. At the end of the series, the athlete with the most points wins the $500,000 grand prize. Scoring is 25 points for a win, 16 for 2nd, 9 for 3rd, 4 for 4th and 1 for 5th. Only two races can count in a given series.
|Eliud Kipchoge||Kenya||2:04:00||World #1 has won 5 of 6 career marathons and is coming off 2:04:00 pb win in Berlin|
|Dennis Kimetto||Kenya||2:02:57||WR holder was 3rd last year but struggled with DNFs at Worlds + Fukuoka|
|Wilson Kipsang||Kenya||2:03:23||’15 runner-up was 4th at NYC in Nov., but is he on downswing at age 34?|
|Stanley Biwott||Kenya||2:04:55||Broke through with an impressive victory over tough field in NYC last fall|
|Kenenisa Bekele||Ethiopia||2:05:04||Arguably the greatest track runner ever but hasn’t finished a race since Oct. ’14|
|Sisay Lemma||Ethiopia||2:05:16||Won Vienna + Frankfurt in ’15 and was 4th in Dubai in Jan. in PR|
|Tilahun Regassa||Ethiopia||2:05:27||5th last year; 8th in Dubai|
|Abera Kuma||Ethiopia||2:05:56||’15 Rotterdam champ was only 9th in Chicago last fall|
|Samuel Tsegay||Eritrea||2:07:28||59:20 half marathoner has struggled over 26.2|
|Ghirmay Ghebreslassie||Eritrea||2:07:47||Followed up 2:07 in Hamburg last spring with win at World Champs|
|Amanuel Mesel||Eritrea||2:08:17||9th at Worlds last year. DNF at Fukuoka|
|Serhiy Lebid||Ukraine||2:08:32||40-year-old 9-time Euro XC champ was 10th last year in 2:10|
|Arne Gabius||Germany||2:08:33||Coming off 2:08:33 national record in Frankfurt last fall|
|Antonio Uribe||Mexico||2:08:55||Ran 2:08 at ’14 Houston but has struggled since|
|Tewelde Estifanos||Eritrea||2:09:16||Has PR’d in all six career marathons, most recently 2:09:16 at ’15 Frankfurt|
|Ghebre Kirbrom||Eritrea||2:09:36||8th last year|
|Vitaliy Shafar||Ukraine||2:09:53||4th in Boston in ’14|
|Marcin Chabowski||Poland||2:10:07||Former steepler ran his pb in 2012.|
|Scott Overall||Great Britain||2:10:55||Top Brit last year (13th)|
|Chris Thompson||Great Britain||2:11:19||Former OTC athlete has run one career marathon (11th in London in ’14)|
|Callum Hawkins||Great Britain||2:12:17||Former Butler runner was 15th at World Half Champs in March|
|Rob Watson||Canada||2:13:29||46th at World Half Champs in March|
|Shawn Forrest||Australia||2:14:37||Former Arkansas star was diagnosed with diabetes but is back for his first race since ’13|
|Craig Mottram||Australia||debut||35-year-old 12:55 man has barely raced since ’12 Olympics|
Who’s Going to Rio?
Winning the London Marathon is a massive honor by itself and with all the talent on hand, Sunday’s race promises to be a classic. But it also has Olympic implications, especially when it comes to Kenya.
We can’t guarantee that Athletics Kenya will make the most logical decision. Geoffrey Mutai put together the greatest year ever by a marathoner in 2011 yet Athletics Kenya left him off the 2012 Olympic team after he DNF’d at the 2012 Boston Marathon. In the end, though, it worked out okay for Kenya (Kenya earned two medals in the event in London) and Mutai (who won the Berlin Marathon that fall, which earned him the $500,000 World Marathon Majors grand prize).
With that caveat, let’s take a look at how things stand right now with respect to Kenya’s top marathoners.
Racing in London
- Eliud Kipchoge — A near-lock for the team. Even a DNF in London may not be enough to derail Kipchoge, who has won four straight marathons and ran the world’s two fastest marathons last year. Of course, the same could be said for Mutai in 2012 before a DNF in Boston sunk his Olympic hopes.
- Stanley Biwott — Over the past two years, he’s finished second and fourth in London and won New York last fall. Looking good.
- Wilson Kipsang — Had the Olympics been held last year, Kipsang would have been a shoo-in as he put together a magnificent three-marathon stretch from 2013-2014, going WR (2013 Berlin), CR (2014 London), win (2014 NYC). He was 2nd to Kipchoge in London last year but then DNF’d at Worlds and was only 4th in NYC. Needs a good run in London.
- Dennis Kimetto — Like Kipsang, Kimetto is in a worse spot than he was a year ago. He set the WR in Berlin in 2014 and was third in London last year but DNF’d Worlds in August and Fukuoka in December.
- Wilson Erupe — Erupe, who is banned from competing in Abbott World Marathon Major events due to an EPO positive, has the fastest marathon by a Kenyan in 2016 (2:05:13 victory in Seoul in March) and won both of his marathons in 2015 (Seoul in March in 2:06:11, Gyeongju in October in 2:07:01). Choosing Erupe would be very controversial considering his recent drug ban (he served two years from February 2013 to February 2015) and considering he has tried to switch his allegiance to South Korea. For more on that go here: MB: Scientists & doctors please chime in – Is EPO a prescription given to malaria patients as a 2:05 marathoner claims?
- Dickson Chumba — Won Chicago last fall and then finished third in Tokyo in February.
- Bernard Kipyego — Won Amsterdam last fall and then finished second in Tokyo in February.
A couple of other spring marathon winners (Marius Kipserem in Rotterdam, Cyprian Kotut in Paris) are in the conversation but unlikely to be selected. What it really comes down to is how the four men running London perform. Barring injury, Kipchoge should be selected no matter what, but after that, it’s murky. Realistically, the first Kenyan not named Kipchoge across the line will have probably earned a spot in Rio, but we can’t say anything for sure. Kimetto needs to run well more than the others, though, considering he was “only” third in London last year and has two recent DNFs on his resume. And if two or more of the Kenyans run poorly, that leaves the door open for Chumba, Kipyego or (gulp) Erupe.
Most of Ethiopia’s top talent raced somewhere other than London this spring, but there are a few Ethiopians entered here. Sisay Lemma has been the best recently, winning Vienna and Frankfurt last year and running a pb of 2:05:16 in Dubai in January, but he’s definitely behind two of the men who beat him there — Tesfaye Abera (who just won Hamburg) and Lemi Berhanu Hayle (who just won Boston) — in the pecking order. Realistically, for any of the four Ethiopians in the men’s elite field to have a chance at Olympic selection, they’ll have to finish in the top two in London.
British Olympic Trials
The London Marathon doubles as the British Olympic marathon trials, but British Athletics’ harsh qualification standards have sapped some of the drama from what could have been a terrific event. According to British Athletics’ selection policies, in order to qualify via the London Marathon, a runner must finish in the top two among Brits AND have the British Athletics Olympic standard (which, at 2:14:00, is five minutes faster than the IAAF standard).
If British Athletics used the IAAF standard, 10 guys would have it right now. As it stands, only two — Scott Overall (2:11:24 in Berlin last year) and Callum Hawkins (2:12:17 in Frankfurt last year) — have it. So unless someone beats one of them and runs under 2:14:00 in London, Overall and Hawkins are your team, right?
Wrong. Overall and Hawkins also have to finish in the top two among Brits to be guaranteed selection. If another Brit beats them in London — even if he doesn’t have the standard — Overall and/or Hawkins won’t be selected automatically. In fact, according to British Athletics’ criteria, they may not be selected at all unless they performance director (Neil Black) makes them a “discretionary selection.” All this despite the fact that Great Britain is allowed to send three athletes and has 10 runners who have already met the 2:19:00 IAAF standard.
Ok, that’s enough Olympic talk, let’s break down this amazing field.
Eliud Kipchoge — Kenya, 31 years old, 2:04:00 pb (2015 Berlin), 59:25 half
2015 marathons: 1st, London (2:04:42); 1st Berlin (2:04:00). No prep races.
In the galaxy of stars that is the 2016 London Marathon men’s elite field, there is one that shines bigger and brighter than anyone else: Eliud Kipchoge. With every marathon he runs, the 31-year-old Kenyan is gradually building a case as the greatest marathoner of all time, and if he can accomplish his two remaining goals — an Olympic gold medal and a world record — it will be impossible to argue he doesn’t deserve that title.
Those two goals will have to wait, however, as Kipchoge aims to defend his title in London. It was this race a year ago that propelled Kipchoge from great marathoner to World #1, as he dropped 4:33’s during miles 25 and 26 to defeat the great Wilson Kipsang by five seconds. Five months later, he ran a PR to win in Berlin despite his shoe insoles falling out. Kipchoge has not raced since then but with the track record he’s built up in the marathon (five wins in six starts, including four straight; average time of 2:04:34) he’s earned favorite status in any marathon until he loses.
The only worry about Kipchoge is that recent history shows it’s very hard to stay at the level he’s been performing at for more than a few years. Take a look at the three men who preceded Kipchoge as consensus World #1.
Peak: Summer 2008 – Fall 2010
Results in that span: 1st ’08 Olympics (OR), 1st ’09 London (CR), 1st ’09 Chicago (CR), DNF ’10 London, 1st ’10 Chicago
Wanjiru is an exceptional case as he died in May 2011 at age 24 before we could see how the rest of his career turned out. Though he won the last four marathons that he finished, he did have one DNF during that span.
Peak: Spring 2011 – Fall 2013
Results in that span: 1st ’11 Boston (CR), 1st ’11 New York (CR), DNF ’12 Boston, 1st ’12 Berlin, DNF ’13 London, 1st ’13 New York
Mutai’s run at the top was terrific, and his monumental course records in Boston and New York figure to stand for some time. But he’s struggled over the past two years, finishing 6th in London and New York in 2014, then DNFing London in 2015 before placing 5th in Berlin (in just 2:09:29). This spring, he couldn’t even make it to the start line in Boston after failing to meet training goals. And even though Mutai won four marathons from 2011 to 2013, he had two DNFs as well.
Peak: Fall 2013 – Fall 2014
Results in that span: 1st ’13 Berlin (WR), 1st ’14 London (CR), 1st ’14 New York
You could say that Kipsang’s run extended until spring 2015, as his 2:04:47 in London was a tremendous effort, but the fact that Kipchoge still beat him in that race shows just how hard it is to stay at the top for long. Even a spectacular run like that may not be enough to win a race.
So what’s the takeaway from this? If Kipchoge were to win London, he would make history. What he’s done so far is amazing, but it’s not totally unprecedented. Kipsang won four straight marathons from 2010 to 2012 (Frankfurt, Lake Biwa, Frankfurt again and London) and Kipsang, Wanjiru, Martin Lel and Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot have all won three straight World Marathon Majors. But since the World Marathon Majors came into existence in 2006, no one has ever won four straight, as Kipchoge would should he win on Sunday.
For more on Kipchoge and his spartan lifestyle in his training base of Kaptagat, check out Cathal Dennehy’s great pre-race profile of him here.
Stanley Biwott — Kenya, 30 years old, 2:04:55 pb (2014 London), 58:56 half
2015 marathons: 4th, London (2:06:41); 1st, New York (2:10:34)
Prep race: 2nd at RAK Half on February 12 in 60:40.
In a year or two, we could look back on Biwott’s win in New York last fall and point to it as the moment that propelled him toward the title of world’s best marathoner. After a couple of near-misses in London (he wound up second after duelling with Kipsang in 2014 and was fourth behind the Big Three of Kipchoge, Kipsang and Kimetto last year), Biwott went to New York and put on a show over the final miles, ripping off a 28:35 final 10k over the hills of Central Park to beat out studs Geoffrey Kamworor, the world xc and half marathon champ, and Lelisa Desisa, the two-time Boston champ..
Biwott had been a contender in majors ever since his breakthrough spring of 2012, when he swept the Paris Half Marathon and Marathon titles, the latter in a then-course-record 2:05:11. And now that he’s stood atop the podium on the big stage, we doubt he’s going to be satisfied with just one.
Biwott is the greatest threat to Kipchoge’s supremacy. He’s had success in London before (only three men have ever run faster on the course) and he’s entering in terrific form: after winning NYC in November, he ran 60:40 to finish second at the RAK Half on February 12. That’s not a great time by Biwott’s standards, but it was a strong result. RAK always has a deep field and Biwott finished with the same time as winner Birhanu Legese. Of the top five finishers from last year in London (all of whom return in 2016), only Kipchoge and Biwott have stayed the same/gotten better since this time a year ago — Kipsang (whom Biwott beat in NYC and at RAK), Kimetto and fifth placer Tilahun Regassa have all taken a step back. Kipchoge remains the safest bet but Biwott certainly has the ability to challenge him.
Wilson Kipsang — Kenya, 34 years old, 2:03:23 pb (2013 Berlin), 58:59 half
2015 marathons: 2nd, London (2:04:47); DNF, World Championships; 4th, New York (2:12:45)
Prep race: 11th at RAK Half on February 12 in 62:16.
Kipsang’s last two marathons have been rough, and his prep race wasn’t great (though it’s actually 23 seconds faster than he ran before London last year), but it’s too early to start writing him off. His World Championship appearance was ill-advised, and he didn’t last long there before dropping out in the Beijing heat. But his fourth in New York wasn’t a bad result, as he lost to three studs in Biwott, Kamworor and Desisa. After that race, Kipsang resolved to do more speed work as he wasn’t prepared for Biwott’s 28:35 final 10k in New York.
It should be remembered that it was Kipsang who made the big move at 20 miles in NYC to break up the pack (only for Kamworor to come over the top and put in an even harder move, resulting in a 4:24 21st mile). And it was only a year ago that Kipsang was duking it out with Kipchoge for the win in London. At 34, and with 13 marathons in his legs, Kipsang’s window is closing, but it isn’t shut. This course suits him more than any other, and he owns three of the five fastest times ever run on this layout (including the course record two years ago). An effort like the one he produced in London last year could be enough for the win on Sunday.
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie — Eritrea, 20 years old, 2:07:47 pb (2015 Hamburg), 60:01 half
2015 marathons: 2nd, Hamburg (2:07:47); 1st, World Championships (2:12:27). No prep races.
Nobody becomes world champion by accident, so Ghebreslassie has to be considered a contender in London. But because his marathon career is so young, it’s still too early to tell what kind of marathoner he is. Is he like Abel Kirui or Stephen Kiprotich, men who excel in tactical championship-style marathons but fail to reach the same heights in faster big city marathons? Or can Ghebreslassie win both fast and slow races?
So far, he’s run three marathons in his career. Ghebreslassie was 6th in Chicago in 2014 in 2:09:08 (he was initially a rabbit but stayed in and finished the race), then second in Hamburg last spring in 2:07:47 before winning Worlds in August in 2:12:27. That’s a nice progression: decent debut, PR in marathon #2 and world champion by marathon #3. Betting on Ghebreslassie against proven studs like Kipchoge, Biwott and Kipsang is a risky proposition given the environment on Sunday will be far different than it was in steamy Beijing — there are pacemakers this time and the forecast calls for a high of 48 degrees Fahrenheit at 12 noon when the men will be about to finish. He should be in the mix but has to prove he can run well in this style of race before we pick him to win.
Now if he does win, then the sport has a new star. A 20-year-old World and London champ.
Sisay Lemma — Ethiopia, Eritrea, 25 years old, 2:05:16 pb (2016 Dubai), 62:06 half
Last four marathons: 5th, 2015 Dubai (2:07:06); 1st, 2015 Vienna (2:07:31); 1st, 2015 Frankfurt (2:06:26); 4th, 2016 Dubai (2:05:16). No prep races.
Lemma has been on fire since the start of 2015. He began by running a near-two-minute pb in Dubai last January, then earned wins in Vienna and Frankfurt (another pb) before finishing fourth in Dubai three months ago, running his third pb in 365 days. That sort of trajectory suggests that he’s ready to be competitive in a major marathon, especially when you consider that two of the three men who beat him in Dubai have already won spring marathons (Tesfaye Abera won Hamburg and Lemi Berhanu Hayle won Boston). Winning London against this field would require another huge jump, but a top-five finish is firmly within reach.
Searching for Past Glory
Dennis Kimetto — Kenya, 32 years old (on Friday), 2:02:57 pb (2014 Berlin), 59:14 half
2015 marathons: 3rd, London (2:05:50); DNF, World Championships; DNF, Fukuoka
Prep race: 7th at Granollers Half Marathon in Spain on February 7 in 64:52.
A couple things worth remembering about Kimetto:
1) His third in London last year was a great run. He lost to two otherworldly performances by the two best marathoners in the world at that point in time. Line up Kimetto in his April 2015 shape in almost any other marathon and he likely wins it or comes damn close.
2) That 2:02:57 next to the letters “pb”. It still feels weird to write it, even 19 months later. Only one human being in the history of the species has run a marathon under two hours and three minutes and he’s running in London on Sunday.
That’s the good news. The bad news about Kimetto? Almost everything else. Like Kipsang, he bombed at Worlds in August. Okay, not a total surprise there. It was hot, and Kimetto has had DNF issues before (he dropped out of London in 2013 and Boston in 2014). He then battled a knee injury last fall and wound up with another DNF in Fukuoka in December, where a thigh injury caused him to drop out after just five kilometers.
It’s never a good sign when you can’t even make it four miles in a marathon, and Kimetto’s prep race (a 64:52 half marathon that left him almost four minutes behind the winner) was nothing to write home about. But on Wednesday, Kimetto said he feels he’s in the same shape as when he broke the world record in 2014. And history has shown that when Kimetto is ready to roll, he usually races well. Here are the results of the marathons he’s finished:
2012 Berlin: 2nd, 2:04:16 (fastest debut in history on record-eligible course)
2013 Tokyo: 1st, 2:06:50 CR
2013 Chicago: 1st, 2:03:45 CR
2014 Berlin: 1st, 2:02:57 WR
2015 London: 3rd, 2:05:50
That is a breathtaking set of marathons. If he can manage to drag his body through 26.2 miles on Sunday, look for him to add to it.
Kenenisa Bekele — Ethiopia, 33 years old, 2:05:04 pb (2014 Paris), 60:09 half
Last two marathons: DNF, 2015 Dubai; 4th, 2014 Chicago (2:05:51). No prep races.
We know some of you are wondering why we’ve waited so long to bring up arguably the greatest distance runner in world history – Kenenisa Bekele. It’s simple. We feel that Bekele’s chances of running well in London are not as good as Kimetto’s. While the last few years of Kimetto’s career are peppered with fantastic marathon results, Bekele does not have the same track record over 26.2 miles; in fact, he has not completed a race at any distance since he was fourth at the Chicago Marathon in October 2014. He tried to run Dubai three months later and withdrew with an Achilles/hamstring issue. Aside from this interview in December, he hasn’t been heard from since.
Bekele’s problems originated long before Dubai; they can be traced back to 2010, when he took the entire year off to attend to a calf problem. Finally, in August 2011, after almost two years without racing, Bekele returned to the track but DNF’d at the World Championships in Daegu. Though his calf has continued to bother him since then, Bekele’s otherworldly talent and intense work ethic have resulted in some brilliant performances. He ran 26:43 for 10,000 less than three weeks after his DNF at Worlds, finished fourth in the 10,000 at the 2012 Olympics, beat Mo Farah and Haile Gebrselassie at the 2013 Great North Run and broke the course record (2:05:04) in his marathon debut in Paris in 2014.
All that stuff is fine. If you were to judge him solely on his post-injury accomplishments Bekele would still be better than almost any American long distance runner ever. But when comparing post-injury Bekele against pre-injury Bekele — perhaps the finest runner the Earth has ever seen — it’s no contest.
The problem is, Bekele may not even be able to reach his best post-injury form anymore. He’s 33 now; it’s been 15 years since he burst onto the scene at the 2001 World Cross Country Championships, winning the junior race and taking silver in the senior short race. To excel at the marathon, even a runner with Bekele’s gifts needs to be able to log some consistent training, and Bekele simply hasn’t been able to do that.
On a more optimistic note, Bekele said his training has been going better recently and he reported on Wednesday that he believes he is 90% fit and still has designs on breaking Kimetto’s world record down the road. Though quite a few of you on the messageboards “expect great things,” we are not as optimistic. While we’d love to see the great Bekele return to his old form this year (how awesome would it be if he could contend for marathon gold in Rio this summer?), it would be a surprise if he’s a factor in London.
We aren’t the only ones pulling for a return to full health (which would also result in full form) for Bekele. Here’s what our man on the ground in Kenya, Andy Arnold, wrote about Bekele, “Every person I’ve talked to about KB, from Renato [Canova] to the German physio that works on him in Ethiopia, to the Kenyan pros that know him personally, they all love the man. Apparently, he is very shy compared to Haile, but has an even bigger heart, and ALL of them want to be proven wrong this Sunday at London.”
Best of the Rest
There haven’t been many huge surprises in London recently. Kipsang was the favorite last year, but many considered Kipchoge to be almost as good. Indeed, over the past four editions, the winner has entered with the #5, #2, #5 and #2 pbs in the field. Even when Emmanuel Mutai (who entered with the #8 pb in the field) PR’d by 1:35 to set a course record in 2011 it wasn’t that big an upset as he was coming off three straight runner-up finishes in majors. The fact of the matter is, when you assemble a ton of really fast guys, as London always does, chances are one of them is going to run great, making a big upset unlikely. A couple of the guys listed below could break into the top five, but a win would take a truly magnificent effort.
- Tilahun Regassa — Ethiopia, 26 years old, 2:05:27 pb (2012 Chicago): Regassa has broken 2:07 four times in his career, owns wins in Rotterdam (2013) and Eindhoven (2014) and was fifth last year. Unfortunately for Regassa, being a consistent 2:05/2:06 guy just doesn’t cut it in London; of the past eight London Marathons, seven have been won in a time faster than his PR of 2:05:27.
- Abera Kuma — Ethiopia, 25 years old, 2:05:56 pb (2014 Berlin): Kuma won Rotterdam last spring but he was just ninth in Chicago in October, and that was against a field with a fraction of the talent he’ll face in London. He also only ran 68:40 in his only race of 2016 so far in January, the Egmond aan Zee Half Marathon in the Netherlands (though the winner only ran 68:08).
- Samuel Tsegay — Eritrea, 28 years old, 2:07:28 pb (2011 Amsterdam): Tsegay is a fine half marathoner. He has a 59:20 pb, was the runner-up behind Geoffrey Kamworor at the World Champs in 2014 and has placed in the top five on two other occasions. But he hasn’t been able to make the transition to 26.2 miles. Tsegay’s 2:07:28 debut in Amsterdam five years ago held promise, but he’s failed to break 2:14 in five of his subsequent six marathons. He was only 18th in 2014 and didn’t finish last year’s race.
- Craig Mottram — Australia, 35 years old, debut: The Big Mazungo could mix it up with Africa’s best in his prime, earning a World Championship bronze at 5,000 in 2005 and Commonwealth Games silver at the same distance a year later; among white guys, only Germany’s 1992 Olympic champ Dieter Baumann and Chris Solinsky have run faster than Mottram’s 12:55.76 pb. Mottram has raced just four times since the 2012 Olympics, all low-key Australian races, but he’s making his marathon debut in London in an attempt to qualify for his fifth Olympics, which would be the most ever by an Australian track and field athlete. Right now, six Aussies have the Olympic standard of 2:19, but only one (Michael Shelley) has run under 2:15. In January, Mottram said his plan is to run with top Brits, who will be looking to break 2:14:00, and if he does that he thinks he can gain selection (Australia will decide on its marathon team on Monday)
One last thing, some are saying it might snow during the race – MB: Forget fast times in London, bad weather, it may even snow!. The hourly weather forecast we are looking at doesn’t show that. It shows temps of 45-48 with a zero percent chance of precipitation. That’s the good news. The bad news is it will be windy (12-13 mph).