Men’s Marathon: Eliud Kipchoge Cements His Status As The World’s Greatest Marathoner As Galen Rupp Doubles Back From The 10K To Win Bronze

August 21, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO –The athletics competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics came to an end this morning as Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge ran a blistering final nine miles to win the men’s Olympic marathon in 2:08:44 and lay claim to the Great Marathoner Of All Time moniker in the process. Kipchoge, who came into the Olympics having won 6 of his 7 career marathons (the only loss coming when Wilson Kipsang set the world record in Berlin in 2013) with an average time of 2:04:22, was more than up to the challenge of competing in the first hot and non-rabbitted marathon of his career. 2016 Tokyo Marathon champ Feyisa Lilesa got the silver (2:09:54) and American Galen Rupp the bronze in a new pb of 2:10:05 (previous pb 2:11:13).

North America put three in the top 10 as American Jared Ward also PR’d (2:11:30, previous pb 2:12:56) to get 6th and Canadian Eric Gillis was 10th in 2:12:29. 41-year-old Meb Keflezighi was 33rd in 2:16:46.

Top 10 Results *Full Results Here
1 Eliud KIPCHOGE KEN 2:08:44
2 Feyisa LILESA ETH 2:09:54
3 Galen RUPP USA 2:10:05 PB
4 Ghirmay GHEBRESLASSIE ERI 2:11:04
5 Alphonce Felix SIMBU TAN 2:11:15
6 Jared WARD USA 2:11:30 PB
7 Tadesse ABRAHAM SUI 2:11:42
8 Munyo Solomon MUTAI UGA 2:11:49 SB
9 Callum HAWKINS GBR 2:11:52
10 Eric GILLIS CAN 2:12:29

The Race

The race started slowly, which was to be expected given that the temperature at the start was 72 and it was raining. The first half was a modest 65:55 but things started to pick up in the 18th mile (4:45). The 5k between 25k and 30k was 15:01 – the first 5k segment under 15:30 in the entire race – as Ethiopia’s Lemi Berhanu (2016 Boston Marathon champ) decided it was time to race. Suddenly the lead pack, which featured 40 guys within five seconds of the lead at halfway, was down just nine men.

And things were just getting started. The 18th mile was 4:45 and 19th was 4:43. By 32k, the lead pack was down to just four men, the three medallists plus Berhanu, and Kipchoge then decided it was time to make his push and lead all the way to the finish. The 20th mile was 4:41 and 21st 4:35. Kipchoge’s next two miles would be run in 9:13 as he covered the 5k from 30k to 35k in 14:25, dropping Berhanu in the process. The three eventual medallists were all clear.

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Shortly after 35k, Rupp would lose contact with the leading duo and shortly after that Lilesa would lose contact with Kipchoge. Both Rupp and Lilesa would hold up well over the final kilometers for silver and bronze but the day belonged to Kipchoge. On the 8th 5km segment, from 35 to 40k which is full of a turn of turns, Kipchoge ran a 14:44. And he’d pick it up on the way home as his final 4.2195 km was run at 4:38.6 mile pace (14:25.6 pace).

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In the end, the stats would reveal that Kipchoge ran a huge negative split of 65:55/62:49. His 10k from 30k to 40k was 29:09 (2:02:59 marathon pace) and his final 12.195k was 32:29 – that’s 4:41.1 mile pace (2:02:49 marathon pace).

Lilesa threw up an “X” as he came towards the finish line multiple times. This was not a form of showboating, but a political protest that he says will prevent him from returning to Ethiopia and could get him killed if he did. For more on that click here.

*Full 2016 Olympic Marathon Results.

Quick Thought #1: Kipchoge Is Without A Doubt The Greatest Marathoner of All Time

The consistency that Kipchoge has displayed since picking up the marathon in 2013 is mind-boggling. He’s now won 7 of 8 races. With his previous slowest marathon being his 2:05:30 debut in Hamburg, where he won by more than 2 minutes, there was no doubt that Kipchoge was truly phenomenal at running rabbitted marathons in ideal conditions. Now, there is no doubt he’s truly phenomenal at running marathons period.

In rabbitted races, tactics don’t really exist, but today, Kipchoge displayed perfect tactics in his maiden voyage in a non-rabbitted race. The 31-year-old veteran won today by being patient.

Four years ago in London, there was a hot Kenyan marathoner that was heavily favored like Kipchoge was this year – Wilson Kipsang. Kipsang went into the London Olympics as the London Marathon champ just like Kipchoge (although Kipchoge has won two straight Londons). Kipsang wound up only getting bronze, however, as he made a huge tactical mistake by running the 3rd 5k of the race in 14:11.

Kipchoge, in contrast, was more patient that Kipsang. While Kipchoge was up front in the lead row throughout the entire race, he wasn’t the one that started to ratchet the pace. He let Berhanu do that before waiting until the final 10k to hammer it home. Rupp told us a funny story about when the leaders were getting ready to respond when they thought Kipchoge was picking it up and Kipchoge told them not to worry as he wasn’t making his move yet.

The 2012 Olympic marathon and the 2016 Olympic women’s 5000 have both shown us there is nothing to be gained from making a ridiculous move before half of a distance race is run. It’s better to wait and then find a pace you can maintain until the finish.

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QT #2: Alberto Salazar admitted that, in the end, Rupp was more prepared to run a marathon than a 10,000 in Rio but that he will be back on the track in 2017

Salazar and Rupp went into the Olympics trying to run well in both the 10,000 and the marathon, and in the end Salazar said he thought that wound up helping Rupp today, especially when the pace went out slow (which made the final 10k more important).

“If I had just tried to train him for the marathon, I probably would have screwed him up and overtrained him,” Salazar said. “So by having the 10, you know when he runs, when he gets fifth place, that he’s not too tired. And I told him back when I was running a lot of 10k runners then just took 10k training and went up to the marathon. Maybe it’s not great if you’re really trying to run at your maximum time under perfect conditions but we knew here it would probably be a slow race because of the weather and he had the speed in his legs from the 10k that he should be able to move in the 10k.”

In case you were wondering why Rupp was getting new hats throughout the race, each hat came with a little ice pack in it that Rupp used to stay cool in the warm temperatures.

Salazar thinks Rupp can run under 2:05 for the marathon one day and that will likely be his focus from 2018 onwards. But Rupp wants one more crack at the track next summer at the World Champs in London, where he thinks he can be competitive in the 5,000 and 10,000 without the drain of marathon training in his legs.

QT #3: This was the cherry on top of a ridiculous meet for American distance runners

Rupp’s bronze today brought the U.S.’s distance medal haul to seven for the Olympics, its most at an Olympics in 104 years. How good were the Americans in this meet? Well on Thursday, we wrote an article putting into context how amazingly well the U.S. was doing, and that was before Rupp, Matthew Centrowitz and Paul Chelimo earned their medals.

Salazar, whose group has helped lead the charge with two medals (and a near-miss in the women’s 1500 with Shannon Rowbury), was excited by the results of all the Americans, not just his own.

“It’s just so exciting to see the U.S., the resurgence in distance running in this country. We’re back to were in the late ‘70s or ‘80s, early ‘80s where Americans are competing to win medals again consistently at all events.”

QT #4: Galen Rupp Channels Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore

Post-race, Rupp told NBC’s Lewis Johnson that it was emotionally difficult to bounce back from the disappointment of not medalling in the 10,000m, but he was able to regroup and now he thinks the marathon could be his best event. Rupp said:

“It was tough. Emotionally, I was pretty drained after that 10K, I was very disappointed after that. But I think it’s just a matter of collecting yourself, giving it a few days to be grieve and be angry, but then you focus on the next one. I had someone tell me that there’s still another chapter to write so I just had to move on. And you know, my training has gone great for the marathon. I was watching Happy Gilmore the other day and you know, he fights being a golfer for a while saying he’s a hockey player. And I fought being a marathoner and wanted to run on the track. But maybe this is my best event.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the movie and don’t get the reference, you can check out the movie’s IMBd page here.

*MB: Most inspirational running movie: Prefontaine, Without Limits, or Happy Gilmore?
*MB: Can Well Agree? It’s Official: Galen Rupp is a damn good runner but also a tool (re: Happy Gilmore)

QT #5: The controversial decision to include Wesley Korir on the Kenyan team totally backfired; Ethiopian Dubai champ DNF’s for second straight Olympics

We ripped Athletics Kenya’s decision to put Korir on the team ahead of someone like Chicago champ Dickson Chumba. Korir had not finished in the top three of a race since April 2012 and did not break that streak today as he failed to finish the race. There will always be blowups in a championship marathon — Stanley Biwott, the world #2 behind Kipchoge heading in, was also a DNF — but Korir’s inclusion was puzzling when it was announced.

There were fewer complaints about the Ethiopian team, but for the second consecutive Olympics, they picked the Dubai champ with no World Marathon Major experience (Ayele Abshero in ‘12, Tesfaye Abera this year) and saw that athlete DNF. To be fair, Abera also won Hamburg in April in 2:06:58, but Hamburg is a far cry from a WMM event like London or Boston.

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QT #6: Jared Ward Now A Household Name Among American Marathoners

When you think about the best American marathoners over the past 10 years or so, some big names come to mind: Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein and now with his bronze medal, Galen Rupp. A name you might not have thought to add to the list would be Jared Ward, but after his run today in Rio de Janeiro you might need to start thinking again.

Ward entered the day with a 2:12:56 marathon PR from when he won the 2015 US Marathon Championships in LA. Unlike a lot of the top US marathoners, Ward never had a stellar career on the track with only modest PBs of 13:34 and 28:36 and a best finish of 5th at NCAAs. However, while Ward might not have a super fast sub-2:10 PB or big city marathon finishes on his resume, he now has one-upped both Hall and Ritzenhein by finishing 6th place in the Olympic marathon. (Ritz and Hall were 9th and 10th in 2008 and Hall DNFed in 2012). Ward’s 2:11:30 today was actually a new PR and given the hot and humid conditions, it’s very reasonable to think a sub-2:10 could be in his future.

Ward is someone who is excellent at reading his body, knowing his own fitness, and then executing the race accordingly to get the most out of himself on the day.  It also helps that he’s a tremendous heat runner and can perform well in conditions some of the world’s best struggle with, consequently beating people who are much better than him on paper. Ward may never drop a 2:06 marathon or be in the hunt for a podium finish in a super fast race like Berlin or London, but in a championship-style race (especially if the weather is hot) he has proven that he is one of the best.

*MB: Jared Ward Appreciation Thread

QT #7: Jared Ward just finished sixth in the Olympic marathon by only running six days a week

Ward heard someone tell him he was in 15th around 30 kilometers and from there he started rolling people up all the way to the finish line.

“I just kept thinking, I get one, get one more,” Ward said.

Ward actually got progressively slower over his last three 5k splits, but he was slowing down less than everyone else, which allowed him to move up nine places from 30k to the finish.

Ward’s splits
25k to 30k: 15:17
30k to 35k: 15:40
35k to 40k: 15:47

Ward said his strategy going in was to run with the leaders unless it went out really fast, and he did that. Then when things got rolling, Ward was content to be gapped by some guys — just as he was at the Trials — rather than try to push his body beyond its limits.

“I try to work to, when those breaks happen and that pace becomes too fast, to run my race and just try to pick off people at the end.”

Ward is Mormon, and as a result of his faith, he does not train on Sundays. While many might view this as a disadvantage, Ward likes being able to recharge with his family at the end of the week. He said it can help break up long, at times tedious marathon buildups into more manageable six-day segments.

“I can get through a work week with my training and know that when I get to Saturday, when I get through with my long run that I have a break…For me mentally, taking that day off, I think it’s been a blessing for my running.”

As for running today, Ward said that he generally tries to avoid racing on Sundays but that he felt good about his decision to compete today.

“It was a very personal decision and I felt like this was what God wanted me to do, and so that’s what I did.”

QT #: Meb Keflezighi Ends His Olympic Career Like A Champion

Barring some major developments in anti-aging, today we witnessed 41-year-old Meb Keflezighi’s last Olympic Games. It was his fourth Olympics and with a 32nd place finish, it certainly wasn’t the former silver medalist’s most impressive athletic performance. Around the halfway point, Meb was spit out the back of the leading pack and was shown stopped, bent over with his hands on his knees. After a moment he started running again, but looked off balance and it wasn’t long before he had to stop again. From there the live broadcast kept the focus on the race up front for the medals up front for the medals and those watching had to be wondering if Meb’s final Olympics was going to go out with a DNF result.

However, Meb showed once again why he has the heart of a champion as he fought on and got himself to the finish line. Even a slip and a hard fall on the concrete right at the finish couldn’t bring Meb down as he used it as an opportunity to do a few pushups before getting up, smiling and walking across the finish line with a wave to the crowd.

In his post-race interview with NBC, Meb wasn’t sure what went wrong, but explained that he stopped and threw up and every time he tried to pick up the pace and close the gap he started throwing up again. Speaking alongside his three daughters, Meb talked about how important it was for him to still finish and got emotional as he said:

“It was a difficult race, but when you wear the red, white and blue you want to get to the finish line … It was a struggle, I stopped seven times. … It was a challenge, I knew it was going to be a long day. … It’s been an honor to represent the United States and have my girls as witnesses. It means a lot to me. … I had to get to the finish line, it wasn’t pretty, but I got there, I slipped at the end and every inch counted. I’ve been blessed, God gave me more than I could ever handle.”

QT: Meb Talks About the Resurgence of USA Distance Running And Hopes He Played a Part in What Bob Kennedy and Todd Williams Were Trying to Do When He Started

Meb was asked about the USA’s unprecedented distance success at the these games. He said, “I wrote every shoe company, Asics, Reebok, Nike in 1998 and said I want to help with the resurgence of USA distance running…. That dream has come true for me and to be a part of it and witness it has been a huge reward. I hope I have been a small part of it, but that was my goal.” He then talked about how Bob Kennedy and Todd Williams were trying to be “the best in the world” when he started.

QT: Mebrahtom’s Not Done Yet and the Perfect Ending is Being Scripted for 2017
Meb has run 24 marathons and this was his final marathon of 2016. However, the groundwork and stars are there for a perfect conclusion to his career in 2017. He wants to do two more marathons, bringing his career total to the marathon appropriate number of 26. That would also mean his last marathon comes at the age of 42 (the marathon is 42.2 kilometers).

Perfect for a guy who’s name is Mebrahtom. Meb said, “My full name is Mebrahtom and it almost sounds like marathon.”

The first time Meb got really emotional after the race was when he was asked about his coach Bob Larsen. Meb said, “He’s been a father figure to me…. 22 years is a long time. It’s a lot longer than most marriages,” he said but noted he had great examples from his parents about marriage.

He later said,”The tears say it all. The sport has done even more than I could have imagined and god has given me more than I could have imagined for myself, for my country, for my family,” he said.

Then then thought back to Rosewood Junior High where he ran a 5:20 mile in the 7th grade to get an “A” and to get his start in running. If he hadn’t done that who knows where USA distance running would be today.

*MB: Meb doing push-ups before the finish line of the thon

Quick Take: Eliud Kipchoge the Galen Rupp of Kenya?

Rupp noted the similarities between himself and Kipchoge. “[We have] similar stories, He’s been with the same coach all the time. Great track pedigree,  obviously unbelievable mechanics. He’s made the move up to the marathon… He’s just a great guy,” said Rupp. As good as Kipchoge is, it is scary to think he is only 18 months older than Rupp. And while Kenyans are notorious for lying about their age, Kipchoge can’t be too much older than stated as he won a World Championship gold medal at 5000m in 2003 defeating Kenenisa Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj. This however was Kipchoge’s first Olympic gold to go with a track silver in 2008 and bronze in 2004.

Quick Take: Galen Rupp Has a Good Reason to Go to His First Closing Ceremony

Galen Rupp has never been to a closing ceremony. He said he was still in London during the closing ceremony but watched it on TV. He’ll have go tonight, to pick up his bronze medal. It’s fitting that an American distance runner and in particular Rupp will be honored at the final event of the Olympics. Rupp is now the first American to medal at 10,000 and the marathon in the Olympics. Believe it or not, Rupp said his London medal is in a closet in his laundry room.

Rupp still knows their is room for improvement. He said of his training partners Matt Centrowitz (gold in 1500) and Mo Farah (gold at 5,000 and 10,000), “I’m sure they’re going to give me a hard time we didn’t sweep distance medals (1500-marathon).” What a great meet for Alberto Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project.

Screenshot 2016-08-21 15.13.39 Iran’s Mahhammadjafar Moradi

QT #: If You Want To See Some Inspiration, Go Watch The Last 15 Minutes Of The Marathon

If you have access to the NBC online replay, go watch the end of the marathon for some inspirational finishes that didn’t make the cut on the television broadcast. We’re talking guys finishing way back after the 2:20 or 2:30 mark, who were struggling just to finish the race. Another race and they’d probably just DNF, but this is the Olympics. Some of our favorites were the Iranian marathoner Mohammadjafar Moradi who literally crawled across the line in 2:31:58 and Argentina’s Federico Bruno who was cramping so bad he had to side-shuffle his way to the finish in 2:40:05. It was also entertaining to watch Japanese comedian Kuniaki Takizaki (representing Cambodia) fight desperately to make sure he wasn’t the last place finisher as he came over the line in 2:45:55, running away from last placer, Jordan’s Methkal Abu Drais.

More: The Bravest Olympian in Rio — Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa Risks Death But Speaks Out About Killings of Oromo Protesters in Ethiopia After Earning Olympic Silver in Marathon Find out why this Olympian says he’ll be killed or jailed if he returns to Ethiopia.

Discuss the race in our world-famous fan forum:

Screenshot 2016-08-21 10.45.58 “I won a medal!”
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