by David Graham, Guest contributor
Written December 2018, Published January 1, 2019
As he’s done the last five years, super site visitor, David Graham, shared his marathon rankings with us. For all 2018 year-end/ranking coverage click here. The official LetsRun.com marathon men’s rankings are here.
2018 is concluding, and although he is unlikely to read this, I would once again like to thank Eliud Kipchoge for making the number one marathon ranking spot so easy to determine. In 2015, 2016, 2017, and now 2018, the only difficult places to determine were #2 – 10. This year, the top 6 sorted themselves out well, but places 7 – 10 had me scratching my head over whom to include and in what place they should appear. I went round and round with this. What follows is my best guess in ranking the top 10 men’s marathoner for 2018.
1. Eliud Kipchoge – London win in 2:04:17; Berlin win in 2:01:39 (no, that time is not a misprint). Let’s not forget the World Record for 30K while we’re at it (1:26:45 in Berlin.) Until the 2016 race, the course record in London was 2:04:29. Thus Kipchoge’s 2:04:17 – on a hot day (24C/75F) with terrible pace setting (13:48 first 5K) – was impressive.
But Berlin was…insane. Watching him finish while I kept an eye on the clock, I was stunned. Any way you parse this race, it makes you blink and shake your head. How about half-marathon splits of 61:06 & 60:33??!! After all, it wasn’t until 1987 that the Half-Marathon WORLD RECORD was better than Kipchoge’s 2nd half.
As I ran Div. III in college and our cross country races were 8K/5 miles, I paid attention to Kipchoge’s 8K splits: 23:10, 23:20, 23:00, 22:58, 23:03. Granted, asphalt is a faster surface than grass, but it still makes me pause when I remember that our school cross country record was run by NCAA Div. III National Champion (& Div. I All American) Danny Henderson, whose 23:36…would have left him 16 secondsbehind Kipchoge’s slowest split.
Kipchoge ran 10K splits of 29:01, 28:56, 28:49, and 28:47. Remember the Galen Rupp vs. Sammy Chelanga duel at the 2008 Division I NCAA Cross Country Championships? They were well ahead of the entire field and the final winning time – bettered by the final long sprint – was a course record 29:04. Kipchoge beat that final time with each split…
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Kipchoge’s margin of victory: 4:44 (almost one whole mile ahead of 2nd place in a World Marathon Major).
Kipchoge’s margin for crushing Dennis Kimetto’s World Record: 1:18 (yes, over a MINUTE faster than the old WR)
Pace per mile: 4:38.4 (Gulp!)
Pace per Kilometer: 2:53.
BTW, I found his 2:01:39 in Berlin more awe-inspiring than his 2:00:25 in Monza in 2017. Why? Because the latter had more aid, more artificial conditions, a staged, track time trial with smooth, gradual turns, lap after lap after lap run in the pre-dawn, terrific cool temperature hours behind a carefully form triangular wall of laser lights and rotating, rested pacers. In Berlin, he ran with only one pacer by his side (not in front of him) from 15 to 25 kilometers, then ran the last 10 miles alone, without (human) pacing accompaniment, all the while winding his way through the twists and turns of the noisy, crowd-lined, sunlit streets.
2. Tola Shura Kitata – London 2nd place 2:04:49; New York City 2nd place 2:06:01. Kitata’s London race, on a warm day, in which he pushed the great Kipchoge (and convincingly beat Mo Farah), wins him good marks. He followed that with a superb NYC race where he played the role of rabbit, got dropped in Central Park, then clawed his way back to pass Kamworor and almost catch Desisa. (“Clawed” meaning to run the 26th mile in 4:31!) Kitata was part of a high quality race: the top 3 men’s times at NYC this year would have won every previous edition of NYC except for 2011, all three times were faster than the previous 2nd best time ever (2:06:28), and they now stand as the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fastest ever run on the course.
In determining the rankings, Farah did have a marathon victory, which Kitata did not have. But Kitata’s fastest time was better than Farah’s (by 22 seconds) and more importantly, in head-to-head competition, Kitata beat Farah (by over a minute and a half). For this reason, Kitata gets the nod for 2nd in the rankings.
3. Mo Farah – London 3rd place 2:06:21; Chicago winner 2:05:11. Farah has now run three marathons, improving this year upon his 2:08:21 debut in 2014. That he hung on to finish in 2:06 in London after that crazy 61 minute first half in the heat is a testament to his grit. In Chicago, he ran a negative split (63:06/62:05) and made his win look easy. At 35 years of age, when will Father Time start to catch up with him?
Farah, by the way, can now boast a range of 3:28 for the 1500 meters up to 2:05 for the marathon. As far as I have been able to ascertain, no other runner has ever broken 3:30 for the 1500 and 2:10 for the marathon. (Bekele has run 3:32/2:03, Gebrselassie 3:31/2:03, Kipchoge 3:33/2:01.) One sub 3:30 man – Steve Cram – ran 3:29/2:35, and I suspect that this represents the capabilities of most elite milers in the marathon. Yes, there will always be exceptional milers who run elite times in the marathon as well (such as Paul Cummings – 3:37.6 indoor 1500 m AR/2:11:31 Houston victory – or Rod Dixon – 3:33.9 & Olympic bronze medalist 1500m/2:08:59 NYC marathon champ), but again, who has ever gone sub 3:30/sub 2:10? We should not take for granted what Farah has done. 3:28.8 & 2:05:11 is a jaw-dropping combination.
4. Mosinet Geremew Bayih – Dubai winner in 2:04:00; Chicago 2nd place 2:05:24. This guy won what was the deepest marathon of the year – 6th place was 2:04:15!!! He also gave the “other Mo” a run for his money in Chicago, pushing Farah until the last 800 meters of the race.
5. Leule Gebrselassie Aleme – Dubai 2nd place 2:04:02, Valencia win in 2:04:30. [Note: I have seen this runner’s first surname spelled Gebresilase & Gebrselassie.] The Dubai race was Gebrselassie’s debut and he nearly won the deepest marathon of the year, finishing only two seconds behind Geremew. He did get a marathon “W” in a course record in Valencia by beating another high quality field – two others were sub 2:05 and six runners went under 2:06, (including the resurgent Tsegaye Kebede).
I suppose the Adidas-sponsored Leule Gebrselassie deserves special mention as the best marathon runner in the world to not wear Nike’s Vaporfly shoes.
6. Lawrence Cherono – London 7th place 2:09:25; Amsterdam winner 2:04:06. Cherono went for it in London on a hot day and like most, wilted. In Amsterdam, he faced a deep, competitive field (three men ran under 2:05 and the old course record, and even with Bekele’s DNF, 8 men broke 2:07). He smashed his own course record by over a minute and ran a superb 2:04 off of a slightly negative split (62:11/61:55). Cherono’s time also took down the Dutch All Comer’s record of 2:04:27 from Rotterdam 2009 by Duncan Kibet. (At that time, this made Kibet the 2nd fastest marathoner in history.)
7. Kenneth Kipkemoi – Rotterdam win 2:05:44; Chicago 4th place 2:05:57. Two solid performances – a win in the always competitive Rotterdam race, plus a 4th not too far behind two top 10 runners at a World Major race – gives Kipkemoi a top 10 spot.
[By the way, remember when Khalid Khannouchi became to first man to run two sub 2:06 marathons in one year with his 2:05:38 World Record in London and his 2:05:56 in Chicago in 2002? Track & Field News ranked him #1 in the World in the marathon and he finished 2nd in their Athlete of the Year voting. A mere 16 years later, Kipkemoi’s race times compare favorably, but now those performances hardly raise an eyebrow. How quickly our sport changes.]
8. Lelisa Desisa – Boston DNF; New York City win in 2:05:59. Like many, Desisa dropped out in the difficult weather conditions in Boston. But his win in New York, over a high quality field, in the 2nd fastest time in NYC marathon history, was so impressive that I couldn’t leave him out of the top 10.
9. Tamirat Tola – Dubai 3rd place 2:04:06, DNF Boston; New York City 4th 2:08:30. This Adidas-sponsored athlete took five seconds off of his lifetime best when he ran faster than his own 2017 course record in Dubai, but this year that only got him 3rd in the race as two other top 10 athletes reached the line before him in an amazing fast mass finish. He also had a solid performance on the hilly New York City Course in a time that in most years would have won the race. Like many in the frigid wind and rain of Boston he dropped out, but two robust performances in two top-level marathons – the first of which made him the fourth fastest marathoner in the world for 2018 – gets him a top 10 spot.
10. Asefa Mengstu Negewo – Dubai 4th place 2:04:06; Seoul (JoongAng) win in 2:08:11. Mengstu was right behind Tola in Dubai and he was the fifth fastest marathoner in the world for 2018. His win in Seoul was over a much lower quality field.
Explanation for rankings 7 – 10: generally speaking, anyone with a competitive marathon win plus a second marathon where they finished the race with a good time will get ranked ahead of someone with a win-plus-DNF. Hence, Kipkemoi ranks ahead of Desisa. However, that rule of thumb was trumped by Desisa beating Tola in New York; Tola, in turn, beat Mengstu in Dubai. Mengstu did win a marathon, but the JoongAng Seoul wasn’t a highly competitive race. So the order is Kipkemoi, Desisa, Tola, then Mengstu.
Four runners from that Dubai race ranked in the top 10.
Sisay Lemma – Dubai 5th place 2:04:08; Prague 2nd place 2:07:02; Ljubljana win in 2:04:58. Lemma twice broke 2:05 in 2018 – something only one other athlete – Eliud Kipchoge – managed to do as well. His Dubai race made him the seventh fastest marathoner for 2018. It pains me to not rank a runner with a 2:04:08 to his credit – plus a 2nd sub 2:05 to boot. But he just misses out for a top 10 spot to two men who were in front of him in that amazing Dubai race.
Solomon Deksisa – Mumbai winner 2:09:34; Hamburg winner 2:06:34; Amsterdam 3rd place 2:04:40. Two marathon “W’s” plus a sub 2:05 almost got Deksisa in the top 10. But Mumbai and Hamburg didn’t have deep fields, so he gets honorable mention for a fine year.
Seyefu Tura – Dubai 7th 2:04:44, Milano win in 2:09:44, Shanghai win in 2:09:18. Like Deksisa, he had two marathon wins and a sub 2:05. He also had an honorable mention year.
Kelkile Gezahegn – Rotterdam 3rd 2:05:56; Lanzhou win 2:11:00; Frankfurt win 2:06:37. Two marathon wins and a sub 2:06 – good year.
El Hassan El Abbassi – Jakarta Asian Games 2nd place 2:18:22; Valencia 2nd place 2:04:43. This runner has gone from 2:17 in 2012 to 2:10 in 2017 to 2:04 this year.
Mule Wasihun – Rotterdam 6th place 2:08:13; Amsterdam 2nd place 2:04:37. In 2017, Wasihun ran a fine 2:05:37 to finish 28 seconds behind Cherono’s course record run in Amsterdam. So this year, Wasihun ran 32 seconds faster than Cherono did last year…and finished even farther behind Cherono! (31 seconds)
Abraham Kiptum – Daegu win in 2:06:29; Abu Dhabi 2nd in 2:04:16. Kiptum broke Tadesse’s World Record in the half-marathon and had two fine marathons, the second of which probably would have been a new personal best except that a glitch by the race directors meant that he, Marius Kipserem, and the rest of the field didn’t run the full marathon distance in Abu Dhabi.
Marius Kipserem – Rotterdam 5th 2:07:22; Abu Dhabi win in 2:04:04. An average race in Rotterdam was counterbalanced by a very impressive performance in the inaugural Abu Dhabi race…which, unfortunately was a short route. That’s too bad, as his time would still have been sub 2:05 on an accurate course.
Geoffrey Kamworor – New York City 3rd 2:06:26. For those who could watch the race, there was a great duel between Kamworor and Desisa, especially when they were in Central Park, about to start the final mile. First, Desisa, who had only recently taken over the lead, took off his stocking hat and threw it aside; then Kamworor responded by grabbing own and vigorously tossing it away. Having thrown down the gauntlet (using hats, not gloves), they dueled on, with Desisa immediately starting to pull away. It was compelling viewing. Desisa came out on top (with Kitata catching Kamworor), but Kamworor’s 3rd place finish this year in the 4th fastest time ever run in the New York City Marathon was certainly superior in performance to his 2:10:53 win from last year.
Dickson Chumba – Tokyo win in 2:05:30; Chicago DNF. At one time I thought about including Chumba in the top 10 – after all, Tokyo is a World Marathon Major (WMM) and Chumba won that race in a respectable time. But there were some non-WMM races that were as competitive as Tokyo (e.g., Rotterdam) and some that were unquestionably more competitive than Tokyo (e.g., Dubai, Amsterdam, Valencia); plus Chumba had a DNF. So in the end, Chumba didn’t make the cut.
Galen Rupp – Boston DNF, Prague win in 2:06:07; Chicago 5th place in 2:06:21. Rupp continues to be the best American marathoner, just as he was America’s best 10,000 meter runner for so many years.
Did you notice that SEVEN* men ran 2:04 and did not gain a top 10 ranking? Phew, we live in a competitive age!
*(An eighth runner with a past drug conviction also ran 2:04)
That’s my top 10 (plus honorable mentions). Commentary will come in parts 2, 3, & 4.
Part 2: Complaint
Complaint – obstructing elite athletes – I am tired of race directors starting women and wheelchair athletes ahead of the men, then watching the men having to avoid them as they pass, including down the homestretch. Elite men are the best marathoners runners in the world. As such, they deserve to have a free run: unencumbered by anything or anyone.
I found it highly annoying, for example, to watch a churlish wheelchair athlete dog Eliud Kipchoge for much of the last fifteen kilometers of the race in Berlin (watch the race video: he was stalking Kipchoge from at least the 27 km mark). This fellow even had the impudence to pull up alongside Kipchoge down the long, final homestretch. (All it would take would be a moment’s inattention and crash: the runner goes down.) Disgracefully, the official pacing bicyclers did NOTHING to keep the wheelchair athlete away from Kipchoge.
At the finish, race officials had to frantically get the attention of one wheelchair athlete in front of Kipchoge in order to redirect him to cross over to the left side of the road to finish, then they had Kipchoge go to the right side of the finish, then quickly had to intervene again to yell at the wheelchair athlete on Kipchoge’s heels to go to the left.
Kipchoge’s margin of victory officially might have been 4:44, but in reality he was a few seconds behind one wheelchair athlete and only a few seconds in front of another.
This interference is a distraction: we want to watch an unencumbered men’s race, not some midpack wheelchair athlete trying to hog some limelight, ESPECIALLY if the race is a World Record attempt. (This is the second time in recent history that Berlin has had problems with a finish line distraction – remember the disgrace of 2013 when Wilson Kipsang broke the WR…but didn’t break the tape?)
This problem is inexcusable because it is an entirely avoidable scheduling error.
If any major marathon race directors ever read this, please, please, please consider the following two suggestions:
1. Start the wheelchair athletes an HOUR (yes, 60 minutes) before any runner takes their first step. This avoids the slower wheelchair racers from interfering with the elite runners.
2. If you insist on having separate starts for the elite men and women (Berlin, Chicago, Dubai, Amsterdam and Tokyo do not, whereas Boston, New York, and London do), then start the elite women 85 minutes (yes, one hour and 25 minutes) before the men. There should be no elite women still on the course for the men to pass at any stage of the race. In this situation, the WOMEN would get BETTER TV COVERAGE. And do you know what? SO WOULD the MEN! It’s a WIN-WIN situation.
I completely agree with Letsrun.com, “if you are going to have separate men’s and women’s races and want to cover them properly, one race should finish when the other is nearing halfway.” Thus, with 85 minutes separating the women’s and men’s starts, this projects to 2:25 on the clock for the women when the men reach one hour. At this point, the top women will have finished with great television coverage; meanwhile the men will be somewhere between 12 and 13 miles, approaching the half-way mark, at which point coverage may be switched from the women’s to the men’s race. The women’s finish is televised and the men’s half-way split is as well.
Remember race directors, this is a WIN-WIN proposal.
Scenario A) – wheelchair athletes start; 60 minutes later, elite women start; 85 minutes after the elite women start, everyone else starts.
Scenario B) – for those who don’t split men and women: wheelchair athletes start; 60 minutes later, everyone else starts.
Part 3: Questions
It’s gotta be the shoes, right?: A runner crushes the world record by over a minute, running a full 2:20 faster than Haile Gebrselassie’s lifetime best. An unknown Kenyan (Emmanuel Saina Kipkemboi), making his marathon debut, in warmish mid-60s weather, in a venue (Buenos Aires) not known for its fast times, running solo, crushes the South American all-comer’s record by over three minutes, his 2:05:20 faster than the 2002 “Marathon for the Ages” when Khalid Khannouchi ran a WR 2:05:38 in London. In Valencia, Spain, a runner unknown even to the majority of those who follow the sport breaks a venerable world record in the Half-Marathon. In Frankfurt, despite a windy day, the master’s world record gets ripped by a full 52 seconds. In Toronto, a runner making his marathon debut takes 44 seconds off a Canadian National Record that had stood for 43 years. At Dubai, five men beat the impressive 2:04:11 course record in less than cool conditions as seven run lifetime marathon PR’s of 2:04, the five wearing Nike running PR’s by – on average – a hefty three minutes and nine seconds. (PR amounts: 2:12, 4:35, 1:08, debut, and 4:42 minutes)
How much did Nike’s Vaporfly 4% shoes contribute to these various results?? Are they enough to provide something of a 1% to 4% improvement in performance (perhaps over a minute faster for the marathon)? Hmm…
Athletics fans might recall that in 2007 the IAAF did not allow Spira Footwear’s shoes with spring technology to be used in competition. (That still did not stop athletes from wearing the shoes in a downhill 10K race in El Paso, TX, where the winning time in 2007 was a 26:01 and in 2008 a 25:42.) Note this rule:
USATF Rule 143.3(a) provides:
A competitor may compete in bare feet or with
footwear on one or both feet. The purpose of shoes
for competition is to give protection and stability to
the feet and a firm grip of the ground. Such shoes,
however, must not be constructed so as to give the
competitor any unfair additional assistance, including
the incorporation of any technology which will give the
wearer any unfair advantage, such as a spring or similar
device. A shoe strap over the instep is permissible.”
The IAAF adds that:
Any type of shoe used must be reasonably available to all
in the spirit of the universality of athletics. Shoes must not
be constructed so as to give athletes any unfair assistance
For those who think, “It’s just a shoe, the athlete does the running,” it is worthwhile to reflect on the LZR polyurethane swim suits worn in the 2008 Olympics. They compressed the swimmers’ bodies into streamlined tubes that trapped air, added buoyancy, and reduced drag. 98% of the swimming medals at the 2008 Olympics were won by swimmers wearing the LZR. 23 of 25 new world records were broken by those wearing the suit. Numerous races had not just one but multiple people/teams that dipped under old world records. (Remember the famous 4 x 100 meter race, where the U.S.A.’s Ryan Lochte caught France’s Alain Bernard with the fastest 100m split in history? In the 4 x 100m heats, the U.S.A., France, and Australia used their “B-team” and all three finished under the existing world record. In the final, thetop five teams broke the new world record from the heats!) A few months later, at the European short course championships, 17 world records fell. By August of 2009, a full 93 (!!) world records had been broken in the mere 18 months the LZR Racer had been in existence.
It turned out that this was NOT a matter of “it’s just a suit, the athlete does the swimming.” The swimsuits were banned in 2009.
To Michael Jordan, Mars Blackmon kept insisting, “It’s gotta be the shoes!” Is that now more than a rhetorical assertion?…
What’s next for Eliud Kipchoge in 2019? A combination of custom and money means that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kipchoge run the London and Berlin marathons in 2019. After all, Kipchoge loves both venues and in Berlin, Kipchoge has run faster every time he goes there: 2:04:05 (2013), 2:04:00 (2015), 2:03:32 (2017), and 2:01:39 (2018). Why buck the trend by running elsewhere?
The question is, what else does he want to accomplish? Does he think he has another shot at his WR? (Of course he does: all athletes think they can run faster.) If so, why not try Fukuoka in December? Fukuoka is different: it is a small invitational field of elite men only. It usually has great weather, it’s a fairly flat course, there are enthusiastic fans who line the route, it has a long and prestigious pedigree of championship racing over the decades (with many different national, continental, and a couple of world records run there), plus terrific race organization. As for money, I’d be surprised if Fukuoka couldn’t match anything Berlin would offer. So a world record attempt would be realistic.
Or is Kipchoge now more interested in adding championship style marathons to his list of victories? We know he wants to run the Olympics in 2020. What does he want for 2019? Boston? It’s the oldest marathon on the planet (first race: 1897), there are no pacemakers, it isn’t record eligible (so it’s about competition, not time), and Kipchoge has yet to run it. After all, he has already won London three times, he is unlikely to break his World Record there, so why run it again? That laurel crown at Boston would look quite fitting on Kipchoge’s head.
What else? New York City? The IAAF World Championships? Another Farah vs. Kipchoge matchup for a World Champion title would be exciting for distance fans, but the 2019 edition is in Doha; such a hot weather marathon might not be an attractive option.
Or is Kipchoge audacious enough to think about taking another shot at the 2:00 barrier with a Monza 2?
How difficult is it to project marathon potential? – On the same day and same course where Eliud Kipchoge smashed the marathon WR with his 2:01:39, Zersenay Tadese ran a 2:08:46 in Berlin, a PR by almost two minutes. (He did a 2:06:51 in the 2017 Monza Time Trial.) Tadese is such a talented athlete, but there is quite a discrepancy between his half-marathon times & marathon performances. Is there something about his body’s physiology that cripples him in the latter? (I doubt the problem is mental.)
Tadese and Kipchoge demonstrate – in opposite ways – that the whole is not merely the sum of its parts. For the 10K and Half-Marathon, Tadese has run 26:37 & 58:23; Kipchoge 26:49 & 59:25. But Tadese’s shorter distance times don’t predict a marathon PR of 2:08; Kipchoge’s don’t predict a 2:01.
Part 4: Congratulations & Consolations
World Master’s Marathon – Mark Kiptoo ran an amazing 2:07:50 for 6th place at the Frankfurt Marathon to take 52 seconds off of the already impressive 2:08:42 that Kenneth Mungara ran to win the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia in 2015. As someone who remembers what a big deal it was when in late 1981 first Alberto Salazar and then Rob DeCastella (2:08:13 & 2:08:18) finally ran faster than Derek Clayton’s 12-year old WR time of 2:08:34, it amazes me to see how far distance running has progressed, for there is now a master‘s runner who has beaten all of those marks. Hats off to Mark Kiptoo.
Farewell to Jerome Drayton’s Canadian Record – 49 years is a long time to be a national record holder and 43 years is a long time to hold a national record. In 1969 Jerome Drayton became the Canadian marathon record holder; in 1975, Drayton’s 2nd of his three Fukuoka wins yielded a time that took 43 years to improve, the Canadian Record of 2:10:09 finally being passed on to Cam Levin’s debut of 2:09:25 for 4th place at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
Biggest Surprise of the Year – Yuki Kawauchi’s win at Boston. I was so very happy to see this blue collar runner with a daytime job unexpectedly win the Boston Marathon – under difficult weather conditions. (This was coupled with the thrill of seeing Desi Linden take the women’s title, on top of which it was fun to see another person with a daytime job, CRNA Sarah Sellers, finish 2nd, and a 41 year old Canadian master and mother of three, Krista Duchene, take 3rd in the women’s race. Surprises all around…)
Here is Kawauchi’s marathon year: Marshfield course record win in 2:18:59, KitaKyushu course record win in 2:11:46, New Taipei City (Wan Jin Shi) Taiwan win in 2:14:12, Boston win in 2:15:58, Stockholm Marathon 4th in 2:22:57, Gold Coast Marathon Australia 9th 2:14:51, New Caledonia win in 2:18:18, Wakkanai Heiwa (Hokkaido) 2nd in 2:24:55, Chicago Marathon 19th in 2:16:26, Venice Marathon 7th 2:27:43, Fukuoka Marathon 10th in 2:12:03, and Hofu Yomiuri Marathon win in 2:11:29.
This does not include his many non-marathon distance races, such as the Ekiden race on January 21st, where his 1:01:03 solo run for 20 km beat all 103 teams of 6 relay runners each, the Heisei Kokusai Time Trials where he ran in three different 5K heats (winning the first), the Kuki Half-Marathon, where he finished 2nd running in a Panda costume, or the 71 km ultramarathon in Nagano which he won in a course record 4:41:55.
The Tokyo Marathon Foundation, independent organizer of the Tokyo Marathon, is considering a plan to increase the entry fees for the race by 50% for its 14th running in March, 2020.Its primary reason is a decrease in the event’s profitability due to increased safety and security costs. The plan could be approved by the Board of Directors as early as December.
It was truly satisfying to see this guy win Boston in horrible conditions. Dreams really do come true sometimes.
Sub X – Tsegaye Kebede ran 2:05:21 to finish fourth in the Valencia Marathon, his first sub 2:06 in more than 6 years. How many times has he now gone sub 2:06? Five times. You can see this statistic on Brett Larner’s excellent Japan Running News page. After checking out The Kawauchi Counter, you can go read the stats Larner keeps about marathoners with the most sub X Marathons. Currently all the leaders have a last name that starts with “K.” Thus Wilson Kipsang has run the most sub 2:04 marathons (4), Eliud Kipchoge the most sub 2:06 (10), Tsegaye Kebede the most sub 2:08 (14) and Yuki Kawauchi the most sub 2:12 (26). See: https://twitter.com/JRNHeadline
Honolulu: it’s all about timing – Warm weather marathons do not make for fast times, so it was no surprise that when Ibrahim Hussein came along and ripped over three minutes off the Honolulu Marathon Course Record in 1985, then improved that with a 2:11:43 in 1986, his course record stood for nearly two decades. In 2004, Jimmy Muindi’s finally nudged it off the pedestal with a new CR of 2:11:12, just outside of the magical 5 minutes per mile pace. It, too, stood year after year. Not even the great Wilson Kipsang could take it down.
Then along came this Lawrence Cherono fellow, who entirely skipped the 2:10 zone when he shattered the course record with a 2:09:39 in 2016. He followed that up by chopping another minute off with his 2:08:27 in 2017.
In life, as in humor, love, or business opportunities, everything is about timing. Sport is no different. In 2016, at the start of the race, Muindi’s 2:11 CR still stood. 2014 Honolulu Champion Wilson Chebet beat that 2:11 with an impressive 2:10:49…but finished a well beaten 2nd. The next year, Chebet did even better, with a 2:09:55. He still finished 2nd. This year Titus Ekiru ran a 2:09:01 (on a brutally windy day); before 2017, that time would have been a new Course Record.
But Chebet didn’t win in 2016 or 2017. Nor did Ekiru break the course record in 2018. Ah, that timing issue. Nevertheless, I salute their performances with a virtual pat on the back. Although Titus Ekiru won’t get a top 10 marathon ranking for 2018, I do tip my hat to him for his impressive Honolulu performance and a quality 2:10:38 Course Record in the altitude of Mexico City.
Miniver Cheevy Award – Guye Adola did not have an easy London Marathon this year. After going out in 63:25, he came back in 89:10 for a finishing time of 2:32:35. His 5K splits for 25 – 40 K were 20:50, 21:56, and 21:32 (roughly 6:54/mile). He must have really been hurting, so I admire his determination to stay in the race and finish.
Perhaps as consolation, in a moment of whimsy – with tongue firmly planted in cheek – we could say that Guye Adola didn’t have a bad race, he simply had bad timing. Had he been born a century earlier and his performance transplanted to the Polytechnic Marathon of London in 1918, his 2:32:35 would have broken the world record. (In 1918, the World Record belonged to Alexis Ahlgren of Sweden, who ran a 2:36:07 in the “Poly” race of 1913.)
Poor Adola: just like Miniver Cheevy, he was born too late…
Thanks for reading!