Week That Was: Is The 2019 London Marathon The Greatest Ever? And If You Don’t PR, Keep Trying 24 More Times

The Week That Was in Running, January 14 – 20, 2019

By LetsRun.com
January 22, 2019

Past editions of the Week That Was can be found here.

Questions, comments, or a tip? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us, or post on our forum.

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If you missed our coverage during the week regarding the action in Houston or the announcements coming out of London, then catch up now as we don’t reinvent the wheel below: LRC 2019 Houston Half and Full Marathon coverage, LRC 2019 London Marathon coverage.

Stats of the Week I and II

25 – number of marathon finishes for 28-year-old Biruktayit Degefa of Ethiopia, who won the 2019 Houston Marathon in 2:23:28. Her win was far from a shock as it was her third marathon win in Houston in four years (2016, 2018, 2019). What was a surprise is that it came in a new personal best time. It shows that you can PR even if you have a lot of marathons in your legs. Her PR coming into this year’s race was the 2:23:51 she ran to finish third in Houston in 2015.

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1 – number of majors that Degefa has run during her career. During her marathon career, which dates to 2010, she’s picked up wins all over the globe, including Ahmedabad (India), Sydney (twice), Eugene, Des Moines, and Houston (3 times), but she’s only ever run one major, the 2012 Berlin Marathon where she was 10th place in 2:33:27.

More: 2019 Houston Half and Full Marathon coverage

London Does It Again

If you don’t like to hear us talk — yet again — about how great the field at the London Marathon is going to be, please skip over this section. Actually, you better not do that as our Week That Was is very short this week and this is the main section. But talking about how amazing the fields in London are each year is kind of like talking about how great the New England Patriots dynasty has been during the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. One keeps saying the same thing over and over, but it can’t be said enough as the level of excellence is absurd.

In our instant reaction piece after the elite fields for the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon were announced last week, we didn’t hesitate to call the women’s field the greatest ever assembled. That was an easy call as 2019 London has five sub-2:19 women in the field (only 10 have ever done it in history), including four who ran sub-2:19 in 2018. That’s more than double the record number of sub-2:19 women to start in the same race (two, accomplished at 2018 New York and 2018 London). Add in 2:19 performers Roza Dereje and Birhane Dibaba, who both broke 2:20 last year, and that means London has six women in the race who all broke 2:20 last year. Plus Mary Keitany, one of the all-time greats who just put up a scintillating performance to win New York.


And now that we’ve had some more time to analyze the men’s field, we think it also might be the greatest marathon field ever assembled for its gender.

One way to think about it is to ask “Is 2019 the greatest men’s field in London Marathon history?” If the answer is yes, then that means that 2019 London is also the greatest men’s marathon field ever because we are convinced a London men’s field is the greatest one of all time. We just aren’t sure which one.

What about the Olympics? No, the 2016 Olympic marathon field pales in comparison to London. Check out these stats.

# of Competitors With Sub-2:04, 2:05, 2:06, 2:07, 2:08 PBs (Cumulative)
Sub- 2:04 Sub- 2:05 Sub- 2:06 Sub- 2:07 Sub- 2:08 Notes
2019 London 2 8 10 10 11 Field includes top 5 in 2018 LRC World Rankings
2018 London 3 3 7 7 9 Field included Kipchoge, Bekele, Farah, and Adola
2017 London 1 3 6 6 7 Kipchoge missed it for Breaking2
2016 London 2 4 8 8 10 Battle between World #1 (Kipchoge) and NYC champ Biwott lived up to hype
2016 Olympics 2 5 5 10 11 Rupp and Meb were also in the race
2015 London 4 8 9 9 10 Course record holders of 5 of 6 majors (all but Tokyo). Top 5 in 2014 LRC World Rankings. Kipchoge’s London debut
2014 London 2 7 8 9 11 Farah’s debut. Haile G pacemaker
2013 London 2 7 9 9 12 Course records holders of 5 of 6 majors plus Olympic champ (Farah pacemaker)

Based on those stats and a little research, it really comes down to which field is better: the 2019 London field or the 2015 London field. You tell us which one you like better.

Barring any pullouts between and now and April, both races featured eight sub-2:05 performers as well as LetsRun.com’s entire top five from the previous year’s marathon world rankings.

Deciding which field is better is next to impossible. Here are the 10 leading men for each year’s races, listed with their marathon finishes in the previous two years.

2015 London Marathon’s Leading Elites With Marathon Finishes In Prior Two Years
Wilson Kipsang –
2:03:23 PB – 1st 2014 NY (2:10:59), 1st 2014 London (2:04:29 CR), 1st 2013 Berlin (2:03:23 WR), 5th 2013 London (2:07:47)
Dennis Kimetto – 2:02:57 PB – 1st 2014 Berlin (2:02:57 WR), DNF 2014 Boston, 1st 2013 Chicago (2:03:45 CR), 1st 2013 Tokyo (2:06:50 CR)
Eliud Kipchoge – 2:04:05 PB – 1st 2014 Chicago (2:04:11), 1st 2014 Rotterdam (2:05:00), 2nd 2013 Berlin (2:04:05), 1st 2013 Hamburg (2:05:30)
Emmanuel Mutai – 2:03:13 PB – 2nd 2014 Berlin (2:03:13), 7th 2014 London (2:08:19), 2nd 2013 Chicago (2:03:52), 2nd 2013 London (2:06:33)
Sammy Kitwara – 2:04:28 PB – 2nd 2014 Chicago (2:04:28), 3rd 2014 Tokyo (2:06:30), 3rd 2013 Chicago (2:05:16), 3rd 2013 Rotterdam (2:07:22)
Tsegaye Mekonnen – 2:04:32 PB – DNF 2014 Frankfurt, 5th 2014 London (2:08:06), 1st 2014 Dubai (2:04:32); no 2013 marathons
Stanley Biwott- 2:04:55 PB – 5th 2014 NY (2:10:41), 2nd 2014 London (2:04:55), 5th 2013 NY (2:10:41), 8th 2013 London (2:08:39)
Geoffrey Mutai – 2:03:02 PB – 6th 2014 NY (2:13:44), 6th 2014 London (2:08:18), 1st 2013 New York (2:08:24), DNF 2013 London
Tilahun Regassa – 2:05:27 PB – 1st 2014 Eindhoven (2:06:21), DNF 2014 Boston, 1st 2013 Rotterdam (2:05:38)
Samuel Tsegay – 2:07:28 PB – 19th 2014 London (2:19:10), 16th 2013 Worlds (2:14:41)

2019 London Marathon’s Leading Elites With Marathon Finishes In Prior Two Years
Eliud Kipchoge
– 2:01:39 PB -1st 2018 Berlin (2:01:39 WR), 1st 2018 London (2:04:17), 1st 2017 Berlin (2:03:32), 1st 2017 Breaking2 (2:00:25)
Wilson Kipsang – 2:03:13 PB – 3rd 2018 Berlin (2:07:48), 1st 2018 Tokushima (2:19:35), 2nd 2017 NY (2:10:56), DNF 2017 Berlin, 1st 2017 Tokyo (2:03:58 CR)
Mosinet Geremew – 2:04:00 PB – 2nd 2018 Chicago (2:05:24), 1st 2018 Dubai (2:04:00 CR), 3rd 2017 Berlin (2:06:12), 2nd 2017 Xiamen (2:10:20)
Leul Gebreselassie – 2:04:02 PB – 1st 2018 Valencia (2:04:31 CR), 2nd 2018 Dubai (2:04:02); no 2017 marathons
Tamirat Tola – 2:04:06 PB – 4th 2018 NY (2:08:30), DNF 2018 Boston, 3rd 2018 Dubai (2:04:06), 2nd 2017 Worlds (2:09:49), 1st 2017 Dubai (2:04:11 CR)
Abraham Kiptum – 2:04:16 PB*- 2nd 2018 Abu Dhabi (2:04:16 short course), 1st 2018 Daegu (2:06:29), 3rd 2017 Amsterdam (2:05:26), 7th 2017 Dongying (2:14:38), 1st 2017 Lagos (2:15:23)
Mule Wasihun– 2:04:37 PB – 2nd 2018 Amsterdam (2:04:37), 6th 2018 Rotterdam (2:08:13), 4th 2017 Rotterdam (2:05:39), 2nd 2017 Dubai (2:06:46)
Tola Shura (Shura Kitata) – 2:04:11 PB – 2nd 2018 NY (2:06:01), 2nd 2018 London (2:04:49), 1st 2017 Frankfurt (2:05:50), 1st 2017 Rome (2:05:50), 3rd 2017 Xiamen (2:10:36)
Mo Farah – 2:05:11 PB – 1st 2018 Chicago (2:05:11), 3rd 2018 London (2:06:21); no 2017 marathons
Daniel Wanjiru – 2:05:21 PB – 5th 2018 NY (2:10:21), 8th 2018 London (2:10:35), 8th 2017 Worlds (2:12:16), 1st 2017 London (2:05:48)

We’ve always said we try to let stats/facts decide things and not emotions, so we decided to compile the number of top-three finishes achieved by the competitors in the previous two years for each race so that those numbers would tell us which year was better.

But even that leads to a judgment call. Should you count Dubai as a major? What about Breaking2? Or the new race in Abu Dhabi? In the charts below, we’ve counted Dubai and Breaking2 as majors.

# of Top-3 Showings In Majors In Previous Two Years Prior To 2015 London
1st 2nd 3rd
2014 5 3 1
2013 4 3 1
Total 9 6 2


# of Top 3-Showings In Majors In Previous Two Years Prior To 2019 London
1st 2nd 3rd
2018 4 4 3
2017 5 2 1
Total 9 6 4

Basically it’s a dead heat, as in addition to both races having eight sub-2:05 guys, both races include runners who have managed to win nine Majors (counting Dubai/Breaking2 as majors) and finish second six times in the previous two years.

If you have a reason why one should definitely say the 2019 London field is better than the 2015 London field (or vice versa), please email us.

More: LRC’s 2015 London Marathon Preview is here.
*LRC’s Instant Analysis of 2019 Field is here.

Donavan Brazier Returns After 323 Days Off

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As we get into the second half of January, indoor action is starting to get going in earnest (the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix — the lone US stop on the IAAF World Indoor Tour — is this weekend in Boston). Last week, two results caught our eye. Jamaica’s Natoya Goule (adidas) and America’s Donavan Brazier (Nike) both ran some quick 600s.

At the Clemson Invitational, Goule, who had a spectacular 2018, during which she lowered her pb from 1:59.38 to 1:56.15, showed she’s eager to do good things again in 2019 as she ran a 1:26.33 world leader. According to LetsRun.com coaching/stat guru John Kellogg, that’s equivalent to a 2:01.72 800.

The more significant 600 result came at the Texas A&M Triangular meet, where Brazier raced for the first time as a member of the Nike Oregon Project and the first time since last year’s World Indoors as a result of an Achilles injury. Brazier put up the fifth best time in US history at 1:15.46, which Kellogg equates to a 1:46.39 800.

In case you were counting, Brazier was out for 323 days.

MB: Donavan Brazier 1:15.4 OD 600m (Season Opener?)


RIP Tommy Leonard

Last week, the world of running lost a treasured friend as great running fan, bartender, and Falmouth Road Race creator Tommy Leonard died at age 85. Given that we love running and beer, we’re not sure how we never met Leonard, but we loved what Toni Reavis had to say about him in Runner’s World: “There are very few truly great men among us, but Tommy was one. His selflessness and generosity of spirit created a family out of strangers from all over the world. That’s pretty great.”

Leonard was incredibly modest about his role in starting Falmouth as he credited those who helped execute his vision, once quipping, “‘I couldn’t organize a two-man funeral.”

More: ToniReavis.com: R.I.P. TOMMY LEONARD (1933 – 2019)
*Boston Herald: Tommy Leonard leaves ‘irreplaceable’ legacy
*Falmouth.wickedlocal.com: Falmouth residents pay tribute to Tommy Leonard
*RW: Tommy Leonard, Founder of Falmouth Road Race, Dies at 85

To see our favorite reads from other weeks, go here.

Ridiculous Tweet Of The Week

For the Oregon Track Club to call a 67:44 performance for a half marathon as “solid” for a guy like Luke Puskedra, who has a 2:10:24 marathon pb, is absurd. The top woman in the race beat him by more than 2 minutes.

As for Sally Kipyego, maybe one can argue 72:12 is “solid” for someone running their first race over 10k in 26 months, but if she wasn’t coming back from a long layoff, one would never call a 72:12 half marathon solid for a former New York City Marathon runner-up.

Quotes of the Week (That Weren’t Quote of the Day)

#1 Kiplimo Wants The World Record

“Why not? That’s a long-term goal in my career.”

-18-year-old Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda talking about his chances to break the 10,000-meter world record on the track, according to the IAAF. Kiplimo is in good form as on December 31 he won the downhill San Silvestre Vallecana 10k road race in 26:41 and then last weekend he won the IAAF XC race in Seville (Cross Internacional de Itálica), crushing fellow Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei, the 2017 Worlds silver medallist in the 10,000, by 16 seconds.

After his win, Kiplimo, the reigning world XC junior champ, announced he’ll be giving up his junior title to seek senior glory in 2019. We can’t wait for 2019 World XC, which takes place in Denmark this year.

More: Steeplechase WR Holder Beatrice Chepkoech And Uganda Teen Star Jacob Kiplimo Win At Seville, Spain XC Race

#2 If Only The US Had This Rule

“[We will not allow] any convicted doper to compete for us no matter how good they are even after completing their ban.”

– Athletics Kenya chairman Jackson Tuwei talking about how dopers will be ineligible to represent Kenya moving forward.

More: Insidethegames: Former Commonwealth 10,000m Champ Lucy Kabuu (2:19:34 Marathon PR) Gets Two-Year Drug Ban After Testing Positive For Morphine

#3 The Vatican Has Olympic Aspirations

“The dream that we have often had is to see the Holy See flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games.”

– Monsignor Melchor Jose Sánchez de Toca y Alameda, talking after the Vatican started a track team last week. The Olympics aren’t actually the main goal for the team as he also said, “The goal of this team is to run together and to share our passion for running and for track and field. Then, this small club wants to bring a message of Christian solidarity, joy, and inclusion.”

More: The Guardian: The Vatican Launches Their Own Track Team With An Eye On The Olympics
*Runner’s World: Vatican Launches Track Team Made Up Of Nuns, Clergy, Swiss Guard, And Other Staff

Quotes Of The Day And Last Week’s Home Pages

To see the quotes of the day from last week or last week’s home page or any home page, go to our archive page.

Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us or post in our forum.