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Chicago Marathon 2010 - Men's Field Bios
By Sharon Ekstrom
Sammy Wanjiru |
Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot |
Vincent Kipruto |
Tsegaye Kebede |
Deriba Merga |
Sammy Wanjiru (Kenya)
PB: 2:05:10, 2009 London Marathon
The pressure is on for Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya. Wanjiru first burst onto the scene breaking the half marathon world record at age 18 at the 2005 Rotterdam Half-Marathon (59:16). He soon made a name for himself in 2007 securing the half marathon world record title two times over with victories at Ras al Khaimah (58:53) and The Hague (58:33); then, topping off the year with a victory in his marathon debut at the Fukuoka Marathon (his slowest marathon finish to date - 2:06:39). The buzz spread that Wanjiru seemed one of the only men capable of breaking legendary Haile Gebrselassie's marathon world record (2:03:59 - 2008 Berlin Marathon).
Wanjiru earned additional accolades including a gold medal in the fastest Olympic finish ever through the heat and humidity of the 2008 Beijing Games Men's Marathon (2:06:32), a course record in London (2009, 2:05:10), a course record in Chicago (2009, 2:05:41, the fastest time ever run in North America); but he has yet to break the World Record and cannot rest on his laurels yet.
This soon-to-be 24 year old has pressure mounting as a batch of younger, faster fellow Africans have stepped up their performances nearly knocking him out of the top ten fastest marathoners of all time and stealing his half marathon world record title away. And to compound things, this Kenyan whose early running roots can be traced to training in Japan, has had minor setbacks thus far in 2010...a DNF at the 2010 London Marathon citing knee issues resulting from rerouted flights and extended periods of travel caused by the volcanic ash cloud that put most of Europe at a standstill earlier this year. A second place finish to Martin Lel at the Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans (Lel beat Wanjiru in their last head-to-head at the 2008 London Marathon) and a DNF at the Castelbuono 11.3K.
Wanjiru will have to make magic in Chicago if he plans to remain at the top of his game - perhaps another course record or a world record at that. With such a deep men's field reminiscent of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, this defending champion will have to fend off challengers such as Tsegaye Kebede, Deribe Merga, Vincent Kipruto and Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot. There will be no holding back on the flat, fast course in Chicago.
Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (Kenya)
photo credit: Victah Sailer / Photo Run
PB: 2:05:52, 2010 Boston Marathon
This 2010 Boston Marathon Champion, Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot, not to be confused with the four-time winner of the Boston Marathon Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, has continued to shine with each marathon he completes. As part of a new generation of runners solely focusing on the marathon, Kiprono Cheruiyot debuted in the 26.2 mile distance at the 2008 Frankfurt Marathon with a 2:07:21 victory. He soon tested himself at the 2009 Boston Marathon finishing 5th (2:10:06) and returned to Frankfurt Marathon in the autumn unable to defend his title, but bettering his time with a 2:06:23.
Well off the radar at the 2010 Boston Marathon, Kiprono Cheruiyot went out with the veteran runners at the start and held the pace even as Deriba Merga worked to drop the field. But Kiprono Cheruiyot displayed such fortitude, breaking free from Merga at 40K and running to victory shattering the standing course record with a 2:05:52 finish. At 22 and still a newcomer to the distance, he leaves no doubt of his talents. But for Chicago, Kiprono Cheruiyot will be met once again by Merga and other top talents including his own training partner Vincent Kipruto.
Vincent Kipruto (Kenya)
PB: 2:05:13, 2010 Rotterdam Marathon
While we expect today's new generation of marathoners to be one-hit wonders, Vincent Kipruto is anything but. Kipruto began his marathon career at age 21 at the 2008 Reims Marathon with an uninspiring 2:08:16 finish (3rd place). Yet, a few months later at the 2009 Paris Marathon, Kipruto took victory in an astounding 2:06:08 setting a new course record at the event.
At the 2009 Chicago Marathon this newcomer was with Sammy Wanjiru as they were on world record pace through the first half of the race (62:01). As the pacers fell off one-by-one at mile 16, Kipruto took to the front assuming an unofficial role as pacer until Wanjiru's surge near mile 21 secured victory. Kipruto fell back to a third place finish in 2:06:08, still an impressive effort given his lack of experience and his ability to hold to the blistering initial miles of the race. He followed up that performance with a 2:05:13 personal best at the 2010 Rotterdam Marathon, a third place behind two 2:04 finishes. Kipruto is capable of more and definitely one to watch in Chicago.
Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia)
photo credit: Victah Sailer / Photo Run
PB: 2:05:18, 2009 Fukuoka Marathon
No stranger to top marathon fields is Tsegaye Kebede, winner of the 2010 London Marathon, bronze medalist at the 2009 World Championships and bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Games. With nine career marathons at the age of 23, Kebede has top 3 finishes at eight of those events (5 victories). There is no doubt that this Ethiopian has become a stellar marathoner in such a short period of time.
Kebede's marathon debut was victorious yet uninspiring in a 2:15:53 at the 2007 Abebe Bikila Marathon and he followed that performance with a 2:08:16 (8th place) at the 2007 Amsterdam Marathon. 2008 was the year that quickly brought him to the forefront.
Kebede placed 2nd at the 2008 Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon losing to Patrick Makau (KEN) by just tenths of a second (59:35), won the 2008 Paris Marathon (2:06:40), took bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (2:10:00) passing fellow countryman Deriba Merga on the track in the last hundred meters. And to end the year, he broke Wanjiru's course record at the Fukuoka Marathon with a victory in 2:06:10.
His 2nd place finish at the 2009 London Marathon was all the more remarkable having survived the blistering pace in what was the fastest half marathon split of a marathon ever run (61:35), plus a number of surges from Sammy Wanjiru. Kebede finished in 2:05:20 and continued a streak of top three finishes with a bronze medal at the World Championships in Berlin (2:08:35) and a repeat victory of Fukuoka bettering his time by nearly one minute (2:05:18).
For 2010, Kebede has raced only once - his victory at the 2010 London Marathon in 2:05:19 was a long time coming. He dropped most of the field at mile 17 and finished one solid minute ahead of his competition, one second off his personal best and nine seconds off the course record. In Chicago, Kebede will be racing in the United States for the first time and with Wanjiru and some other 2:05 marathoners in the field, one can possibly expect an incredibly fast finish as these competitors will spur each other on. Another impetus for winning Chicago will be the $500,000 prize purse for the 2009/2010 World Marathon Majors that Wanjiru and Kebede are currently tied in first place standing with the most points (50pts).
Deriba Merga (Ethiopia)
photo credit: Jim Rogash / Getty Images Sport
PB: 2:06:38, 2008 London Marathon
Deriba Merga is still not a household name despite several strong performances at top races and a win at the 2009 Boston Marathon. Predominantly a 10K and half marathon specialist, the Ethiopian's talent in distance running emerged in 2007, when he ran a number of sub-60 minute half marathons finishing in the top 5 at races like the Ras al Khaimah, Rotterdam and World Road Racing Championships followed by a 2nd place finish at the 2007 Fukuoka Marathon (2:06:50).
While Ethiopia had been famous for its distance runners (most notably marathon world record holder, legendary Haile Gebrselassie), there seemed a lack of sub-2:07 runners in early 2000. And with the 2008 Beijing Games looming, Merga was an obvious selection for one of the three spots on the team with a 2:06:38 at the 2008 London Marathon (6th place). Merga took on the best marathoners in the world in the humidity of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Marathon as a strong forerunner for most of the race; but met with disappointment succumbing to heat and fatigue. He lost out on a bronze medal as fellow Ethiopian, Tsegaye Kebede, passed him on the track when he faded in the final hundred meters of the event. Merga remained unfazed and returned to marathoning in January 2009 winning the Houston Marathon in a course record of 2:07:52. Confident of his fitness, he ran the 2009 Boston Marathon four months later and won the esteemed event long dominated by Kenyan victories (2:08:42). Also in 2009, he ran two sub 60 minute half marathons in New Delhi and Ras al Khamaih and won the Ottawa 10K in a blistering 27:24 weeks after his Boston Marathon victory. A front runner known for his strong surges, Merga is expected in the lead pack and if he can hold the pace, he may just see a victory in Chicago.
Feyisa Lelisa (Ethiopia)
PB: 2:05:23, 2010 Rotterdam Marathon
At age 20, Feyisa Lelisa (aka Feyisa Lilesa or Lilesa Feyisa) is the MarathonGuide.com dark horse pick. While he may not have the experience to take on such a deep field of veteran marathoners and does not have a resume boasting 60 minute half marathon finishes, Lelisa has certainly begun to make a name for himself with victories at smaller marathons worldwide at the 2009 Dublin Marathon (2:09:12) and the 2010 Xiamen Marathon (2:08:47).
His career standout is his performance at the 2010 Rotterdam Marathon where he finished 2:05:23, a third place finish with an incredibly fast time, incidentally, one second faster than Wanjiru's personal best. And Rotterdam was shortly after his 20th birthday making Lelisa the youngest to have run sub 2:06 and the 13th fastest marathoner of all-time. Lelisa has a big opportunity to shine in Chicago and over the next few years as he develops in the distance.