2008 London Marathon
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Men's Pre Race Press Conference Notes
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London Marathon - The Preview: The Preview | Elite Roster
by Sharon Ekstrom
On Sunday, April 13, 2008 the London Marathon will kick off its twenty-eighth year with a roster of seasoned veterans who have dominated the marathon distance for the last few years going head-to-head against emerging marathon stars who have joined the marathon scene only in 2007. The raw talent of the assembled athletes, coupled with one of the fastest marathon courses in the world will provide an exciting road race as many of these athletes gear up for the 2008 Beijing Olympics Marathon in September. Many of the athletes have already been chosen for Beijing, but it is expected that the performances at London and Boston will affect the selection of others, particularly the Kenyan Olympic Team - although despite turning out some of the best long distance champions, Kenya has never won gold at the Olympics and has traditionally not selected their best known champions to start on the Olympic marathon start line, so perhaps a strong placing in London may have the effect of precluding a Kenyan runner from selection to the Olympic team.
The men's field has six of the top seven finishers returning from the 2007 race - defending champion Martin Lel, Abderrahim Goumri, Felix Limo, Jaouad Gharib, Hendrick Ramaala and Ryan Hall. The lineup also includes other 2007 London Marathon participants: Olympic Gold Medalist Stefano Baldini (DNF at London 2007) and 2007 World Champion Luke Kibet (17th at London in 2007). The line-up broadens with newcomers to London: half marathon world record holder Sammy Wanjiru, Eritrean record holder Yonas Kifle and the man who ran the second fastest marathon in the world in 2007: Emmanuel Mutai. As Americans, we will also be watching one of our favorites, Peter Gilmore, who will not be shooting for a win, but will hope to break into the top 5 or 10 and set a new PR on London's incredibly fast course.
With nine men who have run 2:07 or faster, expectations are high for a great race. There were a number of men who were expected to run, but chose not to start and they will be missed: Paul Tergat who due to a four-week military training program felt he would not be at the correct fitness level to compete, World Record Holder Haile Gebrselassie whose asthma condition forced him to drop out of the 2007 race; and American favorite Meb Keflezighi who will be focusing on the 10,000 US Olympic Trials in July.
With world-record holder and perennial favorite Paula Radcliffe not running the 2008 London Marathon, the race is wide open for a number of women who have been soooo close to the top position at London - runners-up from five of the last six London Marathons: 2007 runner-up Gete Wami; 2006 and 2004 runner-up Lyudmila Petrova; 2005 runner-up Constantina Tomescu-Dita; and 2002 runner-up Svetlana Zakharova. This race will be unique with a strong, strong field of women who will all be hungry to add a credential that has eluded them: the London Marathon title. Also in attendance will be two women who had strong performances at their debut marathons in 2007: Adriana Pirtea (2nd in Chicago) and Irina Mikitenko (2nd at Berlin) as well as Benita Johnson and Salina Kosgei. Finally, an interesting marathon debutante will be Everline Kimwei - a 20 year-old Kenyan - who has the fastest Half-Marathon time in the group and the fastest raw speed.
World Marathon Majors
The World Marathon Majors (WMM) awards a $500,000 prize to the man and woman who accumulates the most performance points over a 2-year period and London will see the points leaders of 2007 competing to build an insurmountable lead in the 2007/2008 series. The inaugural two year series (2006/2007) saw Gete Wami and Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot win - and as the 2007/2008 series begins, Gete Wami leads the women's series with two wins in 2007 (Berlin and New York) and a second place finish at London. On the men's side, Martin Lel, a three time champion of the London Marathon, leads the series with 2007 wins at London and New York.
The Men's Race - A Solid Footrace
We won't expect a world record at the 2008 London Marathon, but the deep field will offer solid performances with eleven sub 2:09 marathoners on the roster. 2007 defending champion (and 2005 winner) Martin Lel will be looking to achieve his third London title while a few men - each with their own things to prove - will be looking to make it very hard for Lel. Abderrahim Goumri has been second twice to Lel and will hope to beat him this time; Felix Limo is the only man to have beaten Lel in this field and will be looking for a repeat of his 2006 London Marathon victory. Emmanuel Mutai will be looking to prove that his 2:06:29 finish in 2007 can be repeated against this tough field. And, Ryan Hall who debuted at London in 2007 will be looking to show that he has gained experience at the distance and will be ready for the Olympics.
The 2006 and 2007 London Marathons were incredibly exciting and we can expect the same for 2008 with the same runners participating. In 2006 Lel lost to Limo by a mere two seconds, the closest margin of victory in the history of the men's race at the London Marathon. To recap the final moments of the 2007 London Marathon, the last 600 meters of the race was a nail-biter with Gharib, Tergat, Ramaala, Limo and Goumri waiting until the last moment to make a break. Gharib did most of the work making the initial move that dropped former World Record Holder Paul Tergat and Hendrick Ramaala. As they neared the final 200 meter mark, Limo started to fade as did Gharib who worked hard to hold rank. It was down to Lel and Goumri, an unknown debuting in the marathon distance who remained off the radar screen for most of the race, yet nearly outsprinted Lel in the last 200 meters. Lel pulled through and won in 2:07:41. Goumri was runner up in 2:07:44. Limo finished third in 2:07:48. The excitement of the Lel/Goumri rivalry followed Lel to the 2007 New York City Marathon at which the last few miles of the race saw Lel and Goumri run stride-for-stride. Lel surged with 500 meters to the finish and Goumri could not hold the pace and finished as runner-up twelve seconds after Lel. Lel has been on a winning streak since 2007 and has placed in the top three of every marathon in which he has participated, but the others in this race will try to change that.
The emerging stars of 2007
Marathoning, long dominated by a set group of All-Star veterans at high profile races for years, has seen new talent emerge in 2007. As aforementioned, Goumri had an incredible debut finishing three seconds after Lel at the 2007 London Marathon. Goumri's two notable finishes in London and New York prove that the Moroccan has a burgeoning marathon career. The World Record holder in the Half Marathon, Sammy Wanjiru, ran the third fastest debut marathon of all time at the 2007 Fukuoka Marathon winning in a time of 2:06:39. Wanjiru, a Kenyan who trains in Japan, will prove himself as he competes in this quality field. Ryan Hall, an incredibly fast American whom top Kenyans believe to be a threat, debuted at the 2007 London Marathon and stunned spectators as he moved up from the second pack to join the lead pack at mile 14 and took to the front of the pack pushing the pacers until mile 17. Hall finished seventh in 2:08:24, a top American marathon debut. Hall's strong finish and incredible victory of the challenging U.S. Men's Marathon Olympic Team Trials made him a major contender on the world racing scene. Emmanual Mutai was the world's second fastest marathoner in 2007 clocking a 2:06:27 in his marathon debut in Amsterdam. (The first fastest marathoner was Haile Gebrselassie who broke the World Record at the 2007 Berlin Marathon in 2:04:26.) Mutai had risen quickly on the scene and is already testing his meddle against these top competitors.
Also, joining the field are notables Jaouad Gharib former the two-time world champion who lost the 2007 Chicago Marathon by tenths of a second, Luke Kibet, the 2007 Marathon World Champion, Peter Gilmore a consistently top American at the Boston Marathon, veteran competitor Hendrick Ramaala and Olympic Gold Medalist Stefano Baldini who will be returning for his ninth London Marathon.
The Women's Race
The women's field for the 2008 London Marathon will see the return of second, third and fourth place finishers from the 2007 race - Gete Wami, Constantini Tomescu-Dita and Selina Kosgei. With world record holder Paula Radcliife withdrawn from the race due to a toe soft tissue injury and defending champion Chunxiu Zhou in training for the Olympic Marathon in Beijing, the competition will most likely come down to top Ethiopian marathoners Berhane Adere and Gete Wami, Romanian Constantina Tomescu-Dita and Russian Svetlana Zakharova all of whom are sub 2:22 marathoners.
Adere, a two time winner of the Chicago Marathon, has never performed well in London. She finished fourth at the 2006 London Marathon in a 2:21:52 and eleventh in a 2:38:11 at the 2007 London Marathon. This Ethiopian National Record Holder has a personal best of 2:20:42 from the 2006 Chicago Marathon. Adere, champion of the 2008 Dubai Marathon in a 2:22:40, is back to redeem herself.
Wami started her career as one of the top women in track and cross country garnering fame for races against Paula Radcliffe and Derartu Tulu. Wami exploded onto the marathon scene with a 2:22:19 victory at Amsterdam in 2002, at the time the second fastest debut in history. Wami won the 2006 Berlin Marathon in a personal best time of 2:21:34 (an Ethiopian National Record until Adere took the title later that year). With a string of second place marathon finishes since 2006 - 2006 Los Angeles, 2007 London, 2007 New York, Wami will not have fastest women in the world Radcliffe or 2007 London defending champion Zhou to contend with. Instead, she will go battle it out against fellow countrywoman Berhane Adere.
Few may know the name Adriana Pirtea, but she will be one to watch. She came onto the radar screen at the 2007 Chicago Marathon running through record heat and humidity leading the race until the last two hundred meters when Berhane Adere - discovering she had closed the gap between herself and the leader - sprinted past the seemingly triumphant Pirtea who was unknowingly working the crowd in what she thought to be a solo victory. Pirtea has told reporters that moment was devastating and we are sure she will be watching for Adere and looking forward to the rematch.
Tomescu-Dita, also of Romanian descent, has a history of top marathon performances. An Olympian, a bronze medalist in the 2005 World Championships, a veteran of the Chicago and London Marathons and two-time third place finisher of the London Marathon in 2004 and 2007. Her personal best at the 2005 Chicago Marathon in 2:21:30. Veteran Marathoner Zakharova has raced the distance since 2000 accumulating ten top-four finishes through the years and has been the champion of Boston, Honolulu and Chicago Marathons. Zakharova, ninth at the Athens Olympics, has most recently made a comeback with a second place finish at the 2007 Frankfurt Marathon in a 2:29:12.
The 2008 London Marathon Elite Lineup Follows:
Men's Open Field Personal Best
Martin Lel, Kenya 2:06:41 (London, 2006)
Abderrahim Goumri, Morrocco 2:07:44 (London, 2007)
Felix Limo, Kenya 2:06:14 (Rotterdam, 2004)
Samuel Wanjiru, Kenya 2:06:39 (Fukuoka, 2007)
Emmanuel Mutai, Kenya 2:06:29 (Amsterdam, 2007)
Hendrick Ramaala, South Africa 2:06:55 (London, 2006)
Jaouad Gharib, Morocco 2:07:02 (London, 2004)
Stefano Baldini, Italy 2:07:22 (London, 2006)
Yonas Kifle, Eritrea 2:07:34 (Amsterdam, 2007)
Ryan Hall, USA 2:08:24 (London, 2004)
Luke Kibet, Kenya 2:08:52 (Eindhoven, 2005)
Aleksey Sokolov, Russia 2:09:07 (Dublin, 2007)
Meb Keflezighi, USA 2:09:53 (New York City, 2004)
Peter Gilmore, USA 2:12:45 (Boston, 2006)
Martin Fagan, Ireland 2:14:06 (Dubai, 2008)
Dan Robinson, United Kingdom 2:13:53 (London, 2004)
Jon Brown, Canada 2:09:31 (London, 2005)
Driss El Himer, France 2:06:48 (Paris, 2003)
Thomas Abyu, United Kingdom 2:10:37 (Dublin, 2007)
Women's Open Field Personal Best
Berhane Adere, Ethiopia 2:20:42 (Chicago, 2006)
Constantina Tomescu-Dita, ROM 2:21:30 (Chicago, 2005)
Geta Wami, Ethiopia 2:21:34 (Berlin, 2006)
Svetlana Zakharova, Russia 2:21:31 (Chicago, 2002)
Lyudmila Petrova, Russia 2:22:33 (London, 2002)
Benita Johnson, Australia 2:22:36 (Chicago, 2006)
Salina Kosgei, Kenya 2:23:22 (Berlin, 2006)
Irina Mikitenko, Germany 2:24:51 (Berlin, 2007)
Mara Yamauchi, United Kingdom 2:25:13 (London, 2006)
Kathy Butler, United Kingdom 2:28:39 (Chicago, 2006)
Liz Yelling, United Kingdom 2:30:44 (London, 2007)
Hayley Haining, Great Britain 2:30:43 (Berlin, 2007)