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London Marathon - The Men's Race
by John Elliott
The London Marathon always brings together the best of the best - and we're always excited to see what will happen. In 2011, a new course record of 2:04:40 was set by Emmanuel Mutai - then the fifth best marathon of all time. In 2012, the men went off at a pace faster than world record pace, but slowed and ended just four seconds slower as the man with the second fastest time in the world, Wilson Kipsang, finished in 2:04:44.
For 2013, London organizers had brought back Emmanuel Mutai and Wilson Kipsang; and added a great supporting cast: Patrick Makau, the world record holder; Geoffrey Mutai, the man with a world's best marathon time (slightly downhill course ineligible for record: 2:03:02); 2012 Olympics Gold medalist, Stephen Kiprotich; Tsegaye Kebede, the 2008 Bronze medalist, 2012 London Marathon third-finisher and 2012 Chicago Marathon winner - who still held a chip on his shoulder for having been excluded from the 2012 Ethiopian Olympics Marathon team; and others, too many to list here (see the preview/starter list)...
With this history for London and this field for 2013 - how could anyone expect anything other than the greatest marathon ever?
To Chase a World Record
The marathon world record, 2:03:38, set by Patrick Makau at the 2011 Berlin Marathon equates to an average mile pace of 4:43 per mile. From the start of the 2013 London Marathon, the men went off on a feverish pace, well ahead of that required for a world record. As the miles ticked off, we knew what was up, and while it's hard to keep an exactly even pace, the runners led - by their pacers - were doing a good job. Miles one through 17 were clocked at: 4:40, 4:46, 4:28, 4:34, 4:42, 4:44, 4:45, 4:42, 4:49, 4:46, 4:47, 4:45, 4:35, 4:42, 4;49, 4:43...
As amazing as these times were, what was equally amazing was the number of men running at that pace. Through the half marathon (in 1:01:34), nine men (plus Mo Farah who had no plans to finish the race) were running together at this world record pace. And, for some of the runners this pace was targeting a finish time nearly four minutes better than their previous best. The group running this pace included all but one of the men who could be a legitimate contender for the win, almost no one was holding back. Oddly, the single runner who was off the pace was Patrick Makau, the holder of the world record.
The split at mile 18, 4:49, demonstrated a crack in the field - and while the average pace through mile 19 was still ahead of the required average for a record; the field was behind Makau's time at that split when he set his world record. Anyone running at such an incredible speed was likely to slow before finishing a marathon... and Makau, in his world record run, passed the 30K mark in 1:27:38 (a world record) before slowing; while the 2013 London field passed through 30K eleven seconds slower, in 1:27:49. At all previous 5K splits, the London field was ahead of Makau's run - but they were behind at 30K and this 30K deficit was further unfortunate for the London organizers...Organizers were prepared with IAAF officials and certified timing in case runners passed the 30K mark in a world record time en route to the marathon finish.
The Field Slows
With the field slowing, some would slow more than others - and beginning with the 17th mile, the field began to break apart - not because some runners were speeding up, but because most were tiring. By mile 18, four men remained: Emmanuel Mutai (KEN), Stanley Biwott (KEN), Ayele Abshero (ETH) and Feyisa Lilesa (ETH). Behind this group, Tsegaye Kebede (ETH) and Wilson Kipsang (KEN) were next, but well off the pace.
After the 20 mile mark, Stanley Biwott pushed the pace and briefly Emmanuel Mutai kept with him, but Biwott moved ahead opening a fifteen second gap by mile 21. But by mile 22-1/2, E. Mutai had caught and passed Biwott who was slowing terribly and would eventually finish in eighth place. By all appearances, Emmanuel Mutai, the course record holder from his 2011 London run, seemed poised to win.
The Finish / The Carnage
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer - |
Tsegaye Kebede Wins London Marathon
But E. Mutai was slowing and ran a 5:02 24th mile and a very slow 5:25 25th mile and was still slowing as Tsegaye Kebede caught and decisively passed him in the final three-quarters mile of the race. Kebede would continue to build the lead in the last yards and end with a thirty second cushion.
Tsegaye Kebede had been nearly a minute behind Mutai with four miles remaining in the race, but his ability to hold together better than others allowed him to pass the four men ahead of him en route to the finish. Kebede ran 1:01:34 for the first half marathon and 1:04:30 for the second half - not very even splits, but for the rest of the field the split differences were more pronounced. And while the early race seemed to promise the possibility of a world record, the reality was a marathon finish that was the slowest at London since 2007.
Behind Kebede, E. Mutai held on for second place in 2:06:33. Ayele Abshero was making up ground and if the race had been half a mile longer he might have caught E. Mutai, but instead had to settle for third place in 2:06:57. Feyisa Lilesa barely held onto fourth place in 2:07:46 as Wilson Kipsang, who, like Kebede, fell off the pace a bit earlier than others, was catching him and finished one second behind in fifth place in 2:07:47.
Redemption for Kebede
Tsegaye Kebede had been disappointed and let down by his country when he was not selected to be part of Ethiopia's Marathon team for the 2012 Olympics Marathon. Despite consistency and credentials.
Tsegaye Kebede gained the bronze medal in the 2008 Olympic Marathon and was a consistent performer in the years after that event. His major achievments, in chronological order, included a runner-up finish at the 2009 London Marathon, a win at the 2010 London Marathon, a runner-up finish at the 2010 Chicago Marathon, a third place finish at the 2011 New York City Marathon and a third place finish at the 2012 London Marathon.
Despite that consistency and success, the Ethiopian Federation left Kebede off of the Olympic Marathon team for the 2012 Olympics instead choosing to send some marathoners who had posted some fast times although they did not have much experience. At the Olympics, none of the three Ethiopians sent finished the race - highlighting the fact that the Ethiopian Federation had made a mistake. Meanwhile, having not gone to the Olympics, Kebede was free to run the 2012 Chicago Marathon which he the won and in which he set a new course record of 2:04:38 - again suggesting the Ethiopian Federation made the wrong decision in not sending Kebede to the Olympics.
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer - |
The Top 3 Men
Kebede is a workhorse and his London finish reminded us well of his 2008 Olympics Bronze medal finish when he came from behind to catch and pass a fading Deriga Merga with a hundred yards to go to capture his medal. In this instance, however, Kebede caught the winner and with his win is also nearly guaranteed the win of the 2012/2013 World Marathon Majors series and its $500,000 bonus at the end of the year. It's been a good few years for Kebede and we'll look forward to seeing how he follows this up in the next couple of years.
1. Tsegaye KEBEDE (ETH) 2:06:04 - $55,000 + $50,000
2. Emmanuel MUTAI (KEN) 2:06:33 - $30,000 + $50,000
3. Ayele ABSHERO (ETH) 2:06:57 - $22,500 + $50,000
4. Feyisa LILESA (ETH) 2:07:46 - $15,000 + $25,000
5. Wilson KIPSANG (KEN) 2:07:47 - $10,000 + $25,000
6. Stephen KIPROTICH (UGA) 2:08:05 - $7,500 + $15,000
7. Yared ASMEROM (ERI) 2:08:22 - $5,000 + $15,000
8. Stanley BIWOTT (KEN) 2:08:39 - $4,000 + $10,000
9. Hafid CHANI (MAR) 2:09:11 - $3,000 + $5,000
10. Ayad LAMDASSEM (ESP) 2:09:28 - $2,000 + $3,000
11. Patrick MAKAU (KEN) 2:14:10 - $1,500
12. Patrick RIZZO (USA) 2:16:05 - $1,000
13. Derek HAWKINS (GBR) 2:16:50
14. Anuradha COORAY (SRI) 2:17:53
15. Phil WICKS (GBR) 2:19:07