Sunday, August 21
UPDATE: It's pouring rain 15 minutes before the start of the race at 09:30 Rio time.
A World champion at 5,000m as a 19-year-old in 2003, 32-year old Eliud Kipchoge has been running at the highest levels for 13 years. He has made the transition from track to the roads far more successfully than some of his more famous counterparts, and now his fame rivals theirs.
Starting with wins at the Rotterdam and Chicago Marathons in 2014, Kipchoge won marathon majors London and Berlin in 2015, and added the London title in 2016 in 2:03:05, just 8 seconds off Dennis Kimetto’s (Ken) world record. Kipchoge is everyone’s favorite, including mine.
I had thought that two-time (’13 and ’15) Boston winner Lelisa Desisa would be on Ethiopia’s team, but instead it’s this year’s Boston winner, Lemi Berhanu (Eth) who will run in Rio. He was called a surprise winner in Boston, just as he was 15 months earlier when he really was an unknown when he won the Dubai Marathon. A medal for him will not be a surprise.
Tesfaye Abere Dibaba caught the attention of many when the then-unknown ran away from the field and won the Dubai marathon on a hot early morning this January in a fast-for-the conditions 2:04:24. There may well be very similar conditions here in Rio.
When it comes to looking for medalists who might not win, Kenya’s Stanley Biwott, 2nd at London this year in 2:03:51, has a remarkable record in the last four years (including half-marathons): 4 -1sts, 3 - 2nds, and a 4th and a 5th. His London race is especially impressive, to hang on so well when 1st is long lost.
It’s hard to know what to make of the top three in last year’s World Championship race, held in a sauna in Beijing. The only one I think is likely to make an impact here is the winner, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea, who showed himself to be a master (and confident) tactician under some of the most challenging conditions ever encountered in a major championship.
Galen Rupp of the United States is intriguing; the slower the pace the better his chances, and he ran a particularly impressive marathon debut in winning the US Trials with relative ease – and on a hot day. He has not helped himself by running the 10,000m first.
Speaking of London, Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich was the unexpected winner of London ’12 Olympic gold. But that is usually how it turns out in these marathons – the favorites aren’t as favorite as we thought, magic takes place on the roads, and someone’s life is changed forever.
As for Kipchoge, the fact that during the dip in his career between track and roads he followed me on twitter without any prompting from me only adds to his luster.
Well, for some of us. OK, for one, but I’m doing the picking here.
1. Eliud Kipchoge, Ken
2. Tesfaye Abere Dibaba, Eth
3. Stanley Biwott, Ken