Expect a very fast race when about 110 men hit the streets of London Sunday morning (11am London time or 1pm Kenyan time) for the final competition of the London 2012 Olympics, the men’s marathon.
Kenya will be represented by double world champion Abel Kirui, World Marathon Majors title holder Emmanuel Mutai, and the second fastest marathoner of all time, Wilson Kipsang, whose personal best time of two hours, three minutes and 42 seconds is only eclipsed by Patrick Makau’s world record 2:03.38.
The trio will be out to defend the gold medal won in Beijing by Kenya’s fallen hero, the late Sammy Wanjiru.
Kipsang starts as my favourite here, given his current form that reached a climax at last October’s BMW Frankfurt Marathon where he clocked his PB despite the wet roads and winding course.
The former salesman has an interesting history as he is a late starter, taking up running competitively after joining the police force and inspired by Paul Tergat’s world record of 2:04.55 at the 2003 Berlin Marathon.
The 30-year-old told Nation that without pace-setters, winning gold for Kenya will mean burning the rubber hard with a fast pace that will leave the rest of the field gasping for breath.
The weather forecast says it will be sunny with little chance of rain.
“Our training in Iten has gone on perfectly. The differences in weather conditions between London and Kenya will not make much of a difference,” said Kipsang, winner of the Virgin London Marathon last April.
“We will work as a team. Each competition has its own pattern and we will try and keep the pace high because few can put up with that and it’s also difficult because there are no pace-setters. It’s a big challenge to get people ready to do front-running in championship races like the Olympics.
“The course is good and the women were able to post good times last weekend despite the rain – the corners are not as sharp as people have been saying, and it’s not different from other races.”
Kirui, gold medallist at the 2009 (Berlin) and 2011 (Daegu) World Championships in Athletics, is also oozing confidence, happy with the training in Iten.
Ready to succeed
The Bomet-born police officer describes last weekend’s women’s race, won by Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana with Kenya’s Prisca Jeptoo, as “very difficult” and is wary of the fact that Sunday's men’s race will be equally fiercely competitive.
“The women’s race was quite competitive, and getting silver was a great achievement and I expect that we will do better in tomorrow’s (Sunday's race). We are ready to succeed in any conditions,” said Kirui, who will be the first world champion to win an Olympic gold if he succeeds.
Mutai, 28, won last year’s London Marathon that raised him to the summit of the World Marathon Majors. He will be out to prove that his replacement for the injured Moses Mosop was a justified one by taking a medal on Sunday.
“I’ve trained well, I feel good and I’m confident of a good result,” Mutai said. “I’ve run in London before although the Olympic course is not the same as the London Marathon course although we will pass through some sections which are the same in both races – I don’t see any challenge given the training that we have done for the last three weeks.”
The Kenyans will face still challenge, especially from the Ethiopian trip of Getu Feleke, Dino Sefir and Ayele Abshiro, alongside USA’s Meb Keflezighi who has Ethiopian origins.
Feleke is women’s champion Tiki Gelana’s team-mate at Jos Hermens’ Global Sports Communication.