Wilson Kipsang overcame serious travel hiccups, which included a stolen passport, to arrive safely in London on Thursday and immediately declared that his world record is “not up for grabs” at Sunday’s London Marathon.
Kipsang, who shattered compatriot Patrick Makau’s mark by clocking two hours, three minutes and 23 seconds at last year’s Berlin Marathon, told Daily Nation Sport that he was aware that Sunday’s all-time best field, that includes his Volare Sports teammate and New York champion Geoffrey Mutai, posed a major threat to his record.
And with the sun out on Thursday, athletics pundits are rubbing their hands with glee hoping that the good weather will precipitate a world record on the streets of London for the first time since Morocco-born American Khalid Khannouchi ran 2:05.38 in the 2002 edition.
“I won’t let it go easily,” Kipsang said. “I know that if the conditions are good, there is a very strong possibility of a world record because the pacemakers are very strong. But the good thing is I will be part of the field and I won’t let it (record) go.”
Indeed, the pacemakers, the unsung pawns in the intricate game of distance running, will be crucial to Sunday’s game plan at the Virgin Money-sponsored London Marathon that will also feature World and Olympic track champion Mo Farah’s debut over the distance.
Besides providing the top cream of the elite fields, Kenya will also parade most of the pacemakers whose job will be to pull the elite runners through time targets set by race director Hugh Brasher and his team.
Brasher drafted multiple world record holder Haile Gebrselassie as his marque pacemaker, and the Ethiopian legend said in an interview in London yesterday that with the quality of the field assembled this year, fans should be prepared for “something special.”
But he was quick to manage expectations saying it will be a race of tactics and mind games.
“The thing is everyone wants to win here. This is the London Marathon and the winner is the most important athlete in the world. Here, people don’t really run for time, they run to win the race,” Gebrselassie said.
At 40, Gebrselassie is past his prime and will be expected to pace until the 21-kilometre mark before, Kenyan pacemakers, including Edwin Kiptoo and Richard Sigei.
“If the pacemakers do a good job until 30k, there is every possibility of a world record,” added Kipsang.
The pacemakers for the men’s race have a brief for 61 minutes and 45 seconds for the half-way target and Kipsang’s manager Gerard van de Veen is of the opinion that this time target is recipe for a world record.
“When Kipsang broke the world record in Berlin, the 21km schedule was 61:30, which is 15 seconds slower than this weekend’s pace, but then in Berlin the pace slowed down a bit in the second half of the race before picking up, so if it’s a stable pace on Sunday, the weather is good and the pacemakers do a good job with a negative split in the second half, a world record is possible.”