Friday, February 24, 2012

Will Gebrselassie return to the top of the podium? - Tokyo Marathon Preview

Haile Gebrselassie in Berlin Sept. 23, 2011   Photo: AP
(IAAF) Tokyo, Japan - The best ever men’s field has been assembled for the sixth edition of the Tokyo Marathon, putting the course record, set in 2008, in jeopardy on Sunday (26).
Conditions for this IAAF Gold Label Road race are predicted to be near-perfect Marathon weather, with partly cloudy skies, a low of 5C and high of 8C.
Haile Gebrselassie, who entered last year’ race but was forced to withdraw due to injury, will finally run the race hoping the make the Ethiopian Olympic Marathon team. He needs to record a very fast time in Tokyo as three Ethiopians cracked 2:05 in January’s Dubai Marathon, which means Gebrselassie needs to run a comparable time. 
At the pre-race press conference on Friday (24) afternoon, Gebrselassie and Yuki Kawauchi were at the center of attention. Kawauchi, seated next to the Ethiopian at the press conference, was asked how it felt to be sitting next to a legend. “I am very honoured,” was his reply. 
Gebrselassie provided some interesting comments during the interview, albeit many were not directly related to Sunday’s race.  When he was asked why he keeps on running, Gebrselassie answered, “I eat, sleep and run. It is part of my life.  I will someday stop competing, but I will not stop running.” He also said” “In 10,000m, you compete against other runners, but at the Marathon you compete against the distance.” That was quite an appropriate comment considering the fact that he has dropped out of his last two marathons – 2011 Berlin and 2010 New York City. Is he ready to recapture his form from early 2010 when he ran 2:06?
The race pace set by the pacemaker, at this time, will be three minutes per kilometre, which translates to 2:06:35. Even if he ran 2:05 pace on Sunday, it’s unlikely that Gebrselassie would be running alone in front, as three other sub-2:07 runners along with three more sub-2:08 runners are in the field on Sunday.
The second fastest in the field is Jafred Kipchumba (KEN), who improved his best by more than two minutes to 2:05:48 in Eindhoven last October. He seemed to be on a roll, for Kipchumba has improved his Marathon best in three-consecutive races since April of 2010. Michael Kipyego also recorded his marathon personal best in Eindhoven, his last Marathon before Tokyo, his 2:06:48 more than four minutes better than his debut. A former Steeplechase specialist with an 8:08.48 best, Kipyego is a brother of Sally Kipyego who won silver at 10,000m in the 2011 World Championships in Daegu. 
Gilbert Kirwa also has a sub-2:07 personal best, however, his 2:06:14 was recorded back in 2009. Since he has not even cracked 2:14 in the two marathons he’s run since March of 2010, Tokyo will be a race of redemption for Kirwa.
Three 2:07 runners in the field are Steven Kiprotich (UGA) and two former champions – 2008 champion Viktor Rothlin and the defending champion Hailu Mekonnen.  Mekonnen has improved his Marathon best in every race since his debut at the 2010 Barcelona Marathon – from 2:12:36 in Barcelona to 2:07:35 in Tokyo last year.  Twenty-two year old Kiprotich may be the most promising young runner in the field, for he ran 2:07:20 in his debut. In his second Marathon Kiprotich was 9th in the 2011 World Championships.  Rothlin’s best of 2:07:23 was recorded in Tokyo in 2008 and is still the course record. His last good marathon was in August 2010 when he won the European title in Barcelona. At the press conference, Rothlin confirmed that he would not go with the lead group scheduled for a brisk 2:06 pace. He has an extra incentive to run well on Sunday because his first child was born just a few weeks ago.
By Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

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