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Weekend Schedule/Results 4/13/14(Apr 14 2014, 12:00 AM)
 

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What We Learned: London Marathon Edition

Published by
RunnerSpace.com/RoadRacing   on Apr 13 2014, 06:45 PM

London Results Prove a Few Things

By Scott Bush

The London Marathon did not disappoint. With loaded men’s and women’s field, and high expectations for very fast times, one of the world’s premier road racing events came up huge with performances and plenty to discuss. Here’s what we learned:

Wilson Kipsang is the best marathoner in the world. After the passing of Sammy Wanjiru in the middle of 2011, a big question mark loomed around who should be crowned king of the marathon. It’s plenty obvious that Kipsang is that man.

The world record holder trumped the field, smashing all hope of fellow competitors over the final miles, on his way to a new London course record of 2:04:29 and a big 26-second win. Sporadic pacing put the leaders through the half-way point in 62:30, meaning Kipsang closed in 61:59, negative splitting a race pace very few can handle.

As stat man K Ken Nakamura tweeted out after Kipsang’s victory today, the Kenyan now holds the course records for the London, Berlin, Frankfurt and Lake Biwa marathons, four of the very best and most competitive marathons in the world. Kipsang has shown zero signs of slowing down, or being beatable for that matter, while his legendary status continues to grow.

While Kipsang inspired on the men’s side, Edna Kiplagat outkicked fellow Kenyan Florence Kiplagat and out-strategized Olympic gold medalist Tirunesh Dibaba, on her way to a big-time 2:20:21 victory. While the men’s race stole much of the attention during the lead in to Sunday’s race, the women’s field was equally as strong and Kiplagat laid claim to being labeled the best in the world.

Kiplagat, who is the reigning World Champion in the marathon distance, continues to lay down impressive performances on the world’s biggest road racing stages.

Another sweet K Ken Nakamura stat came across Twitter reading, “Average of Top 3 performances since 2011 for Edna Kiplagat is 2:20:19 and for Florence Kiplagat is 2:20:21. They are first and second fastest.”

The easy storyline coming into London weekend focused on the debut marathons of England’s own Mo Farah and Dibaba. Farah leveled off expectations earlier on in the week, stating quite clearly he wasn’t going out with the leaders, while Dibaba quietly went about her business, eyeing a debut similar to the victorious Kenenisa Bekele, who won the Paris Marathon last weekend in a course record of 2:05:04.

Starting with Farah, the seemingly always golden Farah had a rough day. His conservative approach left him 45 seconds behind the leaders by the 10k check point and passed through half way in 63:08. His eighth place finish of 2:08:21 means he split 65:13 on the back half of the race. The marathon is a learning experience and you can bet Farah learned plenty. The most interesting thing to watch over the next two years is whether he attempts to take on the marathon again or if he’ll go back to the track to work on repeating his 5k/10k gold of the 2012 Olympics.

For Dibaba, she can be proud of her effort, as she certainly proved herself well in her debut, while learning plenty. As Race Results Weekly’s David Monti reported, Dibaba lost grip on her water bottle at 30k, stopping her dead in her tracks. At this point, both Kiplagats recognized this and put in a surge, losing Dibaba in the process. The Ethiopian tried valiantly to catch back up, but simply didn’t have enough pop late in the game, finishing third in 2:20:35 (14 seconds behind winner Kiplagat).

Dibaba’s slip definitely cost her seconds, and maybe cost her the win, but the fearless competitor will be back, challenging for the win. The marathon is such a crazy event. It takes time to learn and perfect and for Dibaba Sunday proved to be an invaluable learning experience.

What else did we learn?

Ryan Vail is clearly establishing himself as one of the favorites to make the Team USA marathon squad for the 2016 Olympic Games. Vail had a goal of breaking 2:10 in London, and while he didn’t hit the mark, he did come up with a big PR of 2:10:57. His tenth place finish was mighty impressive and he simply crushed his pace group in the second half of the race. There is no doubt he’ll dip under the 2:10 mark sooner rather than later and he continues to impress.

While Mo Farah got plenty of attention heading into this weekend, Kenenisa Bekele has the brightest future in the marathon. I am not giving up on Farah’s potential on the roads, but I do believe Bekele has bigger upside in the marathon distance. Of course he ran three minutes faster than Farah, won his race and broke the course record, so this obviously isn’t a bold statement, but his running style and strength suits him better in the long run for true marathon success.

It might be a marathon season or two away, but wouldn’t it be something to see Kipsang v. Bekele clash? Can the NYRR please make this happen in NYC this fall…or maybe even Boston a year from now? Our sport needs rivalries, needs the very best facing off far more often than they do. A Kipsang v. Bekele match-up could be one of those races we’d talk about for the next 20 years.

Now, lets get pumped for the Boston Marathon!

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