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October 2, 2020

2020 LONDON MARATHON FULL PREVIEW: Everything You Need To Know

Let’s not waste much time and just get right into breaking down the long-awaited London Marathon, which will be contested on Sunday morning (really early if you’re watching in the U.S.) with the women’s elite race slated for 2:15 a.m. ET and men’s elite race at 5:15 a.m. ET. NBC Sports Network will broadcast it all for the entire time so check your local listings. You can also stream it on NBC Sports Gold if you have a subscription. I’ll be up that early so if you want to follow along with my tweets, I’m @ChrisChavez on Twitter. Should we do a Zoom hangout for everyone who is up? lol

But…before you keep reading…

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BEKELE VS. KIPCHOGE

(UPDATE: BEKELE WITHDREW DROM THIS YEAR’S RACE ON FRIDAY DUE TO A CALF INJURY. 2020 STRIKES AGAIN…Enjoy Sunday’s two-hour tempo run by Kipchoge.)

The Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele clash is finally upon us. For the first time in history, two men with 2:01 personal bests for the marathon will square off. It might not be taking place the way we envisioned or dreamed it up but still, we’re fortunate to have racing of this scale amid the global pandemic.

Eliud Kipchoge has won all four of his appearances at the London Marathon dating back to 2015. I attended the race that year and I recall that so much of the attention before the race was fixated on Wilson Kipsang vs. Dennis Kimetto as past and present world record holders. We find ourselves in a similar boat with the hype except Bekele has never held the marathon world record and fell just two seconds shy at last year’s Berlin Marathon.

In 2015, Kipchoge stole the show and his reign as the marathon king began. He won London in 2016, 2018 and 2019. He won the Olympic gold medal at the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. He set the world record of 2:01:39 at the 2019 Berlin Marathon. Two weeks after Bekele gave his world record a scare, Kipchoge roared back by becoming the first man to break two hours for the marathon with his 1:59:40 in the INEOS 1:59 Challenge. (For the record: That race doesn’t count as the world record since conditions were optimized for the exhibition to include a rotating cast of pacers and mobile fluid stations.)

[Quick note: The rest of this preview could go off the rails if we do get a surprise from Ethiopians Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun, who ran 2:02:55 and 2:03:16 for second and third in last year’s London Marathon so don’t forget about them when you’re watching. However, I’ll just focus on the two main stars here.]

Sunday’s race is going to be a little bit similar to that attempt because the new London Marathon course consists of 19.6 laps around a 2.15-kilometer loop around St. James Park before finishing on the Mall by Buckingham Palace. So maybe you can give Kipchoge a little edge for the experience of running multiple laps on a flat course for two hours. Mentally, that doesn’t seem easy to us mere mortals but Kipchoge has not only proven himself as a physical beast but one of the most headstrong athletes in the world when he needs to lock-in.

The biggest question mark is where is both of their fitness and how has the coronavirus impacted their training? In recent months, Kipchoge has been open on social media about how his team in Kaptagat shut down group training back in March but then started meeting back up with a few training partners “lately.”

At Wednesday’s pre-race press conference, Bekele said that training was “not going as perfect as I planned” because Ethiopia’s government had some strict lockdown restrictions due to COVID. I trust that Kipchoge put in great training and will show up in top form on race day because that’s been one of the most consistent things in this sport over the last seven years. Bekele can be hit or miss with his marathon record. He’s dropped out of four marathons due to injuries and there’s always a degree of doubt as to what type of shape he’s in before the race. Back in 2018, his own agent didn’t hold back when it came to discussing the frustration that brings. Last September when I was getting ready to run in Berlin, I met up with Claus-Henning Schulke (the designated bottle guy for the top runner in Berlin every year) and he said he’d heard rumblings about how Bekele maybe wasn’t in peak form ahead of the race. Then, Bekele goes and comes within two seconds of the world record.

At these pre-race press conferences, you’re never going to have a top star like Bekele come out and say, “Yeah, I’m not in the best shape of my life but maybe I can come within a minute or two of my PR.” There are appearance fees to cash and hype to continue building. That’s all to say, just keep in mind that Bekele can be bluffing too.

The only other slight disadvantage that Bekele could be facing is in footwear if you believe that the latest technology is the best technology available. He’s decided to race in the Nike Vaporfly Next%, which is what he wore in Berlin. Kipchoge will be rocking the Chonky Bois (known officially on the market as the Nike AlphaFly Next%), which he wore at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge. We’ve seen athletes prefer the former instead of the latter so it might not be the biggest thing.

Bekele holds the upper hand with an all-time head-to-head record of 16–9 including all track, cross country and road races against Bekele.  But as I noted in the Aug. 7 edition of the newsletter, Kipchoge OWNS Bekele in the marathon and it hasn’t been close.

Prediction: I want the world to go back to normal soon so I’m picking what feels normal in London and that’s Kipchoge winning and coming close to the world record. W in 2:02:21.

I want to know your predictions so reply to this email: Who ya got? Kipchoge or Bekele? What’s the winning time? Will we see a world record?

📷: Bob Martin/Virgin Money London Marathon

Can Anyone Stop Brigid Kosgei?

brigid kosgei 2020 london marathon

It’s so weird to see an elite women’s marathon field headlined by someone whose personal best is three minutes faster than the next-best competitor. Enter Brigid Kosgei of Kenya. Last fall, she set the world record of 2:14:04 at the Chicago Marathon. She has now won her last three marathons including last year’s London Marathon.

So who can step up and maybe beat the woman who broke Paula Radcliffe’s previous marathon world record of 2:15:25 by 81 seconds? It’s not going to be easy but the two other women who have run under 2:19 would be my likely candidates.

Fellow Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich has run 2:17:08 in her 2019 Dubai Marathon victory, which puts her as the fourth-fastest woman of all-time behind Kosgei, Radcliffe and Mary Keitany. She also won last year’s world championships marathon in Doha under extremely hot conditions.

Watch for Vivian Cheruiyot. Like Kipchoge and Bekele, she comes from a very accomplished track background that includes five world titles, four Olympic medals including the 2016 Olympic gold in the 5,000 meters. She took to the marathon in 2017 and debuted with a 4th place finish in London. In 2018, she proved she can have even more success at the 26.2-mile distance and won London in 2:18:31 before taking second at the New York City Marathon in 2:26:02. In that 2018 London race, she beat Kosgei by more than two minutes so they’re tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head matchups at the marathon distance. If this race is not crazy fast (like a 2:15ish race), I like Cheruiyot as someone who can be there late in the race to put up a battle against Kosgei.

Kosgei is the clear favorite for this race. She’s fit and we know that because she did the one-hour run on the track in Brussels and ran farther than the previous world record but lost to Sifan Hassan and then was disqualified moments later after stepping on the inside rail of the track. Aside from that, she admitted at the press conference that her training “was not like in Chicago, but I will try my best.”

Prediction: I have to go with Kosgei because even if she isn’t at her fittest, she still has a bit of wiggle room to still be faster than the rest of the field. I know you’re allowed to bet on this overseas so if I was there, I think Cheruiyot would be my pick because of her odds and a chance to win some more money. I’ll stick with Kosgei for the win in 2:17:32.

📷: Bob Martin/Virgin Money London Marathon

I Didn’t Forget The Americans

Last week’s CITIUS MAG Podcast guest was Jared Ward and he’s the lone American man racing in London. As he said on the show, he’s going to try and find a group to run in the 2:08-2:09 range. If that’s the case then he’ll likely get lapped by Kipchoge and Bekele if they’re toward the front of the race. I’m still laughing at the fact that he said, “If I don’t get lapped, it’s going to be the best race of my life.” We’re still selling some #DontGetLapped merch for a limited time. I can see Jared coming close to his PR from Boston of 2:09:25.

We have a three-way women’s race for top American. Sara Hall has the fastest personal best of the three with her 2:22:16 from the 2019 Berlin Marathon. That’s more than five minutes faster than Molly Seidel’s 2:27:31 and Lindsay Flanagan’s 2:28:05. Ryan Hall, Sara’s husband and coach, told LetsRun’s Jon Gault that he thinks Sara is in PR shape. That would be great to overcome the fact that she dropped out of her last two marathons – the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and the 2019 New York City Marathon.

The buzz from my boots on the ground in Boston/Flagstaff is that Seidel also had a strong buildup despite it being shorter than her preparation for the trials. In case you missed the dozens of headlines about Seidel in Atlanta’s aftermath, the trials were her marathon debut. Regardless of the time that she runs, this should be a good stepping stone for her to garner some more experience over the marathon distance before competing in Tokyo.

Our very own Dana Giordano, the host of the More Than Running Podcast, chatted with Seidel in an impromptu Instagram Live on Wednesday to get the scoop on her training. You can watch that on our Instagram or listen to it as a podcast (with Molly’s internet issues edited out).

Lindsay Flanagan is less than a year removed from her PR and then took 12th in Atlanta so I think the battle for top American does come down to Hall and Seidel. This is the first chance to see what Seidel can do on a flat course. (Seidel’s indoor 5,000m PR and outdoor 10,000m PR are faster than Hall’s outdoor 5,000m and 10,000m PRs). We’ve seen Hall be bold and aggressive in the first half of races only to ultimately pay the price at the end. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen but if she repeats those past mistakes, Seidel could catch her toward the end.

OTHER NEWS

It was a lighter week for other news this week …

Valencia Recruits Mega Talent

Valencia Marathon organizers have started revealing some of their elite runners for the Dec. 6 race including Birhanu Legese (2:02:48); Kinde Atanaw (2:03:51); Lawrence Cherono (2:04:06); Kaan Kigen Özbilen (2:04:16) & Lelisa Desisa (2:04:45). That means we’ll get a rematch of the 2019 Boston Marathon where Cherono just barely beat Desisa on Boylston Street. The women’s race is also expected to be very fast with 6 sub-2:20 women led by Azmera Abreha (2:18:33) + Ruti Aga (2:18:34); USA’s Jordan Hasay; NYC Marathon champion Joyciline Jepkosgei; half marathon stars Joan Chelimo (65:04) + Peres Jepchichir (65:34) & Fancy Chemutai (64:52).

The Valencia Half will star road 10K world record holder Rhonex Kipruto against Jacob Kiplimo, who is coming off a stellar string of track victories including a 12:48:63 for 5,000 meters. There are 10 other sub 60 guys. For the women, Letensenbet Gidey makes her half debut. USA.s Emily Sisson will also make the trip to Spain for this race.

World Cross Country Championships Moved

World Athletics announced 2023 will be the first year for the World Athletics Road Running Championships featuring championship races in the half marathon, 5K and potentially a road mile. Mass races will also be held alongside the elites for more people to get involved. The 2021 World Cross Country Championships in Australia were also postponed until 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new date will be determined in early December. World Athletics says XC Worlds will move from odd years to even years in 2024 to align with the Olympics.

Bowerman Track Club Adds More

The Bowerman Track Club expanded its roster this week with the addition of German middle distance stud Amos Bartelsmeyer (who was a guest on the CITIUS MAG Podcast last year when he was putting together a strong indoor season and I wanted to know more about who he was).  He has personal bests of 1:47 for 800 meters and 3:36 for 1,500 meters. He reached the semifinals of the 1,500 at last year’s world championships…Gabriela DeBues-Stafford officially made the move from Canada to Portland in time to join her teammates for the first day of practice on Wednesday…It was reported months ago but former Oklahoma State star Sinclaire Johnson is also headed west to join the group. Now you’ve got three or four American women who will be vying for possible 1,500 meter Olympic team spots with Shelby Houlihan, Kate Grace, Elise Cranny and Johnson and only three people head to Tokyo next summer. (You can’t forget that 2019 worlds team members Jenny Simpson and Nikki Hiltz are out there training elsewhere.) There’s some flexibility on who goes for what events because we see some crossover success at the 800/1500/5000m distances.

Porscha Dobson Makes Moves at Dartmouth

Dartmouth announced that Porscha Dobson has been named the new director of track and field and cross country. She was an assistant coach from 2012 to 2018 and was an associate head coach to Barry Harwick for the past two years. As noted in their press release: “Dobson becomes the third female director of both a men’s and women’s cross country and track and field program in the history of the Ivy League and the first African-American woman.” Stay tuned for more from Porscha because we’ve got her lined up for Season 2 of More Than Running with Dana Giordano.

Loved this Video

There’s a beauty to the simplicity of that video. It’s world record holder Joshua Cheptegai running with his teammates on a dirt track. Put him on a track with some spikes and he’s going to light it up.

CITIUS MAG NETWORK PODCASTS

citius mag podcast tinman elite cam griffith jeff theis

This is a two-part episode from my trip to Boulder in August. I made a quick visit over to one of the Tinman Elite Houses and sat down with Jeff Theis and Cameron Griffith.

Jeff ran at Portland and joined the team in 2018 after feeling like he wasn’t quite done with running at the end of his NCAA career and felt like there was more in the tank after injuries. Cam didn’t get hurt at the end of his time in Arkansas but COVID canceled his senior year’s indoor and outdoor season. Ready to take things to the next level, he made the move to Boulder and has been training with the group since the spring. He had a very brief summer racing season where he ran 3:40 for 1,500 meters and could be the next Tinman to land a pro contract.

Get to know these guys better. The first half of the show is Jeff and then the second half is Cam.

You can catch the latest episode of the podcast on iTunes so subscribe and leave a five-star review. We are also on Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify!

– As mentioned above, Dana chatted with Molly Seidel for More Than Running.

– On International Podcasts Day, we officially announced our decision to add David Melly’s Run Your Mouth Podcast to our network of shows. You can find his first episode under our umbrella on Friday afternoon. He interviews Molly Seidel’s coach Jon Green on how he got into that position and her buildup to London. David’s show page on CITIUS MAG will be here once we post his first episode.


This might be the longest newsletter that we’ve put together yet. I hope you found it informative, entertaining and fun.

If you have any questions, comments, corrections or just anything interesting to share with me, you can always reply to this email and I’ll definitely get back to you.

It’s nearly 3 a.m. and this is going out shortly. Thanks for reading!

Cheers,

Chris Chavez

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