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London Marathon 2015 Elite Race Preview - Men

by Elite Running Coach
Tuesday 21st April 2015
Tags  Gavin Smith   |   Elite Running Coach   |   Virgin Money London Marathon   |   Dennis Kimetto   |   Wilson Kipsang   |   Emmanuel Mutai   |   Geoffrey Mutai   |   Eliud Kipchoge   |   Sammy Kitwara   |   Stanley Biwott   |   Tsegaye Mekonnen

Gavin Smith of Elite Running Coach (www.eliterunningcoach.com) provides some in-depth information on the men's elite field, that has been lined up for the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon

Click here to read Gavin's preview of the women's field

You could write an entire book on the men’s field for the 2015 London Marathon such is quality and depth of the race. I will try to keep this to a short essay.

It must be a bone of contention to other race directors around the world that London appear to have a never ending list of stars just waiting to be signed up. Even with the late withdrawal of Kenenisa Bekele it is difficult to argue against this being the greatest field ever assembled for a 42.2 kilometre foot race.

Such is the power of London that even on the day that they were forced to announce the withdrawal of Kenenisa Bekele, a major blow for any race, they also announced the late addition of Geoffrey Mutai, multiple winner of Marathon Major events and until very recently owner of the fastest marathon time ever recorded (non record eligible course).  Mutai would be a marquee signing for every other race in the world and the entire event would be marketed around him, in London he is a late addition who will likely not even a warrant a seat at the press conference. The staggering depth of quality really cannot be over stated.

The field includes the three fastest men of all time, the current and former world record holders and between them the field have won every Marathon Major title going, most of them numerous times.

The main firepower here is coming out of Kenya with Dennis Kimetto, Wilson Kipsang, Emmanuel Mutai, Geoffrey Mutai, and Eliud Kipchoge being the most recognisable names in the field.  Add in Sammy Kitwara, Stanley Biwott, and Tsegaye Mekonnen (Ethiopia) who have all run marathons in 2:04 and you can begin to see just why this race is going to be so hard to win (and to predict)

I won’t spend too much time reiterating the specific achievements and credentials of each man (it would take a long time!) but will give my personal view on some of the main contenders and how they might fare.

Wilson Kipsang

Wilson Kipsang is the defending champion and the former world record holder. He is a consistent runner and likes to run aggressively. I expect Wilson to make a bold move at some point around the half way mark of the race which may well separate the genuine contenders from the rest. Don’t be surprised to see a 5km split close to 14minutes flat at some point in the race and don’t be surprised if Wilson is the man making this happen.

Kipsang ran the low key Granrollers Half Marathon in Spain in February in 62minutes to follow the same build up as he did in 2014. It’s hard to read too much into his form following a comfortable win in a slow time but I’m confident he won’t be arriving in anything other than tip top shape.

The only slight question mark hanging over Kipsang is whether the current disputes between his management agency (Volare Sports) and Kenya’s athletics governing body Athletics Kenya (AK) will have a negative impact on him.

Kipsang is President of the Professional Athletes Association of Kenya (PAAK) and is very outspoken against the National Federation who PAAK claim are both corrupt and incompetent.  There are many suggestions in and outside of Kenya that the sanctions currently placed on Volare Sports by AK due to (so far unspecified and unsubstantiated) claims of doping, are in fact a politically motivated move to disrupt and discredit Kipsang and his PAAK movement who are being suggested by some as the future leaders of Athletics in Kenya.

A fun, ever smiling man, Kipsang is also a serious business man and runs a hotel in Iten called Keelu Resort Centre - If you ever find yourself in Iten I recommend you take a visit to Keelu as Wilson can often be found socialising with his visitors in the restaurant.

Dennis Kimetto

Dennis Kimetto is seen by most as the joint favourite alongside Kipsang. An incredible runner,  Kimetto broke Wilson Kipsang’s world record when he became the first man to break the 2hours and 3minutes barrier when winning Berlin last year.

A shy and personal man, Kimetto doesn’t give much away to the media and there isn’t too much known about him. So we will just have to admire his incredible running ability and let his running do the talking for him. Stories of Kimetto’s rise from unknown to world record holder in the space of a few short years range from the incredible to the unbelievable. With some claiming he had never run a step before 2012 and then two years later ran 2hr 02 for the marathon. Having lived and coached in Kenya, I would suggest that when Kimetto says he didn’t start running until a few years ago he is most likely alluding to the moment that he was recruited to a professional camp to train with a coach and a manager (he is also a member of the Volare Sports team) rather than when he started any sort of serious running.

Whatever the exact truth may be we can certainly say that it has been a meteoric rise and Kimetto will be looking to add the London title to those he has already won in Tokyo and Berlin.

Kimetto was involved in a semi controversial finish to the 2012 Berlin Marathon where he finished just a step behind his mentor Geoffrey Mutai and some suggested that he put up little fight despite appearing to be full of energy at the finish. Mutai’s first place secured him the World Marathon Majors title and a big pay day. Kimetto will be looking to ensure that there is no controversy about the finish of this race as he looks to win his debut appearance in London.

Emmanuel Mutai

Emmanuel Mutai comes into London Marathon as the second fastest man of all time and second fastest man over the London course from his 2011 win. I am the first to admit that I had personally written Emmanuel off in 2012 after his disappointing run in the London 2012 Olympics. Following this I saw numerous training sessions at Eldoret’s Chepkoilel Stadium where Emmanuel looked a shadow of his former self and I certainly thought his best days were now far behind him. His comeback in 2014 has proved me entirely wrong and Emmanuel comes into this race as a genuine contender to win his second London title.

Geoffrey Mutai

Geoffrey Mutai is a late addition to the field. Whilst he doesn’t bring the same credentials to the table as the man he replaced (Track star and multiple world record holder and Olympic Gold Medalist, Kenenisa Bekele) in pure marathon terms he possibly offers more than Bekele to the quality of this race. His best time is 2hour 03:02 set when winning the 2011 Boston Marathon (Course not record eligible) and he has also won the New York marathon in a course record time. In 2014 he finished 6th in both the London and New York Marathons and will be hoping he can be back amongst the podium places again this year.

Eliud Kipchoge

Eliud Kipchoge is a man who has been at the top of the running world for a long time and shows no signs that he is ready to slow down. He won the 5000m World Title in 2003 approaching 12 years ago. He has demonstrated a longevity not often seen amongst Kenyan runners who often drift away from competitive running once their fortunes have been made. His marathon debut came in 2013 and he has won the Hamburg, Rotterdam and Chicago Marathons since then.  He ran his personal best of 2hr 04:05 when finishing second behind Wilson Kipsang’s World Record in Berlin in 2013.

Eliud has run four marathons in his career so far, winning three and finishing second once. His average time across all 4 races is an incredible 2hr 04.41. 

Watching Eliud run is as close to ‘poetry in motion’ as it gets, and regardless of whether or not he wins the race, I for one am simply looking forward to having the opportunity to watch  two hours of Eliud Kipchoge glide (seemingly) effortlessly across the London streets. I am lucky to have been present at many of Eliud’s training sessions in Eldoret under the watchful eye of his coach Patrick Sang and Eliud is a man who clearly enjoys his running, but also understands his role as a group leader and a guiding figure to many of the younger athletes in his training group. This includes recently crowned World Cross Country Champion Geoffrey Kamworor Kipsang to whom Eliud is both a training partner and mentor.  Eliud is known as one of the most thoughtful and intelligent athletes on the road running circuit and has been tipped by many, including current coach of some of the worlds top runners Renato Canova, to have a successful coaching career when he eventually hangs up his racing shoes.

There are many more men in the field who could play an important part in the race but these Kenyan’s are the most likely contenders to win the race.

Talk of a world record is never far away when athletes of this calibre meet but I would have thought that to be an unlikely scenario here as each runner will be thinking only about the win and a tactical affair could ensue in the second half. London often has a tendency to throw up an erratic or suicidally fast early pace (surprisingly this was provided by very over enthusiastic pace making from Haile Gebrselassie last year) so a world record time is unlikely. Look for Kipsang to make a strong move somewhere between 20-30km which breaks the race wide open and brings the lead group down to 4-5. Don’t be surprised if Stanley Biwott is there or thereabouts well into the latter stages of the race, but expect him to fade late on.  I expect Kipchoge to sit and wait biding his time, we will find out after 35km whether is a genuine contender for the win. 

It may well be a battle of attrition in the final 10km with the pack gradually whittling down to the last few contenders and I predict that Kipsang, Kimetto and Kipchoge will be the last men standing.  With a late surge from someone who didn’t follow the big break making a late push for a podium finish if any of these three men falter.

1st Wilson Kipsang
2nd Eliud Kipchoge
3rd Dennis Kimmetto

Man to watch:
Tsegaye Mekonnen


A quick note on the British contenders:

Only Scott Overall and the debutant Matty Hynes will start in the elite field but a slew of men from the Championship start will also be vying for the coveted title of first British man, with early qualification times for the Rio Olympics also on the cards. Overall is the favourite for this title as he is far and away the fastest British man on paper. However, he has so far been unable to reproduce the form he showed in his 2010 Berlin Marathon debut since then, so Hynes or perhaps Luton’s Ian Kimpton will be looking to cause an upset.

About Gavin

Gavin Smith is a Running Coach who coaches a group of elite British runners including 2012 Olympian Lee Merrien and GB International John Beattie. He also runs an online coaching service for ambitious runners of all levels which can be found at www.eliterunningcoach.com. Previously Gavin coached in Kenya, where from 2011 - 13 he was assistant coach to Renato Canova and athletes he coached included 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist Abel Kirui and World Half Marathon Record Holder Florence Kiplagat. 


About The Author

Elite Running Coach

To read more from Gavin and John please visit www.eliterunningcoach.com where they host their performance running blogs and race reports. 

John is a GB international athlete having competed in the 10000m in the Commonwealth Games, as well as World and European XC Championships. He has a Marathon PB of 2hr 16 finishing as second British runner at the 2012 London Marathon.
Gavin has coached both British and Kenyan elite runners and was Assistant Coach to famed Renato Canova from 2011-2013 where he helped coach Abel Kirui to London Olympic Silver Medal. He coached Gladys Kipkemoi to the World Championships in 2013 and is the coach to John Beattie and fellow British elite runner Chris Powner.


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