Let's try to put this race into perspective: at a 70 percent dewpoint, the City of Chicago, the Windy City, would be issuing a health alert! During the entire three hours and three minutes it took the 57 survivors out of 94 starters to hit the finish line in Osaka's Nagai Stadium, the dewpoint was between 65 and 70 percent, with the temperatures between 81 and 90!
As in all marathons, the winner made a huge gamble and won. Some others took the gamble-some did well and some did not. Read on to find out why this marathon will stand out among the other world championship marathons!
What a day to run the marathon! The ninety-four starters who went to the starting line in Osaka's Nagai Stadium found 78 percent humidity and 29 degrees Celcius, or 81 degrees! A slight breeze greeted them, but they knew, each and every one of them, that this would be for two things-medals and World Cup standings.
The race went out slow, not as slow as Seville (where they went through the first five kilometers in 17:05), but slow enough as Abdil Ceylan lead the pack of forty through a premier 5k split of 16:36. William Kiplagat of Kenya got into the game after that, and lead the field, now dropping to about thirty-five, through 10k in 32:50, a split of 16:14. The temperature at the 10k point was still about 81 degrees, but the humidity had dropped to 61 percent.
The attrition rate would be awful today, as 37 of the 94 starters did not finish. Understand, that, in such an elite race, if a marathoner is not going to place in the top six, many of the elite will drop out about twenty kilometers, saving the day for a good cool Fall marathon pay day. I do not believe that was entirely the case today, as it was just absolutely horrific conditions. The top of the pack also had three of the Moroccans, who looked dangerous, early on.
Kiplagat lead the crowd of twenty through 15 kilometers in 48:39, a split of 15:51, the fastest of the day. This five kilometer coincides with the 81 degree temperature staying constant, but the humidity rising to 70 percent. At that type of conditions in Chicago, Illinois, the city would have called a health alert. In Osaka, Japan, they were having a marathon!
This race was, as expected, a war of attrition. But, someone had to move. At the 20
kilometer mark, as the pack passed the Hard Rock Cafe (where the Five Major marathons-ING New York, BAA Boston, Flora London, LSB Chicago and real,- Berlin, were hosting a marathon breakfast, attended by many of the top agents, coaches and footwear sponsors), there was a huge difference with the front pack, who looked as if they were racing, and the stragglers, with the exception of three of the Americans, looked to be ready to drop out.
Alex Malinga of Uganda lead the pack through 20 kilometers in 1:04.59, (giving a split for 5k of 16:20, again, a strong 5k in this horrid weather), and also at the half marathon, reached in 1:08.29. Malinga of Uganda was swallowed up by the pack as Ali Mabrouk El Zaidi of Libya took the lead through 25 kilometers, pushing the pack of a dozen to 1:21.11, a split of 16:12.
At twenty five kilometers, in a pace of 2:18, Luke Kibet of Kenya, who along with Mubarak Hassan Shami of Qatar, Viktor Rothlin of Switzerland, Yared Asmeron of Eritrea, were focusing on running with as little effort as possible. The Spanish runners, Jose Manuel Martinez, Jose Rios, Julio Rey looked tough, but they were sliding to the back as Luke Kibet decided to make his move. Kibet's credentials were
the 2007 Vienna Marathon win-in fact, Kibet was not sure that he was even going to make the marathon team for Osaka, as he had planned to run Amsterdam in the fall!
Luke Kibet, Mubarak Hassam Shami and William Kiplagat took off together, breaking up the pack,with Kibet leading at 30 kilometers in 1:36.56. By the time
Kibet hit the 30 kilometer mark, he had 23 seconds on Shami, 34 on Kiplagat, and 59 seconds on Asmeron and Rothlin.
But that was not, as someone who is paid much more than me says every day, all of the story. In the middle of the second pack, the Japanese team of Tsuyoshi Ogata, Satoshi Osaki, Toshinari Suwa and Tomoyuki Sato were starting to move. Working together, Ogata, Satoshi and Suwa would run through many in the field and make the finish that much more exciting!
Also running a fine race of his own was Dan Robinson of Great Britian, who was running a race of much more difficulty than his 2:14:00 at Flora London this past April would have suggested him to be capable of--Dan was picking up the runners who had died the painful death-too fast, too early and now, with the heat at 83 degrees Fahrenheit and 65 percent humidity, runners were literally falling off the side of the road. Robinson would end up eleventh.
Kibet was putting in the final punches, but as he decimated the pack, was he hurting himself? As Kibet hit 35 kilometers in 1:52:35, his lead was increasing, to 59 seconds over Shami, with Kiplagat starting to fail. Kiplagat was observed by this writer to be wincing in pain several times after 25k.
What a nightmare for Shami! If he had only known what was going on behind him.
As Kiplagat and he had traded places for five kilometers, Yared Asmeron and Viktor Rothlin had moved closer and closer, cutting a lead of one minute down to less than fifteen seconds by 35 kilometers! Rothlin had moved up through the pack, running the smartest race of the day!
Right behind Asmeron and Rothlin, who had worked together after Rothlin caught him, were the team of Tsuyoshi Ogata and Satoshi Osaki.
Ogata caught Rothlin and Asmeron at just after 39 kilometers and the next two kilometers were a fartlek workout, with this observer not knowing who would win. The key was that all three, Asmeron, Rothlin and Ogata caught William Kiplagat, who had gone from a secure third to a collapsing marathoner, finally finishing in eighth place!
Rothlin, Ogata and Asmeron flew by, with Asmeron looking very tough, and pulling away from both Rothlin and Ogata. Just before the marathoners hit the 40 kilometer mark, in 2:08.45, the last five kilometer told the story-covered in 16:11, in nearly ninety degree heat and 70 percent humidity, these runners were attacking, fighting over one, possibly two medals. At 40 kilometers, it was pretty clear that Luke Kibet's gamble had paid off. His pain would only last another eight minutes, to be followed by accolades of being the first Kenyan World Champion since Douglas Wakihuri of Kenya way back in 1987!
Luke Kibet continued his lonely run, hitting the stadium to the applause of about 20,000 fans, and went on to win his first world championship medal, and a gold at that, in 2:15.59! Kibet finished, obviously exhausted, but clearly knowing he had won the important race-the world championships and brought the marathon gold back to Kenya after a twenty year drought.
Kibet, who had looked to be in some distress for much of the last ten kilometers, had this to say of his victory: "This was not the toughest marathon of my career. I felt comfortable despite the hot weather. We were prepared for that kind of conditions. I know it is my eighth marathon and I am proud to win the gold for my country. We worked as a team and actually wanted to win the World Cup. I had a small accident at 28th kilometer, later after 30 kilometers I realized the pace is slow and started to push. At 32 kilometers, I started to believe I can win this race. I am from Kalenjin tribe and my feelings right now are full of happiness. I will spend my winning award to help my family. The win of Vienna Marathon this year gave me the right confidence."
And now, back to our silver and bronze medalists!
Asmeron and Ogata were running like prize fighters, the positions in third and fourth must have changed several times. Asmeron would respond, Ogata would gather his energy and respond, and Ogata looked good, but that was until Viktor Rothlin, the silver medalist in the marathon at the European Championships last summer, made his move.
Just after 40 kilometers, Viktor Rothlin of Switzerland called what reserves he had and pushed past Yared Asmeron of Eritirea and Tsuyoshi Ogata of Japan for the final time. Asermon could not respond, and Ogata, who had pushed from 15 kilometers on, was still fighting, but could not match Rothlin, who took control of the bronze just before entering the stadium. This time, Rothlin had pushed enough to get some breathing space.
Viktor Rothlin made a strong run on Shami, who was running on empty as well. Shami entered the stadium as Rothlin cut the lead from over 30 seconds to seven in the last two kilometers, but there was no more real estate, as Mubarek Hassan Shami of Qatar brought home the silver medal in a hot and humid 2:17:18. Shami
was visibly exhausted and it was obvious that the marathon end could have come at no better time for him. Shami recalled the race this way: " It was very hot, but my body adopts to it. I was prepared for this, but because of the recurring injury I couldn't make it. I have had hip and hamstring problems since 2005 and need massage up to the few minutes before this race. I had very good massage at Paris marathon, but that no possible here. In the end, my legs were just not moving."
Rothlin, the European silver medalist, was elated with his bronze, and a race well run, as he finished in 2:17:25 for third. Rothlin gets the ATF award for smart running today, and the last 10 kilometers were a brutal battle between Rothlin, Asmeron, Ogata, Osaki and company, with Rothlin the victor. Viktor said this afterwards: "I should not tell you this because nobody will believe it. This night I dreamt of wining the bronzejust like last year when I won the silver in Gothenburg! It is unbelievable! I came here to Japan 16 days ago and my training improved from day to day. My preparation i St. Mortitz helped me a lot to overtake the others at the end of the race: After a 30 kilometer training run, I would do five one kilomter runs. So overtaking the Japanese was only difficult for my head, but not for my legs!"
Yared Asmeron of Eritrea took fourth in 2:17.41, just holdig off Tsuyoshi Ogata of Japan in 2:17'42, who placed fifth.
Japanese television was ecstatic, as Ogata placed fifth, Satoshi Osaki of Japan was sixth in 2:18.06, and Toshinari Suwa of Japan placed seventh, in 2:18:35, all three of the Japanese running seasonal bests in this heat! Tomoyuki Sato of Japan placed thirteenth, giving the Japanese the World Cup marathon team title as well!
After the race, a thoughtful, but sad Tsuyoshi Ogata had this to say: "I wanted to get a medal today, the colour would not be important. I was thinking I can get it while I was running in third position at some point during the last stages of the race. Unfortunately, I could not run the same pace at the end."
Finishing in eighth place was William Kiplagat of Kenya, who had been in third at 39 kilometers, only to falter, running 2:19.21. Former European Champion Janne Holmen of Finland ran a smart 2:19:36 for ninth place, staying out of trouble the whole way, but with not enough gas to move into the next group.
The U.S. team of Mbarak Hussein, Mike Morgan, Kyle OBrien and Fernando Cabada did well in the team standings. Hussein finished twenty-first in 2;23.04,
Mike Morgan was twenty-third in 2;23.38, Kyle O'Brien was thirty-second in 2:28.28,
and Fernando Cabado was fiftieth in 2:35.48.
At the end of the marathon, with fifty seven of the ninety-four starters finishing, on a day hotter than any previous World Championship marathon, the marathoners who kept their dreams, played their cards close to their chest, and who, somehow, were able to have enough energy for one last push, took gold, silver and bronze.
Frank Shorter once said, that after a marathon, he liked to stand and congratulate his fellow racers. Not out of some braggadaccio, but because of the shared experience that they had just had. Today, fifty seven marathoners persevered, and finished the World Championship Marathon for men, starting the Osaka World Championships. Now, on to the track...
For further reading on the WC Marathon, try: http://osaka2007.iaaf.org/news/kind=2/newsid=40417.html#kibets+osaka+gold+shock+marathon+kenya
For reference, WC History:http://www.flipseekllc.com/ATFguide.html