Tsegaye Kebede is the defending champion. With a personal best of 2:04:38 from his 2012 victory in Bank of America Chicago, and his 2:06:04 time this past April in London (and his 2:09:15 second place in New York), Kebede is both prolific and always dangerous. Here are few highlights of what he said in the 2014 Virgin Money London Elite Men's Press Conference.
The fifth of thirteen kids, Tsegaye Kebede was raised in abject poverty. Making thirty cents a day, Tsegaye herded livestock and collected firewood to supplement his father's income. Tsegaye was raised in Gerer Bar, about 40 kilometers from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Olympic bronze medalist in Beijing, then Berlin bronze medalist, is a formidable opponent. How can anyone forget the classic marathon race, in the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, when the late Sammy Wanjiru battled Tsegaye Kebede over 26.2 miles, and, Wanjiru won that battle.
Tsegaye Kebede told the media:
On his victory in 2013 in London:
"It was amazing when I won last year, after 40k, people were tired. After NY, I focused for London, I am in good shape. I am saying, I will win again."
And on his thoughts on Kenenisa Bekele's run in Paris and what it means for Mo Farah:
" You know, I think Kenenisa is big example for Mo Farah. I think Mo will run a good time for him. Winning I do not know. I do not know what his condition, "
Winning, in Tsegaye Kebede's mind, is reserved for him. One media observer, in noting the relaxed and chatty nature of Mr. Kebede said that Tsegaye could have done an entire press conference by himself.
And that it true.
But, consider this: In the world of marathon warriors, Tsegaye Kebede stands out. The marathon pocket rocket, standing only five foot, two inches), Kebede packs a huge punch in that dimunutive frame. He is a marathon warrior, true and simple.
The coach for many of Frederico Rosa's team, Claudio Berardelli and I were chatting after the presser today. " You know, for a marathoner at the elite level today, it is a full time profession. They must run, rest, eat, rest more. It is a very complex lifestyle."
Claudio Berardelli, coach of Priscah and Rita Jeptoo, to name two of his finer athletes, is right.
Tsegaye Kebede is an example of one who concentrates on his craft. And since his second place in New York this past November, Mr. Kebede has been focusing on the 2014 Virgin Money London marathon.
My advice to his competitors: Be afraid, be very afraid.