The men's marathon was a nightmare for Kenyans in Beijing: A view from Kenya, by Justin Lagat


Ghebreselassie_Ghirmy-Philly13.JPgGhirmay Ghebreslassie, 2014 Philly Half, photo by

In a world championship marathon, all bets are off. Big times, World records mean nothing. In races like this, unknowns, or near unknowns come out of the woodwork. For much of the race, Ruggero Pertile of Italy lead, with Daniele Meucci trading off. They finished 4th and 8th respectively. Then, Tsepo Mathiabelle of Lesotho took the lead and upped the ante for 20 plus minutes. Around 1:50, Yemane Tsegay and Ghirmay Ghebreslassie battled for some time, before the Eritrian of indeterminate age (some say 19, some say 25) put down the hammer and went on to win, in 2:12.27. Yemane Tsegay took second, looking back for the last twenty minutes, in 2:13.07. In third, Munyo Solomon Mutai of Uganda took third in 2:13.29.

What was most curious was that the Kenyan juggernaut on the marathon was broken. In fact, only one of the three even finished.

Here is Justin Lagat's story on that nightmare for Kenyan fans...

The men's marathon was a nightmare for Kenyans in Beijing.
Many Kenyans woke up very early in the morning, by 2:30 AM, with great expectations to watch their favorite athletes winning the first gold medal for their country at the 15th IAAF world championships in Beijing, but their hopes soon diminished when it was only Wilson Kipsang who was still remaining in the leading pack after slightly over one hour into the race. Dennis Kimetto, the world record holder himself, was nowhere to be seen together with his compatriot, Mark Korir. It was like a nightmare to the Kenyan fans.
Eventually, Mark Korir, the top Kenyan athlete and the only one who finished the race, would end up in 22nd position. I feel like confirming first if I am really awake as I write this article. Perhaps it was all, but a bad dream.
Certainly, many of those who had made predictions for the men's marathon race were disappointed by the 19 year old Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (age is in dispute, some sources give him an age from 20 to 25), from Eritrea. Given the experienced runners in the field with times faster than his personal best time of 2:07.47, he was definitely not one of the pre-race favorites. But, with a few kilometers to go, the teenager showed unmatched strength and confidence. He kissed his water bottle as he approached the big nest and then grabbed his national flag from a by-stander after entering the stadium as he exuberantly proceeded to cross the finish line in 2:12:27. Ethiopia's Yemane Tsegay came in second in 2:13:07 as Uganda's Solomon Mutai followed in 2:13:29.
Perhaps, this race served to remind everyone that there are no reserved positions at the world championships and anyone who makes the qualifications to compete here also has a chance to win a gold medal; and not merely to come out and provide company to other competitors.
Leading up to the world championships, the predictions were all about who would be the first to cross the finish line among Wilson Kipsang, Dennis Kimetto, Uganda's Stephen Kiprotich and Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa. Kiprotich and Lelisa would finish 6th and 7th respectively as Kipsang and Kimetto fail to finish.
At the early stages of the race, one would have thought that the Kenyan athletes were just letting the rest do the pace-setting for the race as they waited to come out to the front in the last stages, but that never happened in the end. The two Italian athletes who did much of the pacing later in the race, Ruggero Pertile and Daniele Meucci got their reward by taking 4th and 8th positions respectively. Shumi Dechasa of Bahrain who also acted as a pacer for some time in the race, finished in 5th.
This will not be the last surprise at the world championships.

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