Rose Chelimo

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Ruth Chepngetich wins world championship marathon of attrition

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Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich, who won the Dubai Marathon earlier this year with the third-fastest time in history (2:17:08), broke away from the a small lead pack with seven kilometers remaining to win the world championship Saturday morning under sauna-like conditions in Doha, Qatar.

Chepngetich finished in 2:32:43, perfectly pacing herself through a race in which many runners exhausted themselves early on. Defending champion Rose Chelimo of Bahrain was second, 1:03 behind. Namibia’s Helalia Johannes took third ahead of two-time world champion Edna Ngeringwony Kiplagat of Kenya.

Roberta Groner, a 41-year-old runner and the oldest athlete in any event on the U.S. team, outlasted other runners to finish sixth in 2:38:44.

Even with the race taking place in the middle of the night along the Doha waterfront, organizers reported a starting temperature of 32.7 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) with 73.3 percent humidity, putting the heat index at 111 degrees Fahrenheit. The IAAF’s live commentary said conditions in the 2007 world championships in Osaka weren’t too far behind those numbers at 32 degrees Celsius and 74 percent humidity.

The runners started conservatively, with a large pack passing the 5k mark in 18:21, roughly on pace for a 2:35 marathon. Still, the heat took its toll by the halfway mark, with all three Ethiopian entries — Tokyo Marathon winner Ruti Aga, Roza Dereje and Shure Demise — withdrawing. 

They were far from alone. Only 40 of the 68 runners who started made it across the finish line.

A lead pack of five runners — Chelimo, Johannes and the Kenyan trio of Chepngetich, Kiplagat and Visiline Jepkesho built a lead of nearly a minute by the 15k mark.

Israeli runner Lonah Chemtai Salpeter managed to chip away at that lead by the 25k mark and join up with Jepkesho, who had fallen 13 seconds behind. But Jepkesho continued to fade, and Salpeter wound up 11:53 behind before withdrawing. The top survivor behind the lead pack was Volha Mazuronak of Belarus, followed by Groner.

The lead pack of four that had run together since the 15k mark finally broke apart at 35k, when Chepngetich revved up the speed. Chelimo broke away in pursuit, leaving Johannes and Kiplagat together. 

Groner has taken an unusual path to get to world championship level. She gave up running after college, only to return 10 years later after giving birth to three kids. She ran her first marathon in 2011 in Chicago, finishing in 3:12:42. Since then, she has chipped away a few minutes each year and broke the 2:30 mark earlier this year in Rotterdam.

The two other Americans also finished the race. Carrie Dimoff finished 13th in 2:44:35. Kelsey Bruce crossed the line 38th in 3:09:37, nearly 38 minutes off her personal best.

Earlier in the day, the heat had much less impact on events in Khalifa International Stadium, where athletes occasionally took advantage of air-conditioning vents near the track. Most medal contenders advanced through their preliminary rounds with little trouble.

FRIDAY: Defending champs Gatlin, Coburn and Taylor advance

The world championship schedule for Saturday includes a pair of late-night distance events, with men and women each competing in the punishing 50k walk.

TRACK AND FIELD WORLDS: TV Schedule | U.S. Roster

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World championship women’s marathon still on despite heat and humidity

Doha waterfront
AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty
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The track and field organizing body IAAF showed confidence Friday that its preparations for Qatar’s harsh weather will be sufficient, announcing that the women’s marathon scheduled just before midnight local time (5 p.m. EDT) will proceed as scheduled.

The IAAF statement says the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature, a measurement of heat that factors humidity, wind and sunlight into the equation, will be below 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), which falls within the range organizers expected.

READ: World championships open with early heats and hot marathon

Still, the IAAF left open the possibility of a late change: “Any decision to alter the starting time of the event will be made by 10.30pm, on the recommendation of the IAAF Medical Delegate.”

Plans to beat the heat include an increase in the usual number of stations at which runners can pick up drinks. The race will be run on a loop along the Doha waterfront.

Runners set to compete include defending champion Rose Chelimo of Bahrain and Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich, who ran the third-fastest women’s marathon of all time earlier this year in Dubai.

The Olympic Channel will carry the race live. NBC Sports Gold will have extended coverage starting at 4:30 p.m. EDT.

NBCSN will have live coverage of the day’s other events, including early rounds of the men’s 100m and the women’s pole vault, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT, and NBC Sports Gold will stream live coverage of every event over the 10-day meet.

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London Marathon preview; runners to watch

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World records are under threat from male and female runners at the London Marathon on Sunday (3:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).

The forecast calls for the warmest London Marathon in its 38-year history (a high Sunday in the low 70s, though likely cooler for the morning start times).

The elite fields, stronger than for last Monday’s Boston Marathon, include the greatest marathoners of this generation — Eliud Kipchoge and Mary Keitany — plus arguably each Kenyan’s top rival at the moment.

Five runners to watch in each field …

Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya
2016 Olympic champ
2015, 2016 London Marathon winner
Ran 2:00:25 in Nike’s sub-two-hour marathon attempt last May

In Kipchoge’s last start in London, he missed countryman Dennis Kimetto‘s world record by eight seconds, prevailing in 2:03:05 in 2016. Since, Kipchoge won the Olympic title, had what he deemed his greatest performance in the sub-two-hour (non-record-eligible) event and extended his marathon win streak to seven races over four years in rainy, humid Berlin last September. The 33-year-old has refused to get into world-record talk, telling media he just wants to run “a beautiful race” Sunday.

Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia
Second-fastest marathoner of all time (Berlin 2016, 2:03:03)
World-record holder in 5000m, 10,000m
Eight Olympic/world titles in 5000m, 10,000m

Credentials from 5000m to marathon make a strong case that Bekele is the greatest runner of all time, ahead of Usain Bolt and Kipchoge. He really started taking aim at the world record after that 2016 Berlin breakthrough. Bekele was runner-up with foot blisters in London last year, nearly three minutes slower than in Germany, and failed to finish his other two marathons in 2017. “To have the records for 5000m to marathon would be something – no one else has done that. I feel like that would make me the greatest ever,” Bekele said, according to marathon organizers.

Mo Farah, Great Britain
2012, 2016 Olympic champ in 5000m/10,000m
Second marathon
8th at 2014 London Marathon

Farah’s primary goal Sunday is modest in comparison to Kipchoge and Bekele — break the British marathon record of 2:07:13. Farah, repeating in a press conference Tuesday that he is ranked 27th in the world in the distance, said he still intends to go out with the leaders even if they start on world-record pace. It’s his first marathon since switching full-time to road running after last season and his second overall after his 2:08:21 in London four years ago.

Guye Adola, Ethiopia
Second to Kipchoge at 2017 Berlin Marathon in 26.2-mile debut

Adola came out of nowhere to finish 14 seconds behind Kipchoge in Berlin on Sept. 24 in the fastest-ever marathon debut on a record-eligible course, sticking with Kipchoge until the last mile. Afterward, we learned Adola didn’t know he was running until four days before the race and wasn’t meant to start with the elite group. The 27-year-old was second and fifth in half marathons in January and February, not particularly impressive.

Daniel Wanjiru, Kenya
2017 London Marathon winner

Wanjiru won his major marathon debut last year, then returned to London for the world championships on Aug. 6 and was eighth. Neither of those fields was as strong as Sunday’s is shaping up to be. Just 25, Wanjiru will be tested like never before.

Mary Keitany, Kenya
2011, 2012, 2017 London Marathon winner
Ran fastest marathon by a woman without male pacers
2014, 2015, 2016 New York City Marathon winner

The 5-foot-2 mother of two smashed Paula Radcliffe‘s women-only world record by 41 seconds in London last year, clocking 2:17:01. She’ll run with male pacers Sunday in a bid to break Radcliffe’s world record of 2:15:25 from the 2003 London Marathon (the first time since 2003 London has male pacers for the women’s race). Keitany was stunned by Shalane Flanagan at her last marathon in New York City in November but came back in February to lower her half marathon personal best. “I’ve had Paula’s record in mind since I started my career,” the 36-year-old Keitany said.

Tirunesh Dibaba, Ethiopia
2017 Chicago Marathon winner
2017 London Marathon runner-up
Third-fastest female marathoner of all time
Eight Olympic/world titles in 5000m/10,000m

The Baby-Faced Destroyer is the only woman in the field whose personal best is within two minutes of Keitany’s. There’s reason to believe she can be closer to Keitany than last year (55 seconds behind, and that’s after stopping briefly with two miles left with stomach problems). Dibaba is four years younger than Keitany, with a decorated track background and just one year into her full-time marathon career.

Gladys Cherono, Kenya
2015, 2017 Berlin Marathon winner

The woman with the third-fastest personal best in the field has never raced London and was fifth in her only major marathon outside of Berlin. She was eighth in a half marathon in February, more than two minutes behind Keitany.

Rose Chelimo, Bahrain
2017 World champion
2017 Boston Marathon runner-up

Impressive second year as a marathoner in 2017. Chelimo, 28, was born in Kenya but switched to Bahrain in 2015. Though this is her London Marathon debut, her world title came in London in August. She did not impress at the world half marathon championships last month, finishing 14th overall and fifth among runners from Bahrain.

Vivian Cheruiyot, Kenya
Fourth at 2017 London Marathon in 26.2-mile debut
Four Olympic medals in 5000m/10,000m
Four world championships in 5000m/10,000m

Credentials similar to but not quite as impressive as Dibaba in terms of track medals, early marathon experience and age (34 to Dibaba’s 32). Cheruiyot finished more than five minutes behind Keitany and Dibaba in her 26.2-mile debut in London last year. She dropped out of the New York City Half Marathon on March 18 with a breathing problem in the cold weather but insisted she’s healthy for Sunday.

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