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Olympic Men's Marathon Preview

Olympic Men's Marathon Preview
Olympic Men's Marathon Preview

Day 10 of track and field at the Games of the XXX Summer Olympiad will actually have neither track nor field--it's the men's marathon, the traditional conclusion to the Games.

NBC will have live television coverage beginning at 6:00 AM Eastern time as well as live coverage at NBCOlympics.com,

Day 10 results
Day 10 Event by Event Updates
Olympic Track & Field Schedule

(all events covered live at NBCOlympics.com)

The Course

Wikipedia has a rather large and extensive description of the course. Of course, it's the same as the one used for the women's marathon race last Sunday. It has many turns, including several U-turns, but nothing that could be called a hill. Some of the streets it uses are quite narrow and appear more like alleys to Americans.

The course has been designed to show off the major tourist attractions. It starts and ends near Buckingham Palace, and travels near the Thames River, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Tower of London, London Bridge, and St. Paul's Cathedral plus lots more.

While the course is twisty, it pretty much straightens out at 23 miles. An athlete who makes a break before then would at times be out of sight of the others.

The Kenyans

Wilson Kipsang
Kipsang is the second-fastest marathoner of all time (on a non-aided course) behind world record holder Patrick Makau, who was left off the Kenyan team for London. His last three marathons are a win in London this April (2:04:44), a win in Frankfurt last October (2:03:42), and a win in Lake Biwa (Japan) last March (2:06:13). He took third in February's Ras Al Kaimah half marathon (1:01:01).

Abel Kirui
Kirui has not run as fast as his two teammates, but he's the two-time defending World Champion in the marathon. In between those two he was less impressive, taking 5th in London (2:08:04) and 9th in New York (2:13:01) in 2010, and was a DNF at London in 2011. He won February's Barcelona half marathon (1:00:28) and was sixth at this year's London race (2:07:56).

Emmanuel Mutai
Mutai is the seventh-fastest marathoner of all time (on a non-aided course). Seventh at this year's London Marathon (2:08:01), it was earlier seasons that landed him on the team after Moses Mosop withdrew due to injury. In 2010 he took seconds both in London (2:06:23) and new York (2:09:18). In April of 2011 he won the London race (2:04:40, the course record) and went on to break the course record in New York (2:06:28) but still lost to Geoffrey Mutai--who has inexplicably been left off the Kenyan team. Besides London, his only race this year appears to be a half marathon in Eldoret in January, where he was sixth (1:02:55).

The Ethiopians

Ayele Abshero
Abshero has run only one marathon, in Dubai this January. Beofre you doubt him you need to realize that he won that race in 2:04:23, the fourth-fastest time ever. Since then he's won April's Yangzhou half marathon in 1:01:11, and set a 10k PR of 27:56 while taking third at the Great Manchester Run in May.

Getu Feleke
Feleke took second at this year's Rotterdam Marathon (2:04:50), losing in a sprint finish. He was also fifth at the Paris half marathon in March (1:01:59). He barely raced at all in 2011, but won the Prague and Amsterdam marathons in 2010.

Dino Sefir
Sefir is the least-known of the Ethiopian marathoners, having run second at January's Dubai Marathon behind Abshero (2:04:50). As far as I've been able to determine, that was only his second marathon ever, with his first at last year's Ottawa Marathon where he finished third (2:10:32).

The Americans

Meb Keflezighi
Keflezighi won January's Olympic Trials in a very short turnaround after November's New York City Marathon. His coach, Bob Larsen, revealed in late June that Meb had strained a glute while winning the Rock N' Roll San Diego Half Marathon (1:03:11) and missed two weeks of training. He has a history of bouncing back quickly from setback, though; he missed significant training leading into the trials.

Ryan Hall
Hall was second at the trials marathon, but reported that he'd been battling plantar fasciitis both before and after that race. In early June, ten weeks out from the Olympic marathon, he was second at the Rock N' Roll San Diego Half Marathon in 65:38. That was a marked improvement from May, when he struggled home 15th in New York's Healthy Kidney 10k in 30:15. He says his foot is good to go now, though.

Abdi Abdirahman
"The Black Cactus" is running in his fourth Olympics, but this is his first Games as a marathoner. It's hard to tell exactly what to expect out of him, as the Olympic Trials appears to be his only race in 2012.

The Others

Canada: While not having much chance at a medal, Canada sends its fastest team ever -- and their first men's runners at all since 2000. Dylan Wykes set his PR earlier this year in Rotterdam, running 2:10:47, which makes him the second-fastest Canadian of all time. Third-fastest of all time is Reid Coolsaet, who hit 2:10:54 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon last October. Eric Gillis, #7 on the all-time Canadian list, hit his 2:11:27 in that same race. Among the goals they're shooting for is Jerome Drayton's national record of 2:10:08, the oldest Canadian record on the books.

Great Britain: The home team will field two runners. Former Butler Bulldog Scott Overall set his PR of 2:10:55 at the Berlin Marathon last fall and took seventh at March's New York City Half Marathon (1:01:25). Teammate Lee Merrien, who was placed on the team only after a Facebook campaign was mounted, was the top British finisher at this year's London Marathon in a PR of 2:13:41.

Eritrea: The East African nation that forcibly separated itself from Ethiopia some years ago brings a trio of 2:07 runners. Yared Asmerom ran second at last year's Chunchon Marathon in a PR of 2:07:27. Yonas Kifle has a PR that dates from 2007, but he ran 2:08:51 for eighth at this year's Seoul Marathon. Samuel Tsegay is fairly new to the marathon, with a 2:07:26 for eighth at last October's Amsterdam Marathon.

Japan: The Japanese are traditionally strong in the marathon, and they bring a cult hero in Arata Fujiwara. Fujiwara bucks the Japanese system by not belonging to a running club or corporate team and coaching himself. He took second at this year's Tokyo Marathon in 2:07:48, which puts him seventh-best in Japanese history. Their other two entrants are Kentaro Nakamoto, Fujiwara's former college rommate, who brings a 2:08:53 PR set this year at the Lake Biwa race, and Ryo Yamamoto, whose PR of 2:08:44 was set in the same race while catching Nakamoto from behind.

Uganda: Stephen Kiprotich is new to the marathon, having only taken it up in 2011. He ran 2:07:20 at Enschede last year for a win and a course record--a race where he was supposed to be a pacemaker, but decided not to drop out and ended up breaking the Ugandan national record.

Brazil: Marílson dos Santos is long in the tooth for a marathoner but quite accomplished, winning the New York City Marathon in 2006 and 2008. As recently as last year he hit 2:06:34 at the London Marathon, and ran 2:08:03 for eighth at this year's London race.

Morocco: Abderrahime Bouramdane was fourth at last year's World Championships marathon and took 11th at this year's London Marathon (2:10:13). Rachid Kisri has a 2:06:48 PR but hasn't been near that form in three years.
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