It’s a big ask to follow up the success and highlights of the 2012 London Olympics, but someone has to do it and Moscow outbid Barcelona and Brisbane for the opportunity. So what does it have in st ore from a marathon perspective? Well let’s just say the vibe so far isn’t exactly great…
We’ll begin with one thing we know – the course. The route will start and finish in the centrepiece of the championships, the Luzhniki Stadium, with the first 600m and final 300m run on the track at the stadium. The distance in between is run through central Moscow, along the banks of the Moskva River. It is essentially four laps from Luzhniki Stadium up to the Kremlin and back, although the first lap is shorter with a turn at 6.25km while the other three laps are 10km each (5km each way). A course map is pictured below.
While that may sound picturesque, the course has received some criticism with former Kenyan Olympian Kipchoge Keino describing the course to marathon commentator Toni Reavis as ‘a glorified time trial’. Keino goes on to say a ‘5K up and down the Moscow River six times, and this is the best you can do for the sport? There are no real hills or turns to use to try to escape the competition. They just compress 42 kilometers into a four mile area so they can pack the crowds and make them look big’.
The timing of the event has also raised eyebrows, with the women’s marathon starting at 2pm local time and the men’s event at 3.30pm. The current long range forecast has the temperature for the two races sitting at 31C/88F and 30C/86F. By starting at this time it is likely the races will be at the hottest parts of the day. This is certainly going to take a toll on the runners. It has been speculated that the reason for the time is to satisfy the Japanese TV rights holders whose sole interest in the event is the two marathon races.
In terms of actual athletes who are running, there are a number of big names missing in both events. Although we are still awaiting a complete list of entrants for the two events, the short priced men’s favourite in my eyes would have to be a battle out of Olympic gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich and London 2013 winner, Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede (2:04:38), however Ethiopia has three other runners also with PB’s under 2:05. The Kenyans are led by Bernard Koech (2:04:53) who has run the fastest half-marathon in the world this year, and teamed up with Michael Kipyego, Bernard Kipyego, Nichola Kipkemboi, and my favourite of the Kenyans, Paris Marathon winner Peter Some.
The Kenyans have stated that they will need to run as a team and have a very tactical race if they are to challenge the Ethipioans and retain the title won by Abel Kirui in 2011.
On the women’s side it is again the Ethiopians that look strongest, led by Boston marathon winner Lelisa Desisa, although defending champion, Kenyan Edna Kiplagat is racing and will be in the mix to defend her title.
Given the headline news major marathons have had lately with Boston and New York, I think we all just want the racing to start and let a new legend of the sport emerge.
Who is your pick for the word titles?