5 reasons why Tsegay Kebede will win the London Marathon on April 17th…
1. He won last year
Kebede produced an excellent performance to win the race last year, improving on his second placing in 2009. He knows the course well and is a popular athlete who will have a lot of support on the streets of London. He isn’t afraid to push the pace and will take on anyone who fancies a race.
Prize money, pride and international acclaim aside, there is nothing that motivates an Ethiopian athlete quite like the idea of sticking it to the Kenyans. Gebrselassie loved beating Tergat. Defar and Dibaba love beating Masai and Cheruiyot. Imane Merga took great pleasure in brushing aside the whole Kenyan team at the recent world cross country, and as recently as last weekend, Dejen Gebremeskel couldn’t help but remind Eliud Kipchoge exactly who had crossed the finish line first at the Carlsbad 5k.
Kebede still holds the memory of some big defeats at the hands of Sammy Wanjiru, absent this year due to injury. This year the challenge from the southern neighbours comes courtesy of last year’s runner up Emmanuel Mutai, 3 time winner Martin Lel, world champion Abel Kirui and sub 2:05 man James Kwambai.
Tsegay Kebede has run 9 major marathons in his career. The slowest of these was run in 2:10:00 and this was in the Olympic Games in Beijing. He has only finished outside the top 3 once and this was on his debut. He has a personal best of 2:05:18 and has finished within seconds of this time on other occasions. Throw in a few 2:06s and World and Olympic medals and you have the most consistent marathon racer around. The phrase ‘bad race’ is not in this man’s vocabulary.
4. The Course
Kebede runs his best races on flat courses. London fits that bill well. Although London is regarded by the elites as a twisty course, it generally produces quick times. Dave Bedford will have assembled a high quality team of pacemakers to make sure the pace stays high and that wheat and chaff are well and truly sorted. Not that our man will need them though. He is more than happy to take up the running and push the pace out of reach of weaker athletes.
5. World Championships
Assuming this summer’s world championships in South Korea are part of Kebede’s race plans, he will want to put down a marker to show the world he is the man to beat, as well as making sure he is the first name on the Ethiopian squad list. The marathon here will form part of the World Marathon Majors for 2010/2011, a title the Kebede is known to covet, particularly having lost so narrowly to Wanjiru at Chicago in October.
…and one reason he won’t:
1. Patrick Makau will.
Don’t ask why. It’s just a hunch.