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Friday, April 18, 2008

London Marathon 2008: Lel wants the WR

Two-time champion Martin Lel confident he can break the record

In the aftermath of a truly legendary men's race in London, Lel made public his confidence that he can break Haile Gebrselassie's record of 2:04:26 set in Berlin last year. At which race he attempts the record will be up to his manager, “but this victory has given me confidence that I can break the world record," said Lel the day after the race.

If Lel were to go on to break the record, it would mark the peak of a relatively long climb to the top of the marathon world. He debuted in 2002 at the Venice Marathon, where he placed second in a (now unimpressive) 2:10:02 while losing to David Makori (KEN). In fact Lel was apparently drubbed by Makori, finishing a distant 1:33 behind him. Seems his incredible finishing power is something he has developed over the past six years, then. Let's take a quick look back on Lel's earlier performances.

The road to the world record - so far. . .

Lel went on to place third in Boston 2003, again quite far off the pace as he cruised in with a 2:11:11 and was one minute behind winner Robert Cheruiyot. In his next race, however, Lel clinched his first big city marathon victory when he won in New York 2003 with a time of 2:10:30. In that race he turned the tables and finished 41 s clear of Rogers Rop. From there Lel apparently never looked back, going on to become a noteworthy racer, not necessarily known for super fast times but for winning time and again in big races:

  • 2003 IAAF Half-marathon champion (60:49)
  • 4th in Boston 2004 (2:13:38)
  • 2004 Atlanta Peachtree 10 km champion (28:02)
  • 2005 London champion (2:07:26)
  • 2006 Peachtree champion (27:24)
  • 2nd in London 2006 (2:06:41)
  • 2007 Great North Run champion (60:10) (NB: Sammy Wanjiru was 2nd)
  • 2007 London champion (2:07:41)
  • 2007 NYC champion (2:09:04)
Having completed his ninth marathon last weekend, and setting a 90 s PB by while at it, Lel says he now has the confidence to claim the record back for Kenya. Should he do it, it would be remarkable not just because he would break 2:04:26 for 42.2 km, but because surely it will come in his 11th marathon, assuming he competes in Beijing this summer. Paul Tergat ran five marathons before breaking Khalid Khannouchi's record while Gebrselassie broke Tergat's record in his seventh marathon.

If Lel continues to show the remarkable form he has in the past 12 months, we do not doubt he can break the record. It seems he has gone from strength to strength over the past 5.5 years, and the confidence boost from the racing this past weekend might be just the stimulus he needs to push on to the next level. He turns 30 later this year, and so in spite of having raced nine marathons already apparently still has the legs to make it happen.

Beijing 2008 - Will Lel race?

Athletics Kenya will announce their choices for their marathon team next month, although apparently Lel has been given the by officials. Lel is keen, stating after this race he is "confident now that I have a chance in Beijing" of finishing in the medals. Perhaps next year, then will we see Lel challenge for the record in London or Berlin? You can be sure that we will be around to find out!

Boston is next on the racing calendar, where Chicago 2007 champion Patrick Ivuti takes on defending champion and seasoned veteran Robert Cheruiyot. Join us for the full preview and then for all the results and analyis!