CHICAGO – Wesley Korir, the 2012 Boston Marathon champion, is very used to public speaking and voicing the opinion of many people as he also serves as a member of Kenyan Parliament. Korir has been very vocal about criminalizing doping offenders over the past year. When asked about the state of Kenyan doping, he tied in the fact that the Chicago Marathon’s elimination of pacer will help alleviate the pressure to chase fast times, which can sometimes lead to the temptation of doping.
“What is happening right now is a very good step to curing the problem of doping, especially when we move away from thinking about time,” Korir said. “From my honest opinion and from what I see in Kenya as an athlete and leader, the issue of time and the under-two-hour marathon – that is the problem right there.When you put that pressure on an athlete, running 2:03, running 2:02, running 2:01, it is super human. We have very few super humans that can run that time.”
Korir believes that setting lofty aspirations such as the world record or first sub-two hour marathon will push the youth of the sport to take whatever means illegal or legal to get there.
“When you have a kid that is just starting to race and their mind is telling them that for you to make it and become successful as a runner you have to run those times, you’re pushing them to go overboard,” Korir said. “You’re pushing them to something that is not acceptable. We need to go back to the past. We need to go back to the sport that we all love of competition and giving everyone an equal opportunity to win and become successful in this sport.”
Korir’s comments were met by a round of applause by other race organizers and guests of the Chicago Marathon.
Here are other notes from Friday’s press conferences:
The women could run faster
Race favorite Sammy Kitwara, who finished second in last year’s race behind Eliud Kipchoge, provided light-hearted commentary on the subject of pacers. Kitwara is fine racing without pacers as long as he does not serve as a windshield for the rest of the field.
“As long as these other guys don’t say ‘Kitwara, go to the front from the start to 42 kilometers’ that will make not make sense,” Kitwara joked. “Or else we will run like 2:15 or 2:30. Maybe Florence Kiplagat] will pass us. It’s a matter of assisting each other. You take three kilometers then you take three kilometers.”
Kitwara also noted that if the runners cooperate with leading duties, they could try and challenge the world leading time of 2:04:01 set by Eliud Kipchoge at the Berlin Marathon last month.
At last year’s press conference, Kitwara predicted that he would run 2:04:28. He finished with that exact time. This year, he has decided not to throw out a specific time goal.
“I predict winning,” Kitwara said with a smile. “I can’t predict a time.”
Kenya’s Olympic selection remains a mess
The United States selects its Olympic marathon team by taking the top three finishers from the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials race set for Feb. 13 in Los Angeles. Kenya’s athletics federation has not adopted as clear cut of a system for its national team.
For this summer’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing, Athletics Kenya decided to send 2014 New York City Marathon champion Wilson Kipsang, world record holder Dennis Kimetto and Mark. Korir was the lone finisher in place as Kimetto and Kipsang dropped out of the race.
“Kenya is a tricky country,” Kitwara said. “I think they will look at Boston, London, Rotterdam and Tokyo. This [race] I don’t think so.”
Korir found himself in agreement with his compatriot before pointing out a flaw that could have put him on the 2012 Olympic team.
“For the last Olympics, they used to choose from Boston,” Korir said. “If you win Boston, you’ll go to the Olympics. I won Boston and I never went to the Olympics.”
The public’s guess as to who will be wearing the Kenyan kit in Rio de Janeiro is just as good as the athletes’ guesses.
Fernando Cabada has no time goal
Fernando Cabada enters his final marathon before the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in February. He told reporters that he is in the best shape of his life but refused to state a time goal for Sunday’s race. He felt ready for a breakout performance in April’s Boston Marathon before finishing in 25th place with a 2:22 performance.
“I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot,” Cabada said. “I want to give myself a chance to run a good race. I definitely want to put myself in a position to run the fastest I’ve ever ran, so under 2:11:36.”
Cabada finished seventh at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Since then, he has lowered his half-marathon personal best to 62:00 and become well seasoned at the 26.2 mile distance. Chicago will be his 10th career marathon.
Sarah Crouch is running for more than herself
Last year, Sarah Crouch ran a personal best of 2:32:44 for a sixth place finish. Crouch, 26, would be among the first to note it was not the perfect race and returns to Chicago looking to rectify her mistakes and potentially run a faster time.
Crouch’s chances of making the U.S. Olympic team next February are not astonishing and has always targeted 2020 as a better option. Her perspective on time changed just a few weeks ago when former training partner Cameron Bean was killed by a car while running at night.
“I realized I don’t have time,” Crouch said. “Time is an illusion. I have now. I think I owe it to myself, ZAP Fitness, Reebok and Cameron to leave every ounce of my God-given ability on that course in LA with every intention of making the team. It might not be probable, but if it’s possible I’ll do it.”
Benoit Samuelson’s race hanging in the balance
Joan Benoit Samuelson said that she will be a game-time decision on whether she will run Sunday’s race after coming down with a stomach virus.
“My heart is telling me go, but my gut is telling me no,” Samuelson said.