Thursday, April 10, 2008

The most competitive marathon of the year, at least for men, takes place on Sunday in London. As with many other things, prognostication and gambling make it more interesting, so here are the odds, with the latest odds from Bet365 below:

Martin Lel 3.75
Sammy Wanjiru 4.50
Felix Limo 7.00
Emmanuel Mutai 7.50
Ryan Hall 9.00
Adderahim Goumri 11.00
Paul Tergat 13.00
Hendrick Ramaala 15.00
Luke Kibet 17.00
Yonas Kifle 17.00
Jaouad Gharib 19.00
Steffano Baldini 34.00
Tomas Abyu 81.00
Dan Robinson 151.00

Let's tackle these. Lel (15-4) has to be the heavy favourite as the defending champion, and adding a win in New York as well. At the same time, you'd have to be nuts picking someone to win a third straight marathon given how unpredictable these things are.

Wanjiru (9-2) is the world record-holder in the half marathon and ran a 2:06 to debut at Fukuoka, so he has to be the top challenger.

Limo (7-1) in third place is iffy. He won London two years ago along with Chicago, but he was injured last year.

Mutai (15-2) has a 2:06 to his name, second-fastest in the world last year, but he's an unknown.

Ryan Hall (9-1) was only 7th here last year, but he's a white American, which must count for something.

Abderrahim Goumri (11-1) deserves to be placed a lot higher, not only for holding the Moroccan debut record, but also narrowly finished second to Lel at London and New York.

Tergat (13-1) and Ramaala (15-1) are way too old at 38 and 36, with two many marathons in their legs, to be given serious consideration.

Kifle and Kibet, the reigning world champion, are interesting at 17-1. If you were going to hope to make a lot of money betting on this race, you'd bet on these two, or maybe Goumri. Kifle ran 2:07 last fall in his debut, which is the Eritrean-born record, as well as the Eritrean debut record and the Eritrean record (see how easy it is to make up nonsensical accolades?).

Gharib is a good bet to finish higher-up, but not win. He narrowly lost in Chicago last fall, and the finish was the craziest thing to happen on that very crazy day. It's funny that the guy who came closer than all but two of these guys to winning a major marathon last year, and has two world titles, gets 19-1 odds.

Logically, Wanjiru, Lel and Goumri figure to be the main contenders. Of course, marathons being what they are, someone might go for Gatorade when the others surge and miss the party. Outside chances have to go to Limo, Mutai, Hall and Kifle. I predict Wanjiru to win in 2:06:00, give or take 30 seconds. If I was a betting man, I'd put £100 on Kibet to somehow pull this out and win a neat sum. That's how meaningful marathon predictions are.

Finally, if you're odd enough to understand even half of this post, you clearly need to get up at 4:45 am ET on Sunday to watch this.

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