Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang emerged as Men’s 2013-2014 WMM series champion with his first place finish in New York City on Sunday, November 02, 2014. In a close finish, Kipsang ended just one point above compatriot and world record holder Dennis Kimetto. WMM or World Marathon Majors comprise of six most renowned annual marathons in the world: Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City. The winner of WMM series has to elicit a sustained performance over a two-year period in the face of a tough qualifying criterion. In that respect, Kipsang’s win is highly creditable. However, a pall of gloom hung at New York because Rita Jeptoo failed a dope test and women’s WMM winner couldn’t be announced immediately.
The WMM Series began in 2006 in a championship-style competitive event. Until Tokyo joined in 2013, WMM series was limited to 5 cities. But WMM also extends to marathons in biennial IAAF World Championships and quadrennial Olympic Games for the purpose of deciding the WMM champion. In the years, when Olympics or IAAF events are not scheduled, champions are rated on their performances in the Big Six. WMM Series spans over a two-year cycle because marathoners cannot be expected to run too often. The qualification benchmark requires athletes’ participations in at least two competitions per year. Out of 12 events held over two years, athletes can plan their participations accordingly. But regardless of the two-year cycle, $1 million prize purse is awarded annually and split equally between man and woman champions. Every Qualifying Race overlaps with two WMM Series. For example, 2012 Olympic Marathon served as a qualifying race for both 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 WMM Series and points earned by an athlete were counted towards his/her score in both Series. Top five runners in each race can earn 25 points for first place; 15 for second place, 10 for third, 5 for fourth and 1 point for the fifth place. WMM Series champion will be the man and woman, whose total points are highest at the end of the season. For every athlete, the four best finishes are counted over the two-year period, even if he/she has participated in more than four events. The City Marathon organizers are committed to popularizing the sport and enhancing the level of interest in elite racing among running enthusiasts. Of the six cities, New York Marathon has the longest 45 year-old history, while Tokyo is the youngest with its inaugural year being 2007.
This year’s first marathon was held in Tokyo on February 23, 2014. Among men, Kenya’s Dickson Chumba won Tokyo in 2:05:42. Tokyo’s top woman finisher in 2014 was Ethiopia’s Tirfi Tsegaye in 2:22:23. Kimetto with 50 points led the men’s field after Tokyo, while two Kenyan women; Priscah Jeptoo and Rita Jeptoo shared the top spot with 50 points each. Incidentally, Kipsang was 5th after Tokyo with 26 points. WMM’s last races of 2013-14 and first of 2014-15 were held in London on 13th April, Boston on 21st April, Berlin 28th September, Chicago 12th October and New York 2nd November.
Wilson Kipsang had also won the Virgin Money London Marathon, setting a new course record of 2:04:29. Edna Kiplagat was the winner for women in 2:20:21 and took her tally to 65 points at the end of London, overtaking Priscah Jeptoo and Rita Jeptoo. London was followed by the Boston marathon, where the men’s field was topped by USA’s Meb Keflezighi in 2:08:37 with Markos Geneti a little behind. Kenyan Rita Jeptoo was first in women’s field and improved her leaderboard count to 75 points. On top of the men’s leaderboard was Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede with 55 points with Kipsang and Kimetto at 51 and 50 points respectively.
The WMM Series resumed after fall with BMW Berlin Marathon on September 28 that saw men’s world record smashed by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto, who clocked 2:02:57 and took his leadership board count to 75 points. The women’s race at Berlin did not influence the leadership board, where Kenyans Rita Jeptoo, 75 points and Edna Kiplagat, 65 points maintained the two top spots. The woman winner at Berlin, however, was the Ethiopian Tirfi Tsegaye, who clocked 2:20:18 and with 51 points, she followed Edna Kiplagat.
In Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Kenyans continued to dominate both men’s and women’s field. Eliud Kipchoge led the men’s 1-2-3 sweep and compatriot Rita Jeptoo won her fourth straight major marathon and looked like WMM women’s champion even though New York City marathon was yet to be run. Ethiopia’s second placed Mare Dibaba was the only non-Kenyan in the three top places for men and women at Chicago. Jeptoo hasn’t lost a major marathon since she finished second in a sprint to Ethiopia’s Atsede Baysa in the 2012 Chicago Marathon.
Last Sunday’s New-York City Marathon was the final WMM event of the year. Sponsored by India-based Tata Consultancy Services, New-York marathon attracted a huge field of world’s top professionals and recreational runners. The last mile decided the winners in men and women’s categories as Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Mary Keitany breasted the tapes. With his victory, Kipsang also secured the WMM title for men by overhauling world record holder and fellow compatriot Dennis Kimetto by one point.