On May 1, the Wall Street Journal had an article titled Boston Marathon Mystery: Why Didn’t Anyone Beat Meb?
In the article, the WSJ entertained the possibility of some type of conspiracy that allowed an American to win. In support of this theory, which the article concedes is a minority viewpoint, the WSJ cited a Letsrun.com message board thread and a blogger. Wow. That’s some pretty solid evidence.
Here’s why there was no conspiracy:
1) 2:08:36 (4:54/mile) is a solid winning time. It’s not a solid time for an American. It’s not a solid time in a slow race. It’s a solid time – period. The article compares Meb’s winning time to the 2011 winning time, which is absurd, as the tailwinds in 2011 were significant and temperature that year was a non-issue.
2) Meb ran negative splits – his second half was several seconds faster than his first half. If he was slowing down and the field slowed behind him, that would have been curious. However, it wasn’t the case. Meb was continuing to run away from the field despite the heat and hills.
3) Meb was 38 on race-day. As Andrey Baranov, Vitaliy Shafar’s agent, pointed out, “They just underestimated Meb.” Perhaps this was for good reason. Not only was Meb’s age a consideration, but his most recent marathon did not go well. Why would the elite field have gone with Meb early if they didn’t consider him a serious threat?
4) Wilson Chebet was closing hard. To suggest he tanked the race is absurd – he closed a substantial distance on Meb while Meb was getting faster. He was going to run out of steam at some point because of the large gap he closed in a relatively short period. Suggesting he intentionally slowed down is ridiculous.
5) Strategy – this is the big one for Meb. For some reason, it’s highly underappreciated by running commentators. Some runners use it – Gebrselassie, Priscah Jeptoo, Bekele… others don’t – Paula Radcliffe and Ryan Hall come to mind… It doesn’t mean they aren’t fast – Radcliffe is the greatest female runner ever – it just means they approach races differently. With that being said, Meb may be the greatest strategist of this generation of runners. He’s consistently shown the ability to beat (so-called) faster runners and win big races.
6) Beating the “Astronomical Odds” – Raymond Britt states in the article, “That so many faster runners would all fall apart on the same day just doesn’t make sense.” And yet, things that defy logic happen all the time in sports. The Giants beat the then undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. Boise State took down Oklahoma. Rulon Gardner defeated Alexander Kerelin. NC State beat Houston. Upset beat Man o’ War. Appalachian State defeated Michigan. The Jets beat the Colts. Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson. The U.S. beat the Soviet Union in hockey in 1980. Astronomical odds for Meb? I don’t think so. He doesn’t deserve to have his performance discounted like that. Let’s just say, stranger things have happened.