NAIROBI, Kenya, October 18- Emmanuel Mutai, 29, has the extraordinary record of finishing second at major marathons on seven separate occasions in five years, the latest being last Sunday at the Chicago Marathon.
The Kenyan marathon ace is back at his home in Eldoret still wondering how he ran to a huge 2:03:52 personal best but he was once again led to the altar by compatriot Dennis Kimetto who blasted to a 2:03:45 course record.
“I don’t know what I did to number two,” the London marathon course record holder (2:04:10) said Thursday with a wistful chuckle.
“In fact, I want to conduct a research on how I always end up second even when I’m so prepared like last Sunday. Of course, it is not a bad position but the missed chances leave you wondering what is wrong,” he laughed but you could tell deep inside, the curious jinx clouds his otherwise excellent career as a top marathoner.
Although he has finished down the finishing order on numerous occasions, including a 17th placing at last year’s Olympics in London, Mutai has gained a reputation in the top echelons of marathon running as the ‘eternal bridesmaid’ a tag he has struggled to shed.
His amazing sequence of silver linings started at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin where in 2:07:48, he finished behind compatriot Abel Kirui in what remains the fastest losing time in the history of the biennial event.
The following April, Mutai was second behind the late Samuel Wanjiru in London with 2:06:23 on the clock and later on that year, he was once again beaten to the tape by Ethiopia’s Tsegay Kebede in New York.
In 2011, Mutai finally caught the bouquet in London, setting the 2:04:10 course record and again in New York, he was beaten by countryman and namesake Geoffrey Mutai to the gold.
However, his second finish in 2:06:28 was enough to confirm him the World Marathon Majors winner for 2010/11 as he collected the $500,000 jackpot.
Last year was a lean period for the star that finished seventh in London as 17th at the Olympics as he fought to shake off a nagging foot injury.
In April, he was well on course to reclaim the London title and possibly attack his course record after taking off early unchallenged but once again, Kebede attacked from behind over the last seven kilometres to overtake the tiring Kenyan for the glory as Mutai settled for his role in 2:08:01.
Then last Sunday, Mutai went to history books but not in the fashion he would have wished by losing a race he became only the fourth man besides record holder Wilson Kipsang (2:03:23/2:03:42), Patrick Makau (2:03:38), Kimetto and Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrsellasie (2:03:59) to break the 2:04 barrier.
His 2:03:52 is the fastest ever losing time in a course eligible for a world record.
“I had not trained as hard as I usually do for Chicago. I was probably in 2:04:20 shape but when we got there, the weather was perfect and the pace makers did a good job even though they did not cover the agreed distance,” he said.
“During the race, we realised we could go faster so we pushed the pace and I’m pleased I was able to run such a big personal best. With harder training, I know I can do better in future races and that is my focus,” he added.
Mutai also disclosed that the assembled field was wary of the 2011 Chicago champion, Moses Mosop, who was returning to competition having missed out for over a year.
“We all though that Mosop would be fresh and we were watching to see how fast he could go since he can run fast. Later, we saw he was not in the kind of shape he was in two years ago so Dennis and I went for it.”
Mosop has clocked 2:03:06 at the 2011 Boston Marathon for second in what could have been officially the fastest losing time in the ultimate distance race had the event’s course be eligible for world record consideration.
On why Kenyans, three who are in the top four all time list have set the bar in the 26.1 Mile race so high, Mutai explained that the country’s runners had ditched the supposed method to run the event that dictate loosely that the first half of a marathon should be quicker than the latter half.
“We have learned how to train harder and in our own programmes. When a foreigner gives you a training plan, it is according to how they see you can perform but that is not the case since we are different,” he added.