Lel, a five-time world marathon major champion, including two victories in New York the only two times he’s run New York (2003 and 2007), will be racing a marathon for just the third time since 2008 as injuries have really set him back in recent years. In both of those races, London 2011 and 2012, Lel ran well as he was the runner-up.
A strong performance by the 35-year old Lel should be expected as when Lel races, he 100 percent of the time comes up with a big performance.
Lel’s last 11 marathons have all been majors. In those 11, he’s won five, finished second three times, third two times and fifth once.
Lel, himself, said his training has gone well but wouldn’t make a prediction as he said, “I can’t predict but I will try my best.”
Expecting a strong showing is reasonable, but in talking to Lel, we believe that the veteran might even privately admit to himself that he needs a little help from the others to emerge with the victory.
The world of marathon is certainly much more competitive than it was when Lel first won New York in 2003.
In 2003, Kenya’s Paul Tergat set the world record of 2:04:55 in Berlin and the 10th fastest time that year was 2:06:48.
In 2013, nine guys have run faster than 2:04:55 and the 10th fastest time on the year is 2:05:16.
“For now, I can’t say (if I’ll get the win again in New York). During that time, it was quite different and now there is a lot of young talent coming up. I will try to race them but it is not easy like some years ago,” said Lel.
How great of a line is that? Lel said it was “easy” years ago to win a major.
The “Third Time Is A Charm” isn’t a saying in Kenya but Lel isn’t averse to getting some luck
We asked Lel if “the third time is a charm” is a saying in Kenya and if he thought it would be the case for him in his third take on New York on Sunday.
Lel said that wasn’t a saying in his homeland, but he did believe in luck and hoped it came to him.
Asked with all of the injuries if he ever thought about quitting, Lel said he did not but did admit he had to change things up to get healthy once again.
“I never lose confidence in myself,” said Lel. “I think at times I was over-training and I exhausted my body and the body was so fragile. Now I’m approaching things with a different angle but the final answer is the same shape like always.”
It’s worth pointing out that Lel, who in the past at times has worked with Claudio Beradelli, is self coached now.
We asked Lel if he was nervous about the fact he’s had no prep races leading up to New York (his only race of 2013 was a 64:02 half-marathon in New Orleans in February).
“Last time (in 2012), when I went to London. I did the same. I never went for any road races and I managed to come up with a good performance. I believe and trust in myself that I’ll perform very well here,” said Lel.
When asked about being 35, Lel dismissed concerns that he was too old.
“Age is the mind. Whenever you are strong in the mind, age doesn’t matter, especially when you see my colleague Haile (Gebrselassie). He is very old but his mind is dedicated to sport,” said Lel.
Lel trains at times with fellow New York competitor Stanley Biwott. Biwott is a 27-year old with a 2:05:12 PB who had the lead late in London this year.
“I think Stanley is in good shape. The only thing is the marathon is the marathon and you cannot predict (what will happen). At times , you can be 100% and (still) anything can happen in the marathon.”
“He is very young and has the potential of winning.”