In the final kilometre, Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia surged past Mutai to win in 2:06:04 with compatriot Ayele Abshero finishing third behind the dispirited Kenyan who was left to rue what could have been.
And it was not over. In November, Mutai lined up for Chicago Marathon and ran the fastest he has ever completed the classic distance, a huge 2:03:52 lifetime best but once again, the monumental effort was only good enough for second.
Hip hop superstar, Nelly, once chorused in his hit #1, “Two is not a winner and three nobody remembers (hey)/what does it take to be number one?”
That must be a line replaying in Mutai’s head in his own terms on loop as he prepares for the April 13 London Marathon.
Despite the fact he is the course record holder (2:04:40) and has finished runner-up on two other occasions, Mutai, 29, is not the rank favourite at an event where he is facing two athletes who have ran faster than him in world record holder, Wilson Kipsang (2:03:24) and namesake Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02) and home favourite, Mo Farah, the marquee debutant among others.
“This time, the field is so hard and I need to prepare myself very well for the tough competition,” Mutai spoke of the elite line-up that also includes Tsegay, Olympics and world champion, Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda), Boston winner, Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia) and 2012 Paris titleholder, Stephen Biwott.
Pace making will be fronted by none other than former world record holder and Ethiopia’s distance running legend, Haile Gebrsellasie to boot.
“Last year, I made a mistake but I don’t say it was one. The preparation for that race was not good for me but my thought was to go and try my best. I really did my best and was very happy with what I did.
“This time, I know the field is so strong. So you have to apply skills there because everyone will be focusing on how the field is. Everybody there is so strong, the competition is tough so you have to use your skills and brains to tackle the race,” the 2011/12 World Marathon Majors jackpot winner underlined.
Mutai gave insight into how he was getting equipped to face such intense competition that can make even the best buckle under the weight of expectations.
“I’m going there to run my own race as far as the competition is concerned. When the field is so strong, everybody fears because you don’t know the shape of your opponents but at the end of the day, there must to be a winner.”
He concedes his 2:04:10 course record might not survive April 13 if conditions are perfect to encourage the gifted line-up to go out at full pelt, including himself.
“The course record may be broken this year if the pace goes smoothly. Sometimes, pace makers don’t reach the point they deserve to be and that is the problem with pacing London.
“Sometimes people are so crazy, the pace is crazy so I’m prepared for anything to be in that category that will be going for the win,” the 2011 winner declared.
Reflecting on trailing Dennis Kimetto (2:03:45) across the line in Chicago last fall as he became the fastest ever second finisher in a certified course, Mutai maintains again he was not at his best.
“I achieved my goal, I was not expecting to run a fast time because after London, my training did not go as well as I expected and I said let me go and try in Chicago. The weather was okay and also we did not run so fast because we crossed at 61:57.
“Our expectation was 61:50 to 61:52 but I ran faster in the second half and when I reached the mark of 2:03, I was happy although I came number two. What matters to me is time since I improved my personal best.”
“If my body responds well, it’s possible. I cannot say it will happen in London but after April, the results will determine what will be my plan for the fall.”
Mutai will run his seventh London Marathon and he is revving to make the milestone memorable having hoped to close his chapter at the World Marathon Majors flagship last year with victory.
“Even last year, I wanted to run for the last time but after doing well, they said I should come this year.
“Having been in London a few times, I’m aiming to do my best this year so that if I never return, I will have left some history there.”
Despite winning the 2011 London and 2007 Amsterdam marathons, Mutai is famed in the elite circuit as the eternal bridesmaid following an amazing sequence of seven silver position finishes at major events.
It 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 Tsegay in New York.
In 2011, Mutai finally caught the bouquet in London but in New York, he was again beaten to the tape by countryman and namesake G Mutai. 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.