Sunday, November 7, 2010

NYC Marathon: Final pre-race thoughts

By Larry Rawson, Special to Universal Sport

Another spectacular day of racing should unfold for the 2010 ING NYC marathon. Ninety-one elite men and women marathoners have been invited to compete in their respective races.

Temperatures at the start of the race should be 40 to 42 degrees, rising to nearly 50 degrees, under partly sunny skies. There is a chance of a moderate head wind for most of the first 18 miles. On the day before the race in New York City, with similar weather, there was no wind at all.

$800,000 in prize money plus $200,000 in time bonuses are at stake during the race.

This race will also be the US National marathon championships for women. $40,000 goes to that winner, with prize money down to 15th place. ($1,000).

Here are some key points about the background and preparation of some of the top women and men in the marathon.


Kenya's Mary Keitany certainly deserves watching . She has been training with former Boston marathon champion Salina Kosgei and - of the two of them - she is the one in better shape.

Remember, in both the Boston and ING NYC marathons there are no rabbits, so if the pace develops as it did last year (1:14 at the half) then the race will favor the kickers. In the half marathon, on a course that is not downhill, Keitany is the second fastest woman of all time, having run 66:34.

One other kicker to be particularly aware of is Russia's Inga Abitovia. She possesses outstanding track speed, having run the 10K in 30:31. And six months ago, she finished second in the London Marathon at 2:22:19. By all accounts, her training has continued to go well.

The great Derartu Tulu, the 38 year old defending champion, is back for another go at this challenging course. The feeling is that she is in shape for another 2:28 performance. But the big question is whether that will be good enough.

New Zealander Kim Smith seems poised to take a run at her lifetime best, which she achieved in London earlier this year. While this 2:25:21 time was on the flatter English course, she feels that she is more fit now than she was six months ago.

Last but not least, American Shalane Flanagan is realizing a dream that she has had since she was a child. The 29 year old -- whose mother Cheryl had the world's best marathon time in her day, at 2:49 -- has had a solid build up to her first race at this distance. All of her lead-up races, from 1500 meters (4:06:44) to a September half-marathon (1:08:37), have gone very well.

She has been healthy but it is extremely difficult to win a World Marathon Major in a debut at the marathon distance. (For examples, Kara Goucher, Dena Kastor and Marla Runyon all had excellent debuts in New York, running between 2:25+ to 2:27+ and placing between third and seventh.) Shalane will get great support on the race course.


In last year's men's race, 6 of the top 10 finishers were Americans. That is the deepest American finish since 1976!

This year, in speaking with the athletes and their coaches, I believe that there are 9 men who have the potential to be winner. The field is that deep in talent. Here are some highlights about some of them.

Marilison Gomes dos Santos from Brazil, a 2-time champion in New York, says that he is prepared and ready to roll. He cannot be discounted.

2009 world champion in the marathon, Kenya's Abel Kirui seems to be the one who is the most relaxed and happy, among the elite men. He seems genuinely excited at the prospect of facing Haile and believes that he is in great shape. On three occasions, Abel has been a rabbit in Haile's world record attempts. In another race, he lost to "The Emperor" by about 1:30 minutes.

Preparing for this race, Haile Gebrselassie turned all of his business interests over to his wife or business associates for the last 2 months of his preparation - something he has never done before. He is aware that his major victories have come on flat courses with pacemakers. He will have neither at this race. He comes to New York with one or two minor leg issues.

Two Americans could definitely be podium-players. In talking with Dathan Ritzenhein and his coach Alberto Salazar, it would appear that Ritz is in the shape of his life. His 20-mile runs have been terrific and his interval training sessions of 10 x 1 mile in 4:32, with a 2-minute rest, done at 5,000 feet of elevation in Albuquerque are impressive.

Defending champion Meb Keflezighi's new book, called Run to Overcome, hit the bookstores yesterday, and he would like nothing better than to overcome this extraordinarily deep field. Four of the seven top marathoners ranked in the world last year are in this race. Meb feels that he is in as good shape as he was last year, but can that be fast enough to hold off the likes of Kirui and Haile?

Stay tuned, and enjoy the race!