Geoffrey Mutai ran 2:05:06 here on Sunday (6) morning to lead two other men under the ten-year-old course record at the 2011 ING New York City Marathon. Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia was the surprise winner of the women’s race in 2:23:15.
Mutai set a PB of 2:03:02 in winning this spring’s Boston Marathon. Boston’s historic course is ineligible for record certification, so Mutai arrived at this IAAF Gold Label Road Race hoping to prove to the world that his Boston mark was not a fluke of the conditions. He wound up taking an astounding two minute and 37 second bite out of Tesfaye Jifar’s 2001 clocking of 2:07:43.
Mutai took command shortly before the race left the Bronx, accelerating away from the pack and delivering the fastest splits of the race over the closing miles. He covered the ground between the 20- and 22-mile markers in just over nine minutes, demolishing the pack and leaving no openings for the competition. While the pack had been flirting with course record pace early, it was Mutai’s acceleration which made the finish time remarkable.
“What I know about the race is that I have been invited here to win or lose,” said Mutai afterward. “When I am running, I run with no fear. I was not expecting to win with that time. I am used to running that at the end of the race, but I was not waiting for it.”
After winning Boston and New York, two courses ordinarily considered slow, with an average time of 2:04:04, Mutai was asked about the World Record, particularly in light of his own PB. “I don’t think I can say I can break it,” Mutai responded. “Everyone can break it. If this was another course, maybe I would have done it today. If I get a chance to race like this on another course, maybe I can do it. But it depends.”
Geoffrey was followed to the finish by his countryman and namesake Emmanuel Mutai, the 2011 Virgin London Marathon champion, in 2:06:28, then the 2010 London winner, Tsegaye Kebede, in 2:07:14, both also under Jifar’s old record. The 2010 New York City Marathon winner and 2009 World Cross Country champion Gebre Gebremariam was fourth in 2:08:00.
The two Mutais concluded a revolutionary year in high-level marathoning in which the men’s course records at all five of the Majors were shattered. Kenyan men swept the top two places in all six marathons in this year’s Majors (the five city marathons and the World Championships).
By finishing second, Emmanuel claimed victory in the 2010-2011 World Marathon Majors series and the $500,000 prize which goes with it, not a bad consolation for second place.
“I’m happy with the results,” Emmanuel said. “I ran 2:06, under the course record today. That’s a lot of difference from last year. I’m happy with that. It was challenging.”
Keitany fades behind Dado
2011 Virgin London Marathon champion Mary Keitany set out in hot pursuit of the women’s course record, taking control in the second mile and building a gap of almost two and a half minutes before beginning to waver. Keitany’s 10km split would have taken second place at the NY Mini 10K last summer; her half-marathon split was 4:31 faster than Margaret Okayo’s split when she set the 2:22:31 record in 2003, and experts were projecting a 2:16 finish - if she could hang on.
With that ambitious start, Keitany’s gradual meltdown was equally impressive. Her pace sagged by almost 30 seconds per mile when she met the Queensborough Bridge into Manhattan, and never picked back. By mile 23 she had slowed to 6:03, and 24 was 6:20. Yet her lead was so great, it was not until the 25th mile that her principal pursuers, Bronx-based Buzunesh Deba and Firewihot Dado, overtook her.
Keitany gamely tried to respond, but it was Dado of Ethiopia who pulled away from both Deba and Keitany in the final mile for the win. Dado, three-time winner of the Rome Marathon, was running New York for the first time, while Deba was just a few miles from home. With Keitany, the London champion, and Boston champion Caroline Kilel in the field, Dado had been almost completely overlooked in the pre-race press.
Dado’s winning time of 2:23:15 was just four seconds ahead of Deba, the pair within a minute of the course record. They became the sixth- and seventh-fastest women in New York history. Keitany held on for third in 2:23:38. Portugal’s Ana Dulce Felix took fourth in 2:25:40, and New Zealand’s Kim Smith was fifth in 2:25:46, as she was in 2010.
“Because [Keitany had] been running so fast from the very beginning,” said Dado, “I didn’t imagine we’d catch her. When we did get closer and we saw her, I was very surprised. The early pace was a bit too fast, so it was harder [in the second half] and we couldn’t go so fast.”
Keitany was unapologetic about her aggressive pacing. “If I come next year, I would run the same. I would not change. It was OK at first, but I was feeling fatigue in my right leg. When I saw [Dado and Deba] passing me, I wanted to try to close the gap, but my leg was not allowing me to push. Maybe I was trying to run faster than 2:20, but I was not thinking of that time specifically.”
Dado’s four-second margin over Deba was the second-closest in New York City Marathon history.
Parker Morse for the IAAF