Meb Keflezighi in New York after his first marathon victory (Getty Images) © Copyright
The ING New York City Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Patience pays off for Keflezighi
Keflezighi, previously second in 2004 and third in 2005 in this race, ran a canny race to finally deliver on a decade-long effort to bring American champions back to New York.
Running strong with the pack through the early miles, Keflezighi ignored a strength-wasting move led by Hendrick Ramaala on First Avenue. When a pack of ten regrouped for the Bronx section of the race, Keflezighi was in place to cover the move made by James Kwambai which pared the pack down to four.
Heading south into Manhattan, first Gharib and then Kwambai fell off the pace, with Kwambai's training partner, four-time Boston Marathon champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, the last remaining rival. Kwambai would eventually drop out, struggling with dehydration issues.
Keflezighi took the lead for the first time when he broke away from Cheruiyot as the pair entered Central Park from 5th Avenue at 90th Street.
"I beat [Cheruiyot] in 2005 here [in New York]," said Keflezighi. With 2 miles to go, I gave a push, and he let me go. I just kept expanding the lead."
Cheruiyot cross the line in 2:09:56 with Moroccan Jaouad Gharib third in 2:10:25.
Victory caps notable comeback
Keflezighi's victory also represented the U.S. marathon championship, as that race was run concurrently with the ING New York City Marathon. It was Keflezighi's first ever marathon victory, and capped a comeback year in which the Athens medallist won national championships at the half-marathon and 7-mile distances on the road, as well as the national cross country championships.
Keflezghi ran a PB 2:09:21 at the London Marathon in April, then chipped another six seconds off that PB here today in New York.
Keflezghi lost most of his 2008 season struggling with injuries which had also kept him off the U.S. Olympic team in the marathon, denying him the ability to defend his Olympic silver medal.
As in 2007, when the U.S. Olympic Trials - Men's Marathon finished in the same spot in Central Park, Keflezeghi wept after crossing the finish line. In 2007, it was grief when he learned of the death of his training partner Ryan Shay earlier in the race. Today, Keflezighi said, "I had dreamed of winning both [races]. The memory of Ryan Shay was what I cried for. It was one [win] for him and one for me."
"To be able to win this race is very, very special to me."
Keflezighi was the first American winner in New York since Alberto Salazar in 1982. Starting in 2001, when the race also hosted the USA championships, and continuing through the Trials in 2007, the host New York Road Runners have been part of a movement to develop American marathoners capable of challenging for the win here. Keflezighi was followed in fourth place by Ryan Hall (2:10:36) as six American men finished in the top 10.
Tulu another comeback
Derartu Tulu was the younger in a duel of experienced veterans through Central Park, as 2000 champion Ludmila Petrova of Russia, 41, made the move which dropped first three-time New York champion Paula Radcliffe, then newcomer Christelle Daunay of France. The apparently ageless Petrova set a world best for masters (2:25:43) in finishing second here in 2008.
Tulu broke away from Petrova as the pair turned on to Central Park South, and opened a gap which expanded to eight seconds at the finish line (2:28:52 to 2:29:00).
This was Tulu's first marathon victory since 2001, when she won the Flora London Marathon. She had previously finished third here in 2005.
Radcliffe's bluff called
Tulu's finish time in 2005 was nearly three and a half minutes faster, highlighting the way today's race shaped up for the women. Radcliffe was expected to set the early pace, after announcing that she considered the 2:22:31 course record to be possible. Instead, Radcliffe led the women through 15km in a pedestrian 52:38.
"I wasn't able to run the last two legs because I had a pain in my tendon," explained Radcliffe. "I had a jab [cortisone injection] in it, and I knew [the race] was going to be against my leg. I didn't want to say too much about it, because I didn't want people to know they could run away from me if it started to go."
The pack of potential contenders was thinned still more by an early tumble by 2009 Boston champion Salina Kosgei, which also resulted in a hard fall by Japan's Yuri Kano; Kano's face actually hit the pavement.
Kano was off the lead for the rest of the race, but finished ninth in 2:39:05. Kosgei hung on to the pack through the Bronx, finally finishing fifth in 2:31:53.
Radcliffe was next off the pack, though as the World record holder dropped back on Fifth Avenue Tulu looked back and beckoned her to rejoin the leaders. Radcliffe finished fourth in 2:29:27. The last athlete to be dropped by Tulu and Petrova was the smooth-striding Frenchwoman Christelle Daunay, who had looked like the strongest of the three. Daunay ran 2:29:16 for third.
"I did not come here necessarily expecting to win," said Tulu. "I did expect that I would be a strong competitor, and I'm very happy to have won."
1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson finished in 2:49:09; Olympic speed skater Dan Jansen ran 3:41:43.
Parker Morse for the IAAF