Last Sunday morning November 3, 2013 mine was a Dickensian position, the best seat in town, the worst seat in town, riding aboard the broadcast wing of the lead men’s motorcycle giving commentary for ESPN2 coverage of the 43rd ING New York City Marathon on a raw, windblown day. From that isolated outpost I had an unobstructed view of the entire race.
With my trusty I-Phone in hand I captured the following pics between TV reports. So here is what the men’s race looked like up-close and personal.
Peter Kirui leads through a 5:27 opening mile from Staten Island to the crest of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Joining him is 2009 champion Meb Keflezighi and 2011 champion and course record holder Geoffrey Mutai as the large pack bounds through a 4:40 second mile down into Brooklyn. All the while the scourge of a north wind tears at their singlets at the left front shoulder, flags stiff from the northwest on the north running course. My moto driver Sean Ricci wore heated pants and jacket. Smart fellow.
Meb Keflezighi showing early form on Fourth Ave. in Brooklyn dead into the 15 mph wind…Meb didn’t come into New York in top form, having lost training to a partially torn calf muscle. Notwithstanding, he used what fitness he had to drive the pace and support the event, as he’s done now for the eighth time in his career… Remember, this is where he debuted in `02, ripping up First Avenue with Hendrik Ramaala of South Africa, only to come frozen to the line in ninth place at 2:12:35.
Geoffrey Mutai, Julius Arile & Meb on Lafayette Ave. in Brooklyn in mile 8 (39:43), 4:47 eighth mile, cruising to keep warm along the brick front gallery.
- At 11 miles 2013 New York Half Marathon runner up Daniel Meucci of Pisa, Italy ran ahead along Bedford Ave. His gap grew to as much as three-seconds, but it didn’t last last long.
Race favorite Geoffrey Mutai heads into Queens cutting against a stiff headwind in search of confederates. His lancing 4:48 14th mile over the Pulaski Bridge at half-way culled the herd by one-third, dispatching, among others, Meb and 2003 & 2007 champ Martin Lel, an under-appreciated all-time great, who at age 35 may have sung his final tune in New York.
Olympic & World Champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda beginning to feel effects of third marathon in six months, a first in his career, and it showed. His team are firm believers in the two-marathons-per-year model, but when you have a chance to win $500,000 you lace up and give it a whirl, hoping to find the magic… But after wins in the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World Championships Marathons, only the second man in history to hold both titles simultaneously — Gezahenge Abera of Ethiopia took gold in Sydney 2000 and Edmonton 2001 — maybe Stephen had cashed in those chips already.
2013 London Marathon champion Tsegay Kebede leads over Queensborough Bridge where the race always turns serious. 25K in 1:16:59 (15:18 last 5K). This is the eye of the storm before the thunder up First Ave., a brutal part of the route representing the second biggest climb on the course after the initial arc over the Verrazano Narrows at the start… You can see Jackson Kiprop of Uganda in internal monitoring mode. The day was a punisher. There were no blistering miles. Didn’t need to be. The conditions added miles to the effort, and you can see the grind take its toll.
Kebede & Uganda’s Jackson Kiprop in lock-step onto First Ave. along Thunder Alley.
First Avenue stretches like a slot canyon from 17 to 20 miles. They fell in 4:40, 4:43, 4:45, and 5:05 as the lads were still fighting the headwind. Solid tempo here, but not incendiary as we’ve seen in the past in better conditions. The race still loomed ahead.
Damage done: Wesley Korir, Kenyan parliamentarian and 2012 Boston champ gives way. Peter Kirui (yellow), Kiprop (light blue), and Kiprotich in orange laces getting strung out, as well.
Elite Eight still holding tight at 20 miles in 1:38:25, two minutes behind 2011′s record year. Of the eight only South Africa’s Lusapho April (yellow on left) and Kenya’s Julius Arile (yellow in center) were new comers to these ranks. But their preparations indicated they were in for good runs.
Turning west at speed in the Bronx at the north end of the course. Not long before they’ll take another left south onto Fifth Avenue and have the wind assist for the first time… Julius Arile has been a player all day. He moved his training from Iten 45k to Eldoret to join Wilson Chebet‘s big group. Then did two tune up races of note in the Czech Republic, a 27:42 10K which he won in Prague, and a 61:07 half in Usti, taking third. Good confidence booster for the one-time “Millionth Face” for the U.N. Small Arms Treaty. In that role the one-time gun-toting cattle rustler had twice before been to NY to meet with U.N. general secretaries. No peace today.
2011 record setter Geoffrey Mutai begins to make his presence felt, 35K in 1:46:42, the last 5K in 14:58, fastest of the day. The same 21.7 mile marker had been passed in 1:44:01 in 2011 during his 2:05:06 course record. But 2011 was a perfect day, 42F, low humidity, calm winds. Mutai lit up the final 10K that year in 28:45, the second half fell in 61:50, third fastest second half of a marathon ever run… We can see Stephen Kiprotich losing contact again, and so went his chance for the World Marathon Majors jackpot of $500,000. He needed to win the race outright to claim the prize and hope challenger Tsegay Kebede did no better than third… But it was several bridges too far for the Olympic and World Champion who has room to grow in big city marathons.
Julius Arile eyes Mutai warily. He knows where the danger lurks as they enter the killing zone.
Mutai & Kebede, a couple of Bronx Bombers. Would have been nice to have those two guys on the same page. But Mutai had the win on his mind, Kebede the World Marathon Majors jackpot. He wasn’t going to challenge the Raptor when it was out hunting. Second was going to be win-win 500,000 times. As long as Kipriotich remained in his rear-view mirror, the half-million was his.
Crossing the Madison Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River from Bronx into Manhattan, Mutai begins his final assault. Only Stanley Biwott can or is willing to answer. Before the race Mutai made his intentions clear, “When I decide to move, my body feels like it can run to the end at this speed.” … Real simple. Here we go, and you could sense it. From here to home, you and me. Ready?
The Raptor presses, eyes ahead, grim and determined. Biwott flexes. Just look at that right quad! Sculpted!… Stanley got the better of Geoffry at Feb. 2013 RAK Half Marathon, 58:56 to 58:58 — they were second and third — but this ain’t no half! And Biwott has a history of running out of fuel. It happened in London this spring. Off a wicked pace through the half, 61:34, Biwott raised the stakes at 21 miles before flaming out and finishing eighth… Coach Claudio Berardelli had hoped lessons had been learned and long tempo runs with short rest would smooth out his fuel issues. But today it was simply a case of being over-matched. Biwott didn’t initiate any of the moves, just answered for as long as he could. You had to admire his competitive spirit.
After only nine minutes together, the break begins at 1:52:30.
Entering Central Park at 90th Street at 24 miles alone and in control. The man who had the best marathon year in history, with unimaginable course records in both Boston and New York 2011, followed that with an off year in 2012… First, he dropped of of Boston’s roasting oven in April, then didn’t get chosen for the Kenyan Olympic team for London, and finally got cancelled out of defending his NY title in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy… This spring in the Virgin London Marathon he was never a factor in a last-man-standing win by Tsegay Kebede. Mutai dropped out with a hamstring issue. But since then he has been back in full form, and when that happens, no contest, really.
In full flight, a symphony of efficieny and heading for home. Victory number two in NYC.
Biwott still in 2nd but broken. It will be back to the drawing board to try to find the answer to those fading closing kilometers. He has all the will and speed, just needs to refine the mix in training so he doesn’t run low on fuel.
South Africa’s Lusapho April and Tsegay Kebede closing fast on Biwott. April, pronounced like the month, is in fact named after the month of April. Not by his parents, but by the old apartheid government of South Africa. Because of his complicated surname, a government official told him, “No, man, we can’t spell that. It’s April. So that’s now your name.”… Two NYC champions have come out of South Africa, Willie Mtolo in 1992 — who was here in town with April — and Hendrik Ramaala in 2004… April’s been with coach Karen Zimmerman since he was 14. He had a sixteen week build up for New York. He came here rather than run in Frankfurt, because with a 2:08 PR he wanted a tough race more than a speed one. He’s good on challenging courses, and proved it again.
Kebede moves into second place at 25 miles, April into third…Biwott will fade all the way to fifth.
Camera’s eye view. This is where I was perched all day behind camera ace Phillip Martinez with Sean Ricci driving.
Final 100 meters, history awaits!
Secure in second place behind Mutai’s 2:08:24 win, Kebede gallops toward a $560,000 payday and the 2012 — 2013 World Marathon Majors title after twice finishing second in previous cycles.
It was a glorious day in the city. Cold as hell, but warmed by the spirit of the people and the grace and majesty of the runners. Hope to do it again next year. Till then, see you on the roads. Next marathon stop, Honolulu December 8th. Still time to join the fun.