Last Sunday morning November 3, 2013, mine was a Dickensian position, the best seat in town, the worst seat in town. I was 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 a 5:27 opening mile to the crest of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Joining in the middle is 2009 champion Meb Keflezighi and 2011 course record setter Geoffrey Mutai (in red) as they carve out a 4:40 second mile down onto Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue. All the while the scourge of a north wind whips at their singlets at the left front shoulder, flags stiff from the northwest on the north running course. My moto driver Sean Ricci has 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… Recall 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 passing mile 8 in 39:43 off a 4:47 last 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 runs ahead along Bedford Ave. His gap grew to as much as three-seconds, but it didn’t last last long.
Race favorite Geoffrey Mutai — The Raptor — goes hunting into Queens cutting against a stiff headwind. Who’s serious? His piercing 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 his third marathon in six months. 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 hope 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 already cashed in those chips.
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 and defining stretch representing the second biggest climb on the course after the initial bridge crossing 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 effectively added a kilometer to the distance, and you can see the grind take its toll.
Kebede & Uganda’s Jackson Kiprop in lock-step onto First Ave. up Thunder Alley.
First Avenue a slot canyon from 17 to 20 miles. They fell in 4:40, 4:43, 4:45, and 5:05 as the headwinds gave no quarter. Solid tempo here, not as incendiary as under better conditions. The race still looms.
Damage done: Wesley Korir,(far right) 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. 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 ready for a breakthrough.
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 to Eldoret to join Wilson Chebet‘s big group. Then he tuned up in the Czech Republic with a 27:42 10K ,which he won, and a 61:15 half, 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 assert his presence, 35K in 1:46:42, the last 5K in 14:58, fastest of the day. That same 21.7 K marker had been passed in 1:44:01 in 2011 during his 2:05:06 course record. But 2011 was the ideal day, 42F, low humidity, calm winds. Mutai lit up the final 10K in 28:45, the second half fell in 61:50, third fastest second half of a marathon ever… 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 lies the danger as they enter the killing territory.
Bronx Bombers — Mutai & Kebede. Would have been nice to have these two on the same page. But Mutai has winning on his mind, Kebede wants the World Marathon Majors jackpot. You don’t challenge the Raptor when he’s out hunting. Second place is win–win 500,000 times. As long as Kipriotich remains in his rear-view mirror, the half-million is his.
Crossing the Madison Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River, back 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.” … Very simple. From here to home, you and me. Ready?
The Raptor presses, eyes ahead, grim and determined. Biwott flexes, taking the ground rather than flinging it behind. Look at that quad! … Stanley got the better of Geoffry in Feb. at the RAK Half Marathon, 58:56 to 58:58 — they were second and third. This is no half…And Biwott has a fuel management history. 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 now longer tempo runs with short rest would smooth out his fuel issues. But today it is simply a case of being over-matched. Biwott didn’t initiate any of the moves, just answered for as long as he could. You have to admire his competitive spirit.
After only nine minutes together, the break begins at 1:52:30.
Entering Central Park at 90th Street – 24 miles. The man who had one of the best marathon years in history in 2011, with unimaginable course records in both Boston and New York, followed with an off 2012… He dropped out of Boston’s roasting oven in April, which cost him a spot on the Kenyan Olympic team for London, and he was Hurricane Sandy’d out of defending his NY title last fall… 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 eassy power 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 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. We are in 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.