With cool weather expected and the nature of the current game where no record is safe, thought I’d bring us back to 2011, the year Geoffrey Mutai set what still stands as the New York City Marathon course record, 2:05:06.  This account comes directly from journal #182, 6 November 2011.

New York 2011

40°F and clear, 48% humidity under calm flag conditions. Only going up to 56F, the perfect day for the 42nd running of the ING (now TCS) New York City Marathon.

Besides the NYCM title itself, two other factors will come into play on the men’s side today. Though unofficial, this will serve as an Olympic selection for several top Kenyans, notably Geoffrey and Emmanual Mutai (unrelated) the Boston and London course record holders.

With two-time world champion Abel Kirui and world record holder Patrick Makau already selected for London 2012, only one spot remains open. Kenyan Athletics chairman Isaiah Kiplagat has said the decision will be made after today’s race.

Another factor will be the completion of the 2010 – 2011 World Marathon Majors series. Five men remain in contention for the series title and $500,000 prize.

Emmanuel Mutai is in the best position, sitting second in the current standings just five points behind Berlin Marathon champion Patrick Makau, who has completed his season. A first or second place finish today would wrap up the series win for Emmanuel. If he takes third or worst, it opens the door for Geoffrey Mutai, Tsegaye Kebede and Gebre Gebremariam if they win.

The women set off first.

The big favorite is Kenyan Mary Keitany, the London Marathon champion looking to answer Russia’s Lilya Shobukhova’s 2:18:20 win in Chicago last month. Mary debuted in New York City 2010, but was a deer in the headlights, overwhelmed by the size of the city and the prospect of her first marathon. She finished third behind fellow Kenyan Edna Kiplagat and American Shalane Flanagan as all three played a cautious game until the end.

Today, fearful no more, the tiny terror lit out from Staten Island like there was a close-out sale waiting in Manhattan. She was alone by the time she turned right onto fourth Avenue in Brooklyn coming off Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

At 2 miles she was at 10:29 which was faster than the men’s 2 mile split in 2010 (10:55). It’s one thing not to be cautious….

Her 10K split, 31:52, which would’ve placed her second at the New York Mini 10K in June, crazy! At one point she was on 2:14 pace with a course record of 2:22:31 from 2003 by Margaret Okayo, that seemed  a tad excessive.

A half hour after the women the men begin, and this time with no pacesetters. The large contingent begins modestly, 24:40 at 5 miles which is just 2:09 pace. But as they weave through Brooklyn, they begin to knock off sub-4:50 miles (3:00/km) with regularity and slowly begin nearing course record pace.

Keitany stretches her lead with each passing mile, hitting the half in 1:07:56, a crazy split. Behind, a pack of four forms up, also under course record pace hitting a half in 1:10:08. They include Bronx-based Ethiopian Buzunesh Deba, fellow Ethiopians Werknesh Kidane and Firehiwot Dado, along with Boston champion Caroline Kilel of Kenya. 

Miles 14 and 15 through Queens took 5:26 and 5:37 for Keitany after her series of sub-5:10 miles earlier in the race. Her lead peaks at 2:21 as she crossed the 59th St. Bridge heading into Manhattan.

In 2001, Tesfaye Jifar of Ethiopia set the 2:07:43 course record in NYC, the longest standing course record of all five Marathon Majors. But with today’s deep field and ideal conditions, it seems all but sure we will see new ground broken. 

At the halfway mark the pack of 10 or 11 cross the Pulaski Bridge in 63:16, 28 seconds under the pace set by Jafar in 2001. The 13th mile fell in 4:46, 14 in 4:44.

Heading up First Avenue Mary K. begins to pay for her early assault. Usually this is the fastest section of the course, but she only turns out miles 17, 18,and 19 in 5:47, 5:35, and 5:35. Behind lurk the chasers, led by Deba, cutting into the lead. But it will take more than a quickening pace from behind, Mary will have to falter, too.

Off the Queensboro Bridge and onto Thunder Alley come the men for their annual flight up First Avenue.  But today the men hold their afterburners, providing mid-4:40 miles rather than low 4:30s as the six-man pack of Geoffrey and Emmanual Mutai, debutante Matthew Kisorio, Meb Keflezighi, Jaouad Gharib of Morocco, Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia remain in close formation with the diminutive Kebede, the ‘08 Olympic bronze medalist at the point of attack. 

They pass 30 km in 1:29:45, one minute plus under course record pace.(2:06:24 tempo)

At 20 miles crossing the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx, Buze Deba and Firehiwot Dado break free from Werknesh Kidane and Caroline Kilel. This is where Buze has lived and trained since 2005.  She has led the chasers throughout today’s race as Keitany continues to leak oil up ahead.

Miles 20 and 21 take 5:47 each and now the pace has fallen to 2:20:20, still under the course record, but the gap is down to 1:28, still large, but Mary isn’t pushing anymore, she’s holding on.

22 miles falls in 5:48 but the gap is now 1:14 as the two Ethiopians sense blood in the water. Keitany’s  23rd mile takes 5:59, 24 in 6:20!  Now it’s just a matter of time.

At 2:15 on the clock, the three are together. But rather than blow by, Dado and Deba discover a Lazarus-like response from the brave Keitany as she reopens a small gap!

Geoffrey Mutai, 28:43 final 10 km in NYC 2011

Six men hit 20 miles in 1:36:21, 4:52 mile, 2:06:13 pace. For the first time, Boston record holder Geoffrey Mutai steps on the gas, splintering the pack with just a flick of the foot. Gebremariam and Kebede, the two Ethiopians attempt to respond.

21 takes 4:31, 22 goes away in 4:30, splits we used to see along First Avenue. But this is Geoffrey “The Raptor” Mutai, record destroyer in Boston. 23 miles falls in 4:35 and the course record is obviously going down, hard!

Realizing the World Marathon Majors title and $500,000 bonus is still up for grabs, Emmanuel Mutai moved into second place which would lock up that prize.

After her initial response, Keitany begins to fade again. 25 miles passes at 2:16:35, a 5:53 mile. Now Firehiwot Dado has pulled away from Buzunesh Deba and has now broken away from Mary Keitany, too. Dado Is a 3X Rome Marathon champion.

She loses a little steam in the final 400 meters in Central Park as Deba rallies behind a supportive local crowd, but not enough.  Dado wins in 2:23:15, Deba three seconds later, Keitany 20 seconds more.

Geoffrey Mutai rips the final 10k in 28:43, not even pressed. He widens his margin like he was on an airport people mover. His winning time of 2:05:06 crushes the course record by 2:37 more than confirming his 2:49 course record from Boston in April.

Emmanuel Mutai wins the World Marathon Majors series title by taking second place in 2:06:28, Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede arrives third in 2:07:14. The top three all go under the old course record, each winning an extra $70,000 for that.

It’s been a glorious day in the city. In such oppositional times when it seems everyone is opposed to one thing or another, the Marathon, especially the one in New York City, has the ability to make us believe once again in our fellow man. To see the good, to believe that if we just work hard and pull together we can do anything. Today, many did.


(Happy and safe Halloween to all)


  1. Hey Toni,

    Fellow Wash U grad here (MBA ’94 and I was a volunteer grad ass’t track and cross country coach during my two years there after being a Div I walk-on athlete years earlier).  I have a question for you….  One of the Road Races of the Week that you hosted years ago was the Old Reliable Run in Raleigh NC in Nov, 1989.  The women’s race was won by Lynn Jennings and the race was filmed because it served as the 10K Road Championships (as I recall, John Halvorsen won the men’s race but I could be wrong about that).  I wondered if you might know where I could get a copy of that race footage.  I happened to accidentally run with Lynn for a bit during the race (around the 4 mile mark).  Can you pull any strings to get a copy from the vaults?  I would gladly pay for a copy!!

    Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.
    Alan Myers

  2. Toni, you’re the only person I know who can get me this excited reading about a race that took place eight years ago. Awesome writing.

  3. Toni, are you in town for NYCM? It would be a treat to meet you.

    Regards, Paul Kentor (ultra guy)

    Sent from mobile. Please pardon brevity.

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