New York City Marathon Preview

Ryan Hall is one of the top Americans running New York. Photo: ASI

The men’s elite field is stacked this year. The women’s is not.

The 40th ING New York City Marathon will take place Sunday, November 1. As it does every year, the event will start on Staten Island, cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn, travel north through Brooklyn and Queens, cross into Manhattan over the Queensboro Bridge, continue north into the Bronx, and then turn south and pass through the last of the five boroughs, Harlem, before returning to Manhattan and finishing in Central Park. There will be 42,000 participants from every corner of the globe, cheered on by an estimated two million spectators.

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This year the New York City Marathon will also serve as the USA Men’s Marathon Championship. Almost all of the top male American marathoners will be present to compete for the 2009 title. The favorites are Ryan Hall, who has a 2:06:17 marathon personal best and who finished third in April’s Boston Marathon, and Meb Keflezighi, who won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympic Marathon and has two previous podium finishes in New York. After struggling with injuries in the past couple of years, Keflezighi made a triumphant comeback this year, setting personal bests in the marathon (2:09:21) and half marathon (1:01:00).

The runners most likely to upset Hall and Keflezighi are Abdi Abdirahman, who has a PR of 2:08:56, and Jorre Torres, who is making his marathon debut. Torres has demonstrated great speed at shorter distances, and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team at 10,000 meters in 2004. Another intriguing debutante is Josh Moen, a former five-time Division III All-American who had a breakthrough performance earlier this year, finishing a close second behind Abdirahman in the USA Men’s 10-Mile Championship.

Other contenders include Moen’s Team USA Minnesota teammate Jason Lehmkuhle, who brings a marathon personal best of 2:12:54 to the race, and Brian Sell, a 2008 Olympian at the marathon distance. The strongest dark horse may be Bolota Asmerom, who represented the U.S. at 5000 meters in the 2000 Olympics.

The broader men’s elite field contains no fewer than three past multiple champions: Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil (2008, 2006), Kenyan Martin Lel (2007, 2003), and South Africa’s Hendrick Ramaala (2005, 2004). But the field is so stacked that it would be no great shock if none of these men finished on the podium. For to do so each of them will have to get past four-time Boston Marathon winner Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya, 2008 Olympic Marathon silver medalist Jaouad Gharib of Morocco, the third-fastest marathoner of all time (2:04:27) in James Kwambai of Kenya, and the second-fastest half-marathon runner of all time in Kenyan Patrick Mackau.

The women’s elite field is a bit of a disappointment this year, but it does feature the world record holder and defending champion, Paul Radcliffe of Great Britain, who also won the 2004 and 2005 events. Radcliffe has had major injury and health setbacks this year, but if she is anywhere close to 100 percent she will claim her fourth title. Behind her it’s anyone’s race, with Russia’s Tatyana Petrova, winner of this year’s Los Angeles Marathon, and Japan’s Yuri Kano, who has run 1:08:57 for the half-marathon, looking strongest on paper.

Adding a little excitement to the women’s field will be the presence of Joan Benoit Samuelson. Now 52, the 1984 Olympic Marathon champion is still running strong, having run 2:49:08 at last year’s Olympic Trials.

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