A surprise winner and a course record highlight the day’s action.
Written by: Mario Fraioli and T.J. Murphy
NEW YORK — On a Sunday morning when the clocks were turned back an hour for Daylight Savings Time, Geoffrey Mutai turned back the finish line clock by over two minutes at the 41st running of the New York City Marathon.
Breaking the tape in 2 hours, 5 minutes and 6 seconds, Mutai shattered the decade old course record by two minutes and 37 seconds. Emmanuel Mutai of Kenya was second in 2:06:28, while Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia finished third in 2:07:14, as all three men finished under the previous course record of 2:07:43.
“It was not easy,” Mutai said. “Although I won it was not easy. The course was tough.”
In the women’s race Ethiopian Firehiwot Dado was the surprise come-from-behind winner in 2:23:15, edging out countrywoman Buzunesh Deba by four seconds. Mary Keitany of Kenya, who led much of the race before being caught and eventually passed in Central Park, finished third in 2:23:38.
“I’m very happy,” Dado said in the post-race press conference. “It was a very good race. It was a tough race, and I didn’t expect this result. But I’m very happy to have won New York.”
Very early in the women’s race, which got underway 20 minutes before the main field took off from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Keitany, who bashed her way through the 2:20 barrier at the last London Marathon, eased into her pace with the confident flick of her legs that have run a half-marathon world record. The clear sky was complimented by no wind, and a comfortable 45-degree temperature. Perfect conditions. Keitany looked at her watch and dropped the hammer.
Her splits: 5K in 16:04 and the 10K in 31:54—an average of 5:08 pace for the first six miles, a pace that if maintained over 26 miles would flirt with Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25 world record.
The fading chasers included reigning Boston Marathon champion Caroline Kilel of Kenya, and two Ethiopians, Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba. At mile 12, Keitany made the left turn onto Manhattan Avenue in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn and beyond the vanishing point of the road she could see the skyscrapers of Manhattan. She disappeared and the course was hauntingly empty. It looked as though New York City had arranged for Keitany to enjoy a five-borough time trial. The chase pack was two minutes and 15 seconds behind.
Because of Keitany’s credentials it was not easy to dismiss the reality of the marathon, and the hard truth that living by the sword can mean dying by the sword. But by mile 18, running up the spectator-charged 1st Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Keitany’s pace began to numb and Dado and Deba—the remaining chasers— began to regain contact. Keitany’s foot strikes noticeably grew heavier and tiring quadriceps were betrayed by the shortening stride. As the women performed the long U-turn that crossed into the Bronx and across the Madison Avenue bridge into Harlem, the gap fell to 90 seconds. At mile 23 Keitany was cracking, her lead dwindling to a minute. The last two miles of the marathon are run within Central Park, and at mile 25 Dado and Deba looked like they would simply blast by the failing Keitany, but the Kenyan’s stride woke up and for a fleeting moment a spectator had to wonder if she had roped the Ethiopians into a trap. But Dado, who was not talked about much before the race, would have none of it, pulling away and taking victory in 2:23:15. Her countrywoman Deba, who lives in the Bronx, held on for second while Keitany settled for third.
“For me, I was going fast, but at the end I was feeling a bit of fatigue in my leg, and that’s why I lose a little bit the last half,” Keitany said after the race. “And that’s why my colleagues caught me on the way.”
The 2:23:15 a personal record, the championship was a considerable breakthrough for Dado—a three-time Rome City Marathon champion—and her first major victory.
“Because she had been running so fast from the very beginning I didn’t imagine we would catch her,” Dado said of Keitany’s large early lead. “But when we did get closer and we saw her, I was very surprised and I was very happy that we were able to catch her.”
Rounding out the women’s top five, Ana Ducle Felix of Portugal finished fourth in 2:25:40, and New Zealand’s Kim Smith was fifth in 2:25:46.
The men’s race was a far different affair, as a large pack of 25 men passed through 3 miles in a slow 15:03. By mile 5, reached in 24:45, the pace had started picking up considerably and the front pack was reduced to 15. Ethiopian Ezkyas Sisay did a lot of the early work, towing the field through 15K (9.3 miles) in 45:12.
By the half-marathon mark, reached in 1:03:17, ten men were still in contention, including American Meb Keflezighi, marathon rookie Mathew Kisorio of Kenya, defending champion Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia, as well as Kenyan Stephen Kibet Kosgei.
Maintaining a consistent average of 4:50 per mile through the next 5 miles, the pack had dwindled down to seven at 30K, reached in 1:29:45.
And that’s when Geoffrey Mutai decided the race needed to end.
Employing a strong surge over the next 5 kilometers, Mutai put 17 seconds on his chasers in the next 3 miles. He continued to crank on the pace over the final 5 miles of the race, stretching his lead out to 1 minute and 2 seconds with 2K to go. Behind him Emmanuel Mutai had pulled away from the diminutive Kebede, who held a 50-second advantage on his closest pursuer, his countryman Gebremariam.
Mutai, who first turned heads earlier this year with his jaw-dropping 2:03:02 victory at the Boston Marathon in April, charged down the finishing straight in Central Park to the roaring applause of thousands of fans. If there were any doubt as to whether or not his Boston performance was a fluke, Mutai silenced the skeptics today with his second Major Marathon win, and course record, of the year.
“For me I am happy now because even though it (his time from Boston) was not recognized (as a record), I’m happy to be at that level,” he said. “And I know one day or maybe in the coming years maybe I can come to do something. But the course here, it was tough, but the weather was so good. So I think I try to maintain myself to prove it right.”
The top American male finisher was Meb Keflezighi, who finished sixth in 2:09:13, a personal best. Ed Moran, marathon debutant, placed tenth in 2:11:46. Molly Pritz was the top American woman, finishing 12th in her debut, running 2:31:52. Lauren Fleshman, also in her debut, ran 2:37:23.
Check out our Twitter feed at @RunCompetitor for the full mile-by-mile breakdown of both of today’s races.