A win in New York would mean a lot, financially and otherwise, to the two Kenyan runners.
(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
NEW YORK — For Wilson Kipsang and Sharon Cherop, Sunday’s 43rd running of the ING New York City Marathon won’t be the only title on their mind. Both Kenyans are also in the running for the World Marathon Majors crowns, albeit for different periods. Cherop, 28, has a chance to win the 2011-2012 championship, while Kipsang, 30, can leave the Big Apple leading the 2012-2013 standings.
“It would mean a lot to me and also my family,” says the quiet Cherop, who along with husband Matthew have one daughter, Natalia.
Residing in Marakwet, Kenya, Cherop has the most to gain from Sunday’s race. If she comes in first, then Cherop will overtake training partner and compatriot Mary Keitany atop the women’s leader board, earning herself $500,000. But, in order to win the World Marathon Majors title, Cherop would need to defeat Edna Kiplagat, the 2010 ING New York City Marathon champion and current runner-up in the standings. If Kiplagat wins or finishes second to anyone but Cherop, then she will be tied with Keitany.
All Cherop is concerned about now, though, is racing well come Sunday.
“New York is a very tough course, hilly,” she says. Focused solely on her position among the leaders, Cherop isn’t worried about what time she will finish in. “When you say you are focusing on trying to run this time, it will not come. When you run [and compete], times come automatic.”
If Cherop wins, then she will also become the first women since 1989 to win both the Boston and New York City Marathons in the same calendar year, an honor which only four women have accomplished.
“It would be a great year for me,” says Cherop. “I’m going to try my best to win because as soon as Boston finished, this is the race I have been focusing for. I have a lot of focus.”
If Cherop’s recent success is any indication, then that is a sure possibility. In September, she won the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon in the second-fastest time ever recorded on American soil, 1:07:21.
“Everyone is well prepared for this race,” she said, trying not to predict the outcome of Sunday’s marathon.
As for Kipsang, his chance of winning reaches into 2013. Having earned 35 points already thanks to an April win at the Virgin London Marathon and a bronze medal finish at the Olympic Marathon in August, Kipsang is in prime position tied atop the rankings with Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede.
“I started in London and winning, made it to the Olympics and got a bronze, this makes me among the Majors,” says Kipsang, who is racing in New York for the first time. “This will be adding to my points for next year.”
Similar to Cherop, though, Kipsang’s main focus is Sunday’s race through the Five Boroughs.
“I think winning would be really important for me because this is my first time here, and the first year where I decided to run the Majors,” he said.
Winning the $500,000 World Marathon Majors prize could help Kipsang aid the community and expand his new Keellu Resort in Iten, a hotel which caters to both the community and athletes. The meaning of Keellu is to dream or sunshine, something which he wishes to bring to those in Iten through schools and churches.
“The profession of running as an athlete has really changed my life,” he says. “It has improved the living standard of myself, my family, relatives and those around me.”
What would Cherop do if she took home the $500,000 check? Similarly give back to those close to her.
“It would be a great victory for us,” she says, hesitant to talk too much about the prospects of winning. “A lot of things. A lot of projects. When you get the money, so many plans come.”