The Ethiopians would love to repeat their 1-2 finish from 2011.
The 2011 ING New York City Marathon women’s race proved to be not just a thrilling come-from-behind victory by two countrywomen stalking an early pacesetter, but a reunion of childhood friends as well.
Ethiopians Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba, who would place 1-2 after overtaking early leader Mary Keitany of Kenya, had been teammates on a police running club growing up in the village of Arsi Assella. Neither had dreams of one day becoming great marathoners; Deba was a 1500m specialist, while Dado competed in the sprints.
In 2005, Deba emigrated to the United States with her husband and coach, Worku Beyi, settling in the Bronx, and was soon dominating the local racing scene, eventually progressing to winning several second-tier marathons around the country.
That resulted in an invitation to the 2009 New York race, where she placed seventh in 2:35:54. The next year she ran almost six minutes faster, but slipped three places. When the elite field for the 2011 race was announced, she saw Dado’s name on the list, and spent much of the week leading up to the race catching up on what had transpired during the six years since they’d last trained together.
Both were set to reprise that reunion the following year, but neither made it to the starting line. Dado developed a blister on her foot that caused her to abandon her title defense in the weeks before the race, while Deba joined the dozens of other elites who lost out on potential glory and pay when the race was cancelled in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
Unlike many others who attempted to use their fitness in a fallback race soon after New York, Deba retrenched, focusing on Houston the following January. That strategy paid off when she placed second in 2:24:26. Now, she’s back for another shot at her adopted hometown’s race, attempting to become the first New Yorker to win since Norb Sander and Kathrine Switzer broke the tape in 1974.
Once a prolific racer who often ran nearly a marathon every month, winning six, Deba has throttled back to concentrate on two per year, and her improved times prove that less can definitely be more.
That’s not the case in her training, however; last year she ran up to 130 miles a week prepping for New York, and has upped that figure by five miles in 2013. That includes workouts run on the Van Cortlandt Park track not far from her home in the Bronx such as 10 x 1 mile averaging 4:47 to 4:50, or twelve 400s in 62-63 seconds, or overdistance runs around the 31-mile circumference of Manhattan.
Both Dado and Deba are prepared for another fast start on Sunday, probably from Kenyan’s Prischa Jeptoo or Edna Kiplagat. “We will run our own pace,” said Deba. “New York is a hard course, especially in the second half. If you start too fast you can slow down in the end. We will be ready.”