The 32-year-old Kenyan put the race away over the final 5 miles to win in 2:08:24.
NEW YORK — In the opening 10 kilometers of the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday morning, reigning champion Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya appeared as if he was chomping at the bit to surge into the lead. With 5 miles to go, he really started to put the bite down.
Cranking down the pace just past mile 20 and splitting up a lead pack of 8 runners, Mutai put himself into a two-man battle with countryman Stanley Biwott by the 35K mark, but the duel didn’t last long. Mutai continued to step on the gas in Central Park, extending his advantage all the way to the finish line to break the tape in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 24 seconds and capture his second ING New York City Marathon title. His victory made him the sixth winner in New York City Marathon history to successfully defend his title.
RESULTS: Top-25 Men At New York City Marathon
“Today it was a very tough race,” Mutai said in a finish line interview. “The first time here is easy. To defend your title is not easy. Today it was a very tough wind. When we got to 20 miles and made the turn, the wind did not seem as strong. It seemed like a good place to push. I didn’t care if someone came with me or not — if you come with me, you will work. When no one came with me, I just looked ahead and focused.”
Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia ran strong over the final 5 kilometers to finish second in 2:09:16, assuring him of the 2012-2013 World Marathon Majors title and a $500,000 paycheck. South African Olympian Lusapho April finished a surprising third in 2:09:45 to round out the top-3. Biwott faded to fifth in 2:10:41.
The race started out slowly over the Verrazano-Narrows bridge with a 5:27 opening mile. American Meb Keflezighi spent a lot of time at the front or the race, towing the field through 5K in 15:42. The next 5 kilometers passed in 15:10 (32:52) — only 10 seconds off Mutai’s course-record pace from 2011 — with 20 runners separated by no more than 3 seconds. By halfway (1:05:06), the lead pack was still 17-men deep with Keflezighi, Mutai, Julius Arile of Kenya and reigning Olympic and world champion Stephen Kiprotich taking turns at the front.
Not much changed over the next 10 kilometers as the large group made their way down First Avenue and headed toward the 20-mile mark. Shortly afterward is when the Mutai decided it was time to make a move. Within an instant, the 32-year-old Kenyan, who trains with world-record holder Wilson Kipsang and Chicago Marathon champion and course-record holder Dennis Kimetto outside of Eldoret, Kenya, moved to the front. Biwott was the only rival to respond, but not for long. At 35K (20.7 miles), the duo ran together, but within a mile, Mutai had begun to pull away and it was clear the race was for second place.
“At 20 miles I had a calf problem, so I stopped pushing,” Kebede admitted. “This [Marathon Majors win] is my dream. I am glad to get this. When we were running, I was looking at him [Kiprotich] and thinking I wanted to get a better position than him by finishing in front of him.”
Ryan Vail of Portland, Ore., was the top American men’s finisher in 13th place, running 2:13:23, with Jeffrey Eggleston of Boulder, Colo., one place back in 14th (2:16:35). Keflezighi fell back to finish 20th in 2:23:47.
Stay tuned to Competitor.com’s complete coverage page throughout the day for updates, quotes, photos and more from the ING New York City Marathon!