Kebede, Kiprotich Set To Do Battle

Stephen Kiprotich, left, and Tsegaye Kebede, right, will be keeping a close eye on one another on Sunday. Photo: Chris Lotsbom | Race Results Weekly

There is $500,000 World Marathon Majors title is on the line.

(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

NEW YORK — At Sunday’s 43rd ING New York City Marathon, Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich and Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede will face each other once again, this time to decide who wins the $500,000 2012/2013 World Marathon Majors title. As the leaderboard stands right now, Kebede has a 15-point advantage on Kiprotich, 65-50 (25 points are awarded for first place, 15 for second, 10 for third, 5 for fourth, and 1 for fifth).

If either man wins the race, they take home the $500,000 jackpot, regardless of finish time. If they don’t, many scenarios are possible. For instance, if Kiprotich comes in second and Kebede comes in third, Kebede wins, 70 to 65. If Kiprotich comes in fourth and Kebede is fifth, Kebede wins 65 to 55. Kebede has five races in the series, but only the top-4 performances count.

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Interestingly, the IAAF World Championships Marathon in Moscow served as a starting point for both Kebede and Kiprotich in their pursuits of the laurel wreath here.

“After Moscow, I go for this competition. In training, I did just to focus to win this jackpot,” Kebede told reporters Thursday, adding that he began his preparation as soon as the race in Moscow concluded. “I will compete with anybody to win. This is not like another time when you run for time. You have to save energy mentally, make a tactic in order to win.”

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Soon after Kiprotich crossed the finish line first in Russia’s capital city, he was alerted of his chance at the World Marathon Majors title.

“When I come across Moscow and I was told I stand a chance to win the jackpot, I said ‘wow this is going to be something special in my career. If I win this race it will be a special race for me,’” said Kiprotich.

Just how special? Kiprotich said it would come close to both his gold medals.

“It will be good for me to win because I have been asking myself to come to New York. If I win it will be something special in life,” he said. “If I had not won the Olympics and Championships, I wouldn’t be here.”

When asked their possible strategies for Sunday’s race, neither revealed their cards.

“It is good to run with big names in the marathon and it’ll be a nice competition,” Kiprotich said. “I always run my own race. I don’t run somebody’s race. If Kebede or [reigning champion Geoffrey] Mutai is in front, it doesn’t matter. Right now I am in good shape and I don’t mind. I keep on running my own competition.”

Kebede said it is nearly impossible to determine how the race will play out.

“Stephen is competition. Maybe he will again [beat] me, maybe I will [beat] him. This is competition,” he said. “We’ll see. You don’t know. How do you know? That’s why you come to win, you know? The winner is one [person]. You come to win [against] the competition.”

The fact that there are no pacemakers in Sunday’s race seems to play to Kiprotich’s advantage. Each of Kebede’s wins in the past two years –at the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the 2013 Virgin London Marathon– have been contests where pacers have guided athletes through a majority of the miles. Kiprotich’s titles came with none present.

“I am happy that I am coming to New York where there is no pacemakers so I can do what I want to do,” Kiprotich said.

On the other hand, Kebede has experience on his side. In 2011 Kebede finished third here, gaining valuable knowledge of the course and it’s nuances, such as the hills and bridges.

“I’m not nervous. Just like New York I go up and down hills,” Kebede said, speaking of his training back in Ethiopia.

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