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Mutai The Man, Jeptoo Rallies at NYC Marathon

JEPTOO, MUTAI VICTORIOUS IN WINDY NEW YORK CITY MARATHON
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW
YORK (03-Nov) — For the third time in race history, Kenya swept both
the men’s and women’s titles here at the 43rd running of the ING New
York City Marathon. Priscah Jeptoo came from far behind to earn the
women’s title in 2:25:07, securing the 2012/2013 World Marathon Majors
title in the process, while Geoffrey Mutai successfully defended his
men’s crown in 2:08:24.

JEPTOO COMES FROM BEHIND TO WIN NYC AND WMM TITLES

Executing
a flawless –but risky– come-from-behind race, Jeptoo crossed the ING
New York City Marathon finish line here with a big smile. Not only did
Jeptoo become Kenya’s seventh champion in race history; she also earned
a hefty $500,000 bonus as winner of the 2012-2013 World Marathon Majors
series. Her opponent in the two-year points race, Edna Kiplagat,
finished a distant ninth.

“This is a great moment for me and a
day I will not forget for the rest of my life,” Jeptoo told members of
the media following her win.

In order to take both titles,
Jeptoo would have to work very hard to catch early leaders Buzunesh
Deba and Tigist Tufa. Deba and Tufa –both natives of Ethiopia now
living in New York– took control of the pace while still on the
Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, just as they had planned.

Together,
the pair would run through 10 kilometers in 34:44 and ten miles in
55:18, despite strong winds. At halfway (1:12:38), their lead over the
chase pack and Jeptoo was a whopping three minutes and 23 seconds.

It
was while crossing the Queensboro Bridge (25-K) that Jeptoo had had
enough. When a bicyclist said that the leaders were more than three
minutes in front, the Kenyan decided it was time to go.

“He
came and told me that you are behind three minutes. I realized that
three minutes is almost one kilometer, so I started to push the pace,”
she said. “I knew, and I was having confidence that I will make it.”

Mile
by mile, Jeptoo began to reel in Deba and Tufa all by herself. From
miles 16 through 19, Jeptoo cut a minute and ten seconds out of the
lead.

Gradually the Ethiopian tandem came into view. By the
35-kilometer checkpoint, Deba’s lead over Jeptoo had dwindled to 45
seconds. A kilometer later Jeptoo found herself in second and ready to
pounce.

As Jeptoo was quickening, Deba was hurting. The
26-year-old had been struggling with stomach cramps, and feared the
inevitable was coming. Looking back multiple times, Deba saw Jeptoo
fast approaching.

The swift pass came with 2:13:00 on the clock with under 2.5 miles remaining. Deba tried to respond, but simply couldn’t.

“I tried to, but I was sick badly, a cramp,” Deba said.

After
passing Deba, Jeptoo ran alone. Continuing her lanky, kick out running
style over the final miles, legs seemingly pinwheeling under her, the
29-year-old broke the tape in Central Park in 2:25:07. She earned
$625,000 in prize money and bonuses.

“I was very, very happy
when I saw that I reached to the finish line when I am a winner,
because I use a lot of energy chasing the leading group,” Jeptoo said.

Deba
held on for second place in 2:25:56, her second consecutive runner-up
placing. Rounding out the top three in 2:27:47 was two-time race
champion Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia.

Adriana Nelson of Boulder, Colo., was the top American, 13th in 2:35:05.

Among
other notable finishers were New Zealand’s Kim Smith in sixth
(2:28:49), early leader Tufa eighth (2:29:24), and defending champion
Firehiwot Dado in 14th (2:38:06).

MUTAI CRUISES IN FINAL MILES, RETAINS CROWN

In
the final ten kilometers of today’s ING New York City Marathon,
Geoffrey Mutai was a man among boys. After running within a pack for
most of the race, Mutai surged in the 22nd mile, creating enough
separation to win his second title in three years. Breaking the tape in
2:08:24, Mutai became the sixth man in race history to successfully
defend his crown.

“For me to defend my title, I think it has very many meanings,” said Mutai, 32.

Through
halfway in 1:05:06, nearly all of the pre-race favorites were still in
the picture. Within a pack of 14 were Mutai, Virgin London Marathon
champion Tsegaye Kebede, Olympic and World Championships Marathon gold
medalist Stephen Kiprotich, and 2012 Boston Marathon victor Wesley
Korir.

Kilometer by kilometer a majority of the group would
remain together, passing over the Queensboro Bridge and turning onto
First Avenue. It was in the 20th mile when the race would really
develop.

With roughly ten kilometers remaining, Mutai put his
head down, leaned forward, and surged. Only Stanley Biwott would stay
on the course record holder’s shoulder, a step behind to his left.

Mutai’s decision to go came down to the weather.

“I
think that was a good area because there was not so much wind,” he told
reporters. At the start, a steady wind of 17 milers per hour was
recorded. “So when I was deciding to go, I was feeling okay, the wind
was not there. For me, I was not looking to say I’ve tried to leave
anyone, but I was focusing at the end.”

Racing along Fifth Avenue with just over five kilometers to go, Mutai would continue to push. Eventually, Biwott faded.

“when
I start moving, I don’t care if you come or if you stay back because I
say, if you come, you come and we go together, or leave me and go,”
Mutai said. “So for me, I am focused. I don’t look back. I’m only going
to [go] my way.”

By the time the finish was in sight, Mutai had
built up a large cushion. Breaking the tape in 2:08:24, the father of
two was overjoyed. Mutai said the win was extra special considering
today is his manager Gerard Van de Veen’s birthday.

“He told me
I want one thing only, a present for you, and that present is to win,”
Mutai said. “I tell him winning is not easy. First of all, to win and
defend your title is not easy. So even today, as you see the course
today, the weather today, it was not easy. Even for me, I try all that
I can, but even I was not believing that I can finish like that. So
actually, it says a lot for me to defend my title.”

Behind
Mutai, things got very interesting. Though Biwott had gone with Mutai
along Fifth Avenue, the move proved costly. He would fade from second
to fifth in the final miles.

Moving up in the field was Kebede.
The tiny Ethiopian, who was in fifth at mile 23, managed to pass Julius
Arile, Biwott, and South African Lusapho April to finish second in
2:09:16, securing the 2012-2013 World Marathon Majors title and a
$500,000 bonus.

“You know, it is not easy to win World Marathon
Majors,” said Kebede. “This is my dream. You know, I don’t know… I’m
very happy. I’m glad to get to this point.”

April placed third, the highest South African finish since 2007.

Today
proved to be a tough one for Uganda’s Kiprotich, racing his third
marathon of the year. After being among the leaders through 20 miles,
the 24-year-old would fade to 12th in 2:13:05. One place behind came
top American Ryan Vail in 2:13:23, followed by Colorado’s Jeffrey
Eggleston, 14th in 2:16:35.

The 2009 champion here, Meb
Keflezighi of San Diego, Calif., had a rough run. He stopped for
several minutes with painful quadriceps muscles on the Willis Avenue
Bridge, before restarting and eventually finishing 20th. He held the
hand of a local runner, Michael Cassidy, as he crossed the finish line
in 2:23:47.

“It wasn’t my day but sometimes it happens,” Keflezighi said. “I’m satisfied that I finished.”

* * * * *

Although
final finisher totals will not be known until tomorrow, the New York
Road Runners reported that 50,740 runners started the race making it
the largest marathon in history.

PHOTO: Buzunesh Deba,
Prisca Jeptoo and Jelena Prokopcuka finished second, first and third,
respectively, at the 2013 ING New York City Marathon (photo by Chris
Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)

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