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7 Storylines Leading into NYC Half

SEVEN STORYLINES: UNITED AIRLINES NYC HALF
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom

(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)

NEW
YORK (14-Mar) — In advance of Sunday’s United Airlines NYC Half, Race
Results Weekly highlights seven storylines to look forward to before
thousands take to the starting line in Central Park. Race Results
Weekly will be on hand to cover the race live from Manhattan– Asst. Ed.

1)
Sally vs. Buzu vs. Molly, Part 2: Last year, the trio of Sally Kipyego,
Buzunesh Deba, and Molly Huddle separated themselves from the field by
the time they hit the West Side Highway for the charge to the finish in
Lower Manhattan. It was somewhat of a surprise that Kipyego and Huddle
–who were both racing their debut half-marathons– tested the waters
up front in the Big Apple. This year, all three return with another
year’s experience under their belts.

Kipyego won the NYRR
Millrose Games 3000m last month in a world leading 8:41.72 after a
training stint in Kenya, and said that the United Airlines NYC Half was
her primary focus for the early portion of this year. She’ll try and
better her event record of 1:08:31. Deba, who is training for next
month’s Boston Marathon, knows the streets of Manhattan better than
anyone in the field, having lived and trained in the Bronx. Her
personal best is 1:08:59 from last year’s race.

For Huddle, the
United Airlines NYC Half will be her season opener after spending most
of the winter training in Phoenix, Ariz. Look for the trio to race
similar to last year and battle out front.

We shouldn’t forget
to mention two-time champion Caroline Rotich of Kenya. She also is
racing, and could join the group at the head of the charge.

2)
Boston Marathon Preview: This year’s United Airlines NYC Half is truly
serving as a preview of the 119th Boston Marathon, to be run on April
20. Of those racing here and in Boston include reigning Boston Marathon
champion Meb Keflezighi and 2012 victor Wesley Korir, as well as
Americans Dathan Ritzenhein, Matt Tegenkamp, Fernando Cabada, Jeffrey
Eggleston, Desi Linden, and Adriana Nelson. Of the international elites
preparing for next month’s marathon are the aforementioned Deba and
Rotich, Joyce Chepkirui (Kenya), Lanni Marchant (Canada), and Lusapho
April (South Africa).

Interestingly, past Boston Marathon
champions have fared well at this event. Geoffrey Mutai won last year
in 1:00:50; he is the Boston Marathon course record holder with a
2:03:02 win in 2011. Fellow Kenyan Catherine Ndereba claimed the crown
here twice, at the inaugural edition in 2006 and again two years later
in 2008. She is a four-time Boston Marathon winner.

It should
be noted that half marathon performances don’t always indicate what is
to come in a marathon. Case in point is Keflezighi. Last year he placed
tenth here in 1:02:53, more than two minutes behind winner Mutai. He
would go on to win the Boston Marathon in a personal best of 2:08:37.

3)
Favorable Weather: In the past two United Airlines NYC Halfs weather
played a large factor in the outcomes, with very cold temperatures and
harsh winds impacting the early tempo in Central Park. According to
local ABC affiliate ABC7, we can expect ideal conditions for Sunday’s
early morning contest, bolstered by significant tailwinds. This could
help the field chase a fast time, especially if the leaders are going
after Haile Gebrselassie and Sally Kipyego’s event records of 59:24 and
1:08:31, respectively.

4) Stephen Sambu Returns: Keep an eye on
Stephen Sambu, the University of Arizona graduate coached by James Li.
Sambu has had quite the career racing in New York, including a win at
last year’s UAE Healthy Kidney 10-K in a personal best of 27:39.

Sambu
is the top men’s returner from a year ago, when he was only beat by
Mutai and Mo Farah. In 2014 he completed the Central Park-to-Lower
Manhattan course in 1:01:08. His personal best comes from the B.A.A.
Half Marathon, a 1:00:41 performance from last fall.

Whenever
Sambu toes the line in Manhattan, he seems to bring his ‘A’ game. In
the event’s host hotel, Sambu smiled brightly when asked if he was
happy to be back here.

“Very happy,” he said. “Very happy.”
Don’t be surprised if Sambu smashes his personal best, or even gets
close to the one-hour mark.

5) Andrew Bumbalough Debut: Making
his half-marathon debut is Nike Bowerman Track Club’s Andrew
Bumbalough. According to respected statistics website Tilastopaja.org,
Bumbalough has not run a road race longer than 5-K in his professional
career. While he’s most familiar with the track, ‘Bumby’ should have
what it takes to mix it up with the top Americans. His 10,000m track
best is 27:56.78.

If the pace is right, Bumbalough could find
himself next to teammate and training partner Matt Tegenkamp. When
asked about his outlook on Bumbalough’s debut, Tegenkamp smiled and
said, “He’s put the work in and should race really well. I think he’ll
do great.”

6) Welcome Back: A number of athletes who have seen
success in New York City return for what they hope will be podium
worthy races. Rkia El Moukim, sixth at last year’s TCS New York City
Marathon in her debut at the 26.2-mile distance, is back four months
after surprising many with her 2:28:12 performance. Her half-marathon
personal best is 1:10:03.

Also back is April, the third place
finisher at the 2013 TCS New York City Marathon. April timed 2:09:45 in
2013, though fell to 12th in 2:16:50 at last year’s marathon. Can he
bounce back at the United Airlines NYC Half?

7) American
Winner: In the nine years this event has been contested, never has
there been an American winner. Will that change this year? It’s hard to
say, but many of the Americans mentioned earlier could score the win on
a good day. Ritzenhein has the fastest half-marathon personal best for
Americans in the field at 60:00, while Molly Huddle has the best
American women’s time with her 1:09:04 showing here last year.

The
United Airlines NYC Half will begin at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 15.
The race will be televised live locally on ABC7 and WatchABC from
7:00-9:00 a.m. EST, as well as on ESPN3 and WatchESPN from 7:00-10:30
a.m. EST.

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