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Keitany Repeats, Kenyans Sweep NYC Marathon

KENYANS KEITANY, BIWOTT SWEEP TITLES AT TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom

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

NEW
YORK (01-Nov) — For the third straight year, a pair of Kenyans swept
the top spots here at the 45th TCS New York City Marathon, as Mary
Keitany retained her women’s title and Stanley Biwott claimed his first
victory in an Abbott World Marathon Majors event. Keitany ran alone for
a majority of the final 10 kilometers, going on to finish first in
2:24:25. After finishing fifth here in 2013, Biwott returned and was
able to maintain a brutal late-race pace to the line, taking the win in
2:10:34.

KEITANY CRUISES TO COMFORTABLE WIN

As the
defending champion and arguably the best women’s marathoner in the
world right now, Mary Keitany came into today’s race with a burden on
her petite shoulders. Aware of her current fitness, the 33-year-old
wanted to test the field.

“What I can say is that I was very
confident in coming to New York City Marathon,” Keitany would tell
members of the media, a growing smile across her face. “I wanted to
come and try to defend my title.”

Despite perfect racing
conditions –cool temperatures with a slight tailwind– the top women
ran cautiously through the opening miles, splitting 17:21 for 5-K and
34:28 for 10-K. In addition to Keitany, the lead group contained a
number of high-profile marathon champions: Caroline Rotich (Boston,
2015); Tigist Tufa (London, 2015); Aselefech Mergia (London 2010); and
Priscah Jeptoo (London 2012, New York City 2013), among others.

Somewhat
surprisingly, hanging tough amidst the pack were marathon debutants
Sally Kipyego and Laura Thweatt. While Portugal’s Sara Moreira did a
majority of the front running, Kipyego and Thweatt ran in her
slipstream.

Splitting the half marathon as a pack of nine in
1:12:56, the race was playing into Keitany’s hands. Having run here
three times before, Keitany knew that a move too early would likely
backfire on the hills of Central Park. Thus, she waited until 30
kilometers.

“I understood the course. I know New York. Many
times I’ve come to New York, and I know about the course,” she began.
“When I made my move around 30-K, I say ‘okay, let me just go, and if
somebody is more strong, she can come, and we can go.’ I was ready to
go with her, but fortunately they never got me.”

Steadily
increasing her tempo with subsequent surges down Fifth Avenue, Keitany
disposed of Kipyego, Thweatt, Moreira, and Frenchwoman Christelle
Daunay. She then turned her attention to the East Africans.

After
the 21st mile, Keitany was all alone. Her familiar arm swing and quick
cadence was on full display for the whole city to see. She ran the
21st, 22nd and 23rd miles in 5:14, 5:13 and 5:15 respectively, putting
the race out of reach.

Keitany crossed the finish in 2:24:25,
becoming the eighth woman to win in consecutive years. The last woman
to accomplish the feat was Paula Radcliffe in 2007/2008.

“For
me, when I was crossing the line, I was very happy. It was really
amazing,” said Keitany. “To do it twice was really something great for
me. So I was very happy.”

Second in 2:25:32 came Mergia in her
debut here, blowing kisses and waving to the crowd, followed by Tufa in
third (2:25:50). The pair simply could not match Keitany’s experience
and fitness on this day.

“The race was very good, but towards
the end I lagged behind because my shoes were uncomfortable and my feet
were burning,” said Tufa.

Moreira, Daunay, and Jeptoo rounded
out the top six with times of 2:25:53, 2:26:57, and 2:27:03,
respectively. All eyes were on American Thweatt coming down the
homestretch of her first marathon in 2:28:23, good for seventh place.
On Friday, Thweatt told Race Results Weekly that she viewed the
marathon as an extended cross country race;n through 20 miles, she was
feeling fantastic.

“It was definitely a very extended cross
country race for me today,” said Thweatt, a national champion in cross
country. “I mean, the hills, just trying to stay attached to the lead
group, I definitely had to call on my strengths… I definitely had to
give it everything I had those last couple miles. It was brutal.”

Thweatt
will not race at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in February,
opting for the 10,000m on the track. Her coach, Lee Troop, told RRW
that it would simply be too much to handle.

“If she was to make
the [Olympic] team, then it would be three marathons in ten months,”
said the Australian native who resides in Boulder, Colo. “That’s just
too much, and not good for her career [long term].”

Thweatt did
come away from the marathon feeling a sense of accomplishment. “I
didn’t win, but it was just such a huge victory to complete 26.2 miles.
I didn’t see myself as being a marathoner. I mean, I’m not. I still
don’t consider myself a marathoner. But just to complete that distance
on a course like New York with the history and just how tough it is out
there, it felt like I won.”

Other notable finishers included
Jelena Prokopcuka in eighth (2:28:46) and Boston Marathon winner Rotich
tenth in 2:33:19. Kipyego hit the wall after 23 miles and did not
finish. According to the New York Road Runners athlete tracker,
Kipyego’s split from mile 23 to 24 was 18:19, and she does not have a
checkpoint split after 40-K. Buzunesh Deba and Alana Hadley were among
other elite women unable to finish. Deba suffered a leg injury while
Hadley hurt her ankle, and actually had it taped by the race’s medical
team during the race.

BIWOTT COMES AWAY VICTORIOUS AFTER EPIC SURGE

Similar
to the women’s contest, the men’s race did not start in essence until
the 30 kilometer mark. From the start on Staten Island, through
Brooklyn and Queens, more than a dozen men made up the front group.
Instead of a race, it looked more like a New York traffic jam.

At
halfway in 1:06:49, the East Africans began to get a bit antsy:
defending champion Wilson Kipsang swung to the side of the group; World
Cross Country Championships gold medalist Geoffrey Kamworor moved up,
and Boston Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa’s demeanor changed.

But it was the unlikely tandem of Meb Keflezighi and Craig Leon –two Americans– leading around 15 miles.

“I
remember turning to Meb somewhere on First Avenue and just saying,
‘This is a lot of fun.'” recalled Leon, a former college walk-on at
Ohio University. “It was a lot of fun out there today.”

Crossing
into The Bronx via the Willis Avenue Bridge at 20 miles, the race would
shift into a pure speed contest. Kamworor, the IAAF World Championships
silver medalist at 10,000m, unleashed a 4:24 mile that turned
contenders into pretenders. Surprisingly, former world record holder
Kipsang was one of the pretenders, left in the dust.

Stanley
Biwott, the 2012 Paris Marathon victor, and Desisa matched the move,
continuing on with Kamworor through the 21st mile (split in 4:31).
Entering Central Park just prior to mile 24, Biwott continued to push.
He was determined not to be broken.

“When I reached the park, I
knew the course. I had been here two years ago. So I knew reaching the
park there was an uphill,” he said. “I was able to push towards the
uphill and to maintain high speed and looking forward to the finishing
line. So I was able to maintain high speed, knowing that some few
kilometers I would reach the finishing line.”

Biwott would
cover the final 6.2 miles in 28:33, a blistering pace that took even
Desisa and Kamworor by surprise. Crossing the line in 2:10:34, Biwott
celebrated knowing he’d finally won an Abbott World Marathon Majors
race. Kamworor and Desisa rounded out the top three in 2:10:48 and
2:12:10.

Biwott credited his victory to coach Gabriele Rosa,
who formalized a specific training plan that helped Biwott withstand a
hard effort in the final miles. In his previous marathons, Biwott would
always succumb to fatigue.

“During my training for the last
three months, I was able to change our program and Gabriele Rosa
introduced another program for me to be able to run a marathon without
getting exhausted,” he said. “So I was happy with the program. I train
longer and increase the distance. So today it helped me a lot, and I
believe in the program. Thank you.”

Reflecting on the move and the final ten kilometers, Kamworor said he wouldn’t change his strategy.

“I
race to win, but I’m happy about the second position,” he said. “I’m
looking forward in the future, maybe next year, I’ll come back again
and work hard to win a New York Marathon.”

Wilson Kipsang was fourth in 2:12:45, followed by Ethiopia’s Yemane Tsegay (2:13:24) and Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi (2:13:29).

Americans
Keflezighi and Leon took seventh and eighth in 2:15:16 and 2:15:40,
respectively. Keflezighi’s time is an American masters (40+) record, as
well as a masters event record. The previous masters national best was
Mbarak Hussein’s 2:13:52.

“It was a phenomenal day, in terms
of the crowd, in terms of the weather. The pace obviously was slow at
the beginning. Took a lot of patience just to hold it back,” said
Keflezighi, 40. “As the race unfolded, I was in the lead in the mix…
At the back of my head, I definitely wanted to get the American Masters
record. So I used the Japanese guy [Kawauchi] to be able to push a
little bit and help each other and barely got it.”

Both Keflezighi and Leon will now turn their attention towards the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

“We
don’t know who’s going to show up with what. I feel Nick [Arciniaga,
14th place today] and Craig here, and to be in the lead, you think
about those moments,” said Keflezighi. “You imagine it in the Trials.
Obviously, I did not have a strong finish, but the time wasn’t really a
concern…. Now [we] focus and refocus for the trials.”

PHOTO: Mary Keitany after winning her second TCS New York City Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

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