RI’s Molly Huddle 3rd at NYC Marathon

***Americans Huddle, Abdirahman Earn Third-Place Finishes***
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (06-Nov) — Kenya’s Mary Keitany made one of the strongest
winning moves in TCS New York City Marathon history, blasting away from
the field at 14 miles before running solo to her third straight victory
in 2:24:26. Keitany, 34, became just the third woman in history to win
here three times, joining the late nine-time champion Grete Waitz of
Norway and three-time champion Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain.  Only
Keitany and Waitz had won three consecutive times.

In similar fashion, Eritrea’s Ghirmay Ghebreslassie said goodbye to
chasers Lucas Rotich and Lelisa Desisa on the Willis Avenue Bridge after
mile-19 and would cover the roads of New York by himself. Breaking the
tape in 2:07:51, the 2015 world marathon champion ran the fastest
marathon on USA soil this year. Ghebreslassie became the youngest winner in race history at 20 and the event’s first Eritrean champion.


In her past two victories, Mary Keitany sat back and conserved energy
before pouncing, learning valuable lessons after running out of gas in
2010 and 2011. Today, with her husband and two children watching, she
went back to her old aggressive ways, though would not falter in the
final miles. She’d maintain her insurmountable lead through the finish
to re-write the history books.

With a crosswind blowing steadily, Keitany relaxed through 10 and 15 km,
hitting the checkpoints as part of the sizable lead group in 35:50 and
52:48, respectively. On the outside of her petite body was a face
screaming relaxation. Inside, her heart beat to a different rhythm.

After not being selected for the Kenyan Olympic team, Keitany wanted to
come to New York and prove a point, not just to selectors and fellow
competitors, but also to her family. With her son Jared, daughter
Samantha, and husband Charles Koech in attendance, Keitany wouldn’t be

“I’m saying actually today I think I was very focused on this race since
my preparation was very okay at home. Since I didn’t get to go to Rio, I
had enough time to train, and now I’m happy for this event,” Keitany

Later she’d add: “This morning my daughter was just telling me, Mom,
good luck and try not to fall down like what I did in London. So I tell
my child, let me just try my best. Pray for me.”

After the 15 km aid station, Keitany subtly injected a surge that would
break up the field. Keitany, Joyce Chepkirui, and last year’s runner-up
Aselefech Mergia increased their tempo to 5:08 per mile pace, forcing an
issue upon American debutante Molly Huddle: go and risk bonking or
settle and see what happens.

“Around 8 or 9 (miles), there was a little bit of a breakaway, and I had
to decide if I go or stay. I think, Sally [Kipyego], you made more of
an even move, and that paid off a lot at the end today. I kind of went a
little harder around mile-08 and was alone for a while,” Huddle
recalled. Though Huddle picked her pace up, she couldn’t catch up to the
leading trio. It turned out for the better.

While Keitany, Chepkirui, and Mergia had jumped out to a 27-second lead
on Huddle by 12 miles, the pace ultimately proved to be suicidal for the
latter two. Keitany led up the Pulaski Bridge after 13 miles, hitting
half way in 1:12:39 next to Chepkirui. Mergia was suffering and faded to
1:13:25 at halfway, and would never again be a factor, finishing sixth.
Huddle, meanwhile, was gutting it out in no-women’s land, running alone
while battling a strong wind.

Chepkirui would only last another half-mile, beginning to break near the
14-mile mark. Barely halfway into the race and with two boroughs still
to come, Keitany was all alone in front. Consistent miles in the
5:05-5:20 range proved to be the winning potion.

The only person to come within an arm’s reach of Keitany was world
record holder Paula Radcliffe, riding in the lead motorcycle. Keitany
was on the brink of accomplishing something Radcliffe never did here in
winning three straight titles.

Though Keitany’s cadence seemed to slip ever so slightly in the Bronx
and entering Manhattan, it rebounded once Central Park came into view.
Her lead continued to grow: at 20 miles Keitany’s gap was 2:07, grew to
3:04 at 22 miles, and was at it’s highest point at 40-K (3:59). The day
belonged to Keitany, plain and simple.

Keitany broke the tape in 2:24:26, a second off her winning time last
year (2:24:25). The win meant a great deal, especially since the first
people Keitany saw approaching the finish were her children.

“It means a lot to me. I’m very excited that I got it again, three times. I know that it’s not easy,
but I got it. So it means a lot to me. And also, my family, my God, and everybody there at home,” said Keitany.

“When I was crossing the line, I was seeing my kids just around there,
and I think they were cheering me, and I was happy for them to be in New
York for the first time since they accompany me and cheer. They have
just cheered me.”

With gold secured, the focus went back to the rest of the podium
placings. Over the final 10 km, Chepkirui steadily began to crack all
the while Sally Kipyego was covering ground. After dropping out last
year at mile 23, Kipyego changed her preparation coming into today, and
it proved invaluable in the final miles.

Kipyego overtook Huddle for third between miles 15 and 16, then caught
Chepkirui, who was suffering with bad blisters, by the 25th mile. She’d
have just enough to fend off Huddle –who’d followed suit by passing
Chepkirui in the final mile– in Central Park’s final 600 meter stretch,
2:28:01 to 2:28:13.

“For me, I’m very happy. I’m very happy with the results today. For
those that were here last year or know what happened last year, this was
kind of a redemption year for me, or marathon for me. I just decided to
run behind today and run within myself and make sure I didn’t get
carried away with the leaders. Stayed within my pace, and that paid off
today,” said Kipyego, sporting her silver medal over a Nike Oregon Track
Club jacket. “I kind of stuck to my plan and didn’t get carried away. I
think at the end of the day, that is really what helped me get through
and be able to finish my first marathon.”

Huddle’s performance, highlighted by the strength to hang tough while
running a majority on her own, was rewarded with the podium placing. She
joins Kara Goucher (third, 2008) and Shalane Flanagan (second, 2010)
among American women to finish on the podium here in their debut

“I was just thrilled to get through the race smoothly. I thought it was a
big step in learning how to race the marathon. It seems like about who
manages themselves the best. I feel like I learned a lot today. I’m glad
I had a good experience, and I’m really happy to be third,” Huddle
said, speaking in her usual soft tone.

Huddle didn’t hit a hard wall, and described the pain of her race as a
simple grind. She will return to the track in the spring, but doesn’t
rule out the possibility of a marathon next year.

Outside of the top three, Chepkirui finished fourth in 2:29:08; Diane
Nukuri fifth in 2:33:04; and Aselefech Mergia sixth in 2:33:28. Neely
Gracey and Sara Hall, both coached by Steve Magness, were the only other
Americans in the top ten, finishing eighth (2:34:55) and ninth
(2:36:12), respectively.

Olympic triathlon gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen was 14th in her marathon
debut, running 2:41:01 after covering the first half in 1:15:55. She was
content with the race, though said she would do more marathon-specific
training next time.

“This was different than a triathlon. I didn’t prepare as well as I
should have going into this race. I just didn’t have enough time. It was
difficult. My muscles definitely got sore during the race,” she
admitted. “They’re going to be pretty tired and sore for several days.
That’s different than a triathlon. Normally, I go into a triathlon, and
I’m fully prepared and ready to go. For this race, I wasn’t prepared,
and it definitely hurts.”

Kim Conley, like Huddle and Jorgensen racing her debut marathon, was
16th in 2:41:38. She fell off the lead group around nine miles,
splitting the first half in 1:14:32. Among those not to finish was
Buzunesh Deba, who’d battled illness and visited the hospital earlier in
race week, and 2013 USA marathon champion Annie Bersagel who stopped at
21 miles.


Ghirmay Ghebreslassie had reason to be confident entering his debut TCS
New York City Marathon. He’d won the 2015 IAAF World Championships
Marathon, and placed fourth at both the 2016 Virgin Money London
Marathon and at the Olympic Marathon. Knowing his preparations had been
very solid, Ghebreslassie was borderline cocky with his outlook on the

Yet it was all for good reason. The 20-year-old put the hammer down with
more than seven miles remaining and only looked back to revel in his

“If you lose your confidence, you lose everything. What you did in
training, also what you are going to do in the race, you can lose
everything. So in order to be, in order to achieve what you need during
the race and before, you must have full confidence,” Ghebreslassie
explained. “If you lose your confidence means you are hopeless. If you
lose your hope, you can’t do anything. That’s why I believe to have my
confidence first. All what I did in training in relation to the systems
that I use during the race can make me to be the winner. I believe that
anyone must be confident before.”

Ghebreslassie let Americans Dathan Ritzenhein and Matt Llano push early
and often, hitting 10 km in 30:37. The first major move would be at just
before 15 km, when defending champion Stanley Biwott stepped off the
course due to a right calf injury. That assured a new champion would be
crowned in Central Park.

Like Keitany, the men’s winning move would come around the midway point.
At the 20 km aid station, Lucas Rotich (a training partner of Olympic
champion Eliud Kipchoge under coach Patrick Sang) surged to string out
the field and separate the contenders from pretenders. Ghebreslassie
followed immediately, as did two-time Boston Marathon champion Lelisa

Hitting halfway two steps up on the chase pack of six were
Ghebreslassie, Desisa and Rotich. Their 1:04:24 split was very solid for
this course, though set up the opportunity for a negative split on the
undulating second half. Covering the next six miles together, it was a
matter of time until the youngest of the bunch unleashed his speed.

Approaching the Willis Avenue Bridge at 19.5 miles, the group was three.
At the bridge’s apex, there was only one. In a matter of minutes
Ghebreslassie not only grabbed the lead, but gapped Desisa and Rotich
with relative ease.

“I didn’t win because my friend was stronger than me. I appreciate it
because he was strong,” Rotich said, summing up the move succinctly.

Ghebreslassie went into a bit more detail: “We were helping each other
before he dropped back. Then after I look back once and he was a little
bit far from me, and I was really a little bit angry with him because we
were helping each other. I was thinking maybe others from behind can
catch him. So I was a little bit competing
with it. So I was okay.”

Looking back twice and waving his arm, Ghebreslassie encouraged Rotich
to join him. But it was pointless: the youngest elite in the field had
torn the will out of everyone, including the Kenyan Rotich.

Ghebreslassie re-entered Manhattan and Central Park alone, and waved to
the thousands of spectators every once in a while. He savored the final
miles before breaking the tape in 2:07:51, securing his nation’s first
New York City Marathon title.

“As I won for the first time in the World Championships, the first from
Eritrea. So today it’s the first time — nobody has won any major
marathon from Eritrea. It’s just like the championship for me to be a
winner in this race. So I’m really proud of it,” said Ghebreslassie (Of
course, Meb Keflezighi, a native of Eritrea who has been an American
citizen since 1998, won here in 2009 and the Boston Marathon in 2014).
On his victory lap, Ghebreslassie high-fived Rotich before the Kenyan
crossed in 2:08:53.

Like the women’s race, the podium didn’t go to the three athletes bold
enough to break away early. Desisa wound up fading miserably and was
passed by Abdi Abdirahman after 35 km before ultimately dropping out.
Abdirahman, rejuvenated by overtaking Desisa, got a second wind while
chasing his first podium placement at an Abbott World Marathon Major.

The 39-year-old missed the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in February due
to injury. With the loss of a potential fifth Olympic team spot,
Abdirahman focused on getting healthy and returning with fire to the
roads. To him, New York was his personal Olympic Trials, something he’d
tell managers Ray Flynn and Brad Yewer.

“My main goal was just to focus on my form, my breathing, and make sure I
didn’t give any distance. My main goal was just I want to keep the same
pace they’re running,” he would say.

Abdirahman completed an American sweep of third place in 2:11:23. He’d
celebrate by brushing off his shoes as if they were on fire at the

“There’s nothing guaranteed until you cross that finish line. There’s
three great athletes who were behind me, so all respect to them. I
didn’t think I had it until I came to the park and then 400 meters and
then 200 meters to go. That’s when I thought I had it,” said Abdirahman.
Other than Meb Keflezighi (2009 victory, 2004 runner-up and 2005 third
place finishes), no American man had placed on the podium since Bob
Kempainen in 1993 (finishing second).

Fourth place almost went to another American, Shadrack Biwott, though
the former Oregon Duck was overtaken by Japan’s Hiroyuki Yamamoto of the
Konica-Minolta team in the final two miles (they’d finish 2:11:49 to
2:12:01, respectively). Still, the American showing was very strong when
looking at the big picture: eight Americans in the top 15.

One American not to finish was Dathan Ritzenhein, who dropped out due to a heel injury.

Over 52,000 runners started today’s race on the 40th anniversary of the
race becoming a five-borough competition.  Runners were treated to
bright skies and mostly cool temperatures, although some said it felt
warm in the unshaded areas.

“This was just a fantastic day,” said Peter Ciaccia, President of the
New York Road Runners and Race Director of the TCS New York City
Marathon. “We had a record number of starters today, and we think we’re
just going to have a record number of finishers as well that will carry
through. So it’s going to be, again, the biggest marathon in the world
thus far.”

Ciaccia told members of the media that during today’s race, Meb
Keflezighi announced that he will return to New York next year to race
his 26th and final competitive marathon. “His final marathon will be
here in New York next year, and that’s pretty special for us.”

PHOTO: Mary Keitany with her husband, Charles Koech, son Jared and
daughter Samantha after winning the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon
(photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

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