Haile Gebrselassie Wins Nike Half in 59:24!

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Since 1998, Mary Wittenberg has wanted to have Haile Gebrselassie come to New York. Haile's visit to New York became a reality after Mary met Haile at the RNR Arizona Half marathon two years ago, courtesy of the late Mike Long, elite coordinator of Elite Racing, Inc. and close confidant of Haile.

Haile made his visit to Gotham City something special with his huge half marathon victory today. John Nepolitan, ATF's prep editor, wrote this excellent piece on Haile and the Nike Half Marathon.

New York Half Marathon Presented by Nike
New York City
August 5, 2007

by John Nepolitan, ATF

In the days prior to the 2nd New York Half Marathon Presented by Nike the weather in New York had been hot and very humid prompting the New York Road Runners Club to issue a heat warning to those entered, but race day morning brought cooler temperatures (70 degrees) and low humidity and as a result New Yorkers delighted in a runaway win by the greatest distance runner of all time – Haile Gebrsesalassie (Ethiopia) and a battle to the end in the women’s race.

The race course with it’s hilly opening loop through Central Park, described by many as more cross country, was predicted to produce slow opening miles before entering the flat track like latter stages of the race just past 7-1/2 miles, but an opening mile of 4:30 let everyone know that a fast time was in the making.


Passing 2 miles in 9:26 and 3 miles in 13:43 would start to break the field apart and by the time the 5000 meter split was reached in 14:12 2006 Chicago Marathon and 2 time Boston Marathon Champ Robert Cheruiyot(Kenya) had made a slight move going up a hill drawing Gebrselassie and the USA’s Abdi Abdirahman clear of the field. The three would stay together through to just past 7 miles (5 miles in 22:48, 6 miles in 27:25, 10,000 meters in 28:22 and 7 miles in 31:55) when at the 33 minute mark Cheruiyot would go for a drink of water and Abdirahman(The Black Cactus) would throw in a small surge which only Gebrselassie was able to respond to. When Abdirahman completed his move and went back to his previous pace, the multi world record holder from Ethiopia continued the move and by the 35 minute mark was race for first was all but over. Gebrselassie would continue through splits of 36:20(8 miles), 40:43 (9 miles), 42:11(15,000 meters), 45:10(10 miles), 49:43(11 miles) and 54:17 (12 miles), 56:15 (20,000 meters) before pushing the final 1.1 miles to break the tape just past the World Trade Center site on Manhattan’s west side in a new course record of 59:24(a 4:32 per mile pace), the 2nd fastest half marathon performance in the USA. The ever smiling Ethiopian would have an 18 second lead over Abdirahman at 15,000 meters and that would grow to 1:02 by 20,000 meters and 1:20 at the finish, but the Tucson based runner improved both on his place from 2005(3rd) and his time and seems to be on course for a spot on the USA Olympic Marathon team (which will be selected on November 3rd in New York) crossing the line in 1:00:29. Early leader Cheruiyot would struggle home to finish in 3rd in 1:00:58 before being taken to the hospital as a precaution (word that the World Marathon Masters leader was fine and doing well).

In the 1st edition of the New York Half Marathon Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) had all she could handle in holding off Benita Johnson(Australia) in the final steps. The 2007 finish would once again be close, but this time involving three runners and unlike 2006 Ndereba would cross the line second. A pack of six runners, Hilda Kibet(Kenya), Ndereba(Kenya), Nina Rillstone(New Zealand), Yuri Kano(Japan), Madai Perez(Mexico), and Megumi Oshima(Japan) would pass 5000 meters in 17:05 and 10000 meters in 34:06 before the pack would start to split apart. At 15000 meters Kano(50:43), Rillstone (50:44), and Oshima(50:48) had fallen back of the trio of Kibet, Ndereba and Perez who all passed in 50:40. Over the next 5000 meters (3.1 miles) Rillstone would rejoin Kibet and Ndereba (20000 meters in 1:07:09) while Kano (1:07:29), Perez(1:07.36) and Oshima(1:07:53) were attempting to hold onto the minor placings. When the top three came into view of the finishline just past 13 miles the three were in a fight to the finish with Kibet, who is applying for citizenship in the Netherlands, having the best sprint of them all pulling away in the last meters and having enough cushion to celebrate he break through performance to cross the line in 1:10:32 to earn a 1 second win over Ndereba (1:10:33) and 2 more seconds over Rillstone(1:10:35) who was having the best race of her life.


Post Race Quotes:

Haile Gebrselassie – “”I was dreaming to run in New York City the dream came true this morning, I am so glad that I had the chance to run here……The race was very aggressive at the beginning of the race especially through the lap of Central Park, I did not expect that I thought the athletes would go slow, but it was the other way around…..When I came to Times Squire, something that I like the most and I push faster….Right after the Park(about 7-1/2 miles) I said ok this is my race……My preparation is perfect, I am preparing for the Berlin Marathon and when you prepare for a marathon the half marathon is not that difficult….I am thinking of 2008 or 2009(of running the New York City Marathon) I promise to run the New York City Marathon before I stop running”

Abdi Abdirahman - “It was a great race to day overall I was happy with the way I ran…When I put my surge in I knew we had dropped Robert(Cheruiyot) I was trying to recover, but then he (Gebrselassie) kept going – so he put like 2 surges in a row….Last year I was 3rd and this year I was 2nd so hopefully next year I can come back and win this thing…..When Haile opened up the gap my main focus was just to maintain my form…..i didn’t give up I still had a hope I am an athlete I am here to compete and we know Haile is the greatest, but at the same time this is sport I win some and I lose some so if you give up the race before you cross the finish line you will lose to other people as well…..This is just 1 step closer to what I want to accomplish here on November 3rd….When I go to Osaka ( for the IAAF World Track Championships 10,000 meters) I am going to go in there with the same attitude, I am not going to go to Osaka and be in the back of the pack I want to be up in front and fighting for a medal

Hilda Kibet – “The last meters were very tough…I knew that I could sprint…When it comes to a sprint and when you are just a few meters from someone you feel very strong and you are just fighting to win….I ran a race against Greta Wami(Ethiopa) and she has a faster 10000 meters than me and I know she can sprint and I won from her in the last 100 meters so I knew I can sprint…At the moment I am applying for a passport for the Netherlands, but that can take up to 1 year, but in 2008 I will probably represent the Netherlands…..This is the best race(victory) for me

Full results can be found : http://web2.nyrrc.org/cgi-bin/htmlos.exe/1685.1.645415509500028046

Repeat of the race webcast can be found at : http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=sports&id=5541657#

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