Mo Farah , second at NYC Half: You can't keep a good man down, by Elliott Denman

Mo Farah, 2014 NYC Half, photo by
Mo Farah 2nd at NYC HALF.

NEW YORK - They can't keep a good man down.

 Despite two run-ins with Big Apple pavement, Mohamed "Mo" Farah, got up each time, dusted himself off, and told the world, " I'm OK, this is no big deal",
and everything is still on
schedule for his marathon debut the world awaits, four weeks hence in London.

  All this in a New York minute - or two of them.

 The first tumble came somewhere between miles five and six of Sunday's ninth annual New York City Half Marathon. 

Moses Mutai leading 2014 NYC Half, by

Running with the lead pack in Central Park, the double
Olympic/World Championships distance track king's legs tangled with some others and he wound up on the deck. 

  As the co-leaders, Geoffrey Mutai and Stephen Sambu, both of Kenya, took off in the distance, with others on their heels, Farah roused himself. cleared the cobwebs, checked for injuries or
abrasions (fortunately none), got over the sudden shock, and gave chase.

 That he never did catch Mutai, the NYC/Berlin/Boston marathon winner, was surely not to his discredit. Just the opposite.  He "hung tough."  He got it together.  He rallied the way a champion should. Getting back on his feet, and sprinting the way he did in the homestretches of his global 5 & 10 (thousand-meter) triumphs, he finally caught Sambu, the former University of Arizona star, in the concluding meters, and did himself hugely proud.

   And then the second tumble.

Mo Farah collapsed, post NYC Half race, photo by
Clearly weary from the all-out comeback effort on this windy, chilly early Sunday morning (the
13.1-miler, with its cast of over 20,000 got rolling at 7:30 a.m.), he toppled to the ground a stride or two after crossing the finish line.

  This crash initially looked a whole lot more serious than the first one.

  Medics rushed to his aid, he was carted off in a wheelchair, and for many anxious moments no one really knew the extent of the damage - if any.

   But again he brushed it off, refused to go to a hospital, got some quick attention in the first-aid tent, and was back on his feet in short order.

   So when he showed up at India House - the historic Hanover Square building serving as press headquarters-not really that long after Mutai and Sambu had told their stories, there was a sense of universal relief.

 The word from Mo:

 "When I fell (the first time), I fell pretty hard. I told myself 'don't rush.' But when I saw the gap (on Mutai, Sambu, et al), the gap was big."

  On top of everthing. he was ice cold and generally uncomfortable - specially so after spending two months training at high altitude in otherwise summery Iten, Kenya.

  Three days before this race, Farah (who hadn't competed since the Great North Run in England last September) had conceded that "Geoffrey Mutai is a great athlete. I don't personally know him but I know what he's done. Hopefully. on Sunday, it should be a good race.  We'll see."

Men's lead, 11 miles, NYC Half, by

  Well, we saw.

  Mutai clocked 5K splits of 15:14, 29:36. 43:26 and 57:40, and sped home in 1:00:50 - not really super time.

 A long array of men have broken the hour mark and Eritrea's Zersenay Tadese 58:23 has been in the books for two years as the world record; Ethiopian superman Haile Gebreselassie's 2007 59:24 is the event record - but 1:00:50 in the tough conditions was a quality performance
nevertheless.  (Over a course that began with the rolling hills of Central Park, and finished with the flats miles of midtown and the finishing dash to the south tip of Manhattan.)  

   Farah's margin over Sambu was a single second - 1:01:07 to 1:01:08.

   Settling for second - one of his last non-wins since taking silver back of Ethiopia's Ibrahim Jeylan in the 2011 World Championships 10,000-meter final in Daegu in 2011 - Farah was philosophical - "I guess you've just got to go on."

  That means he's jetting back to Kenya Tuesday for two more weeks of preparation, under the coaching eye of Alberto Salazar, for the London Marathon.

  "I'll be OK, I know I will," said as he exited India House.

  "We're out of here," said Salazar.

   Yes, there's work still to be done.  (And a 31st birthday to celebrate, on March 23.)

  While Mutai missed the record book, women's champion Sally Kipyego did not.

Sally Kipyego, NYC Half, photo by

 The women's Olympic 10,000-meter silevr medalist, by way of Kenya and Texas Tech University, made her NYC Half debut a sensational one, lowering
the event record to 1:08:31.  Previous best NYC Half clocking was the 1:08:35 by Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia in 2012 (although there have been several course revisions over the years.) 

Buzunesh Deba, NYC Half, photo by

   Ethiopia's Buzunesh Deba, a resident of the Bronx, outspurted USA's Molly Huddle in the closing phases to nab second, 1:08:59 to 1:09:04.9.

Molly Huddle, NYC Half, photo by

  Kipyego actually ran a conservative race.

  Rather than "go for it" from the gun, she simply kept company with the likes of Croatia's Lisa Stublic (the former Columbia runner), Deba and Huddle through eight miles.

  "I just wanted to be careful," said Kipyego. "I didn't want the wheels falling off after 10."

   She ran it with the ease of a marathon runner - which she is not.

  But will she be - and maybe soon?

  NY Road Runners CEO and NYC Marathoner Mary Wittenberg would obviously extend a gold-plated invitation to Kipyego.

  Call it a definite maybe that well see Kipyego lining up for a 26.1-miler sometime, somewhere in the not-too-distant future.

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