The race is on! Kipsang and Lelisa battle, photo by PhotoRun.net
Justin Lagat wrote this story about the Kenyan victories in New York on Sunday, but also about the concern that doping could ruin one one of his country's gifts to the world: fine distance running.
Mary Keitany wins New York! photo by PhotoRun.net
The TCS New York City Marathon happened against the backdrop of the unsettling news about Rita Jeptoo's positive test of a banned substance in an out of competition testing done in Kenya. The weather, as if in reflection to the mood of marathon fans across the world, was unfavorably cold and windy.
One of the TV commentators who covered the event live had commented just before the race that times were definitely not going to be a factor for the elite runners given the weather conditions. There were bound to be neither course nor personal records. All we could only do was to wait to see who was the first woman and the first man to cross the finish line. And sure indeed, it became the first time after a long time that none of the runners were able to run under two hours and ten minutes.
The man who had the most stakes in this race and had to win it was Wilson Kipsang. He was second to Dennis Kimetto in points for the WMM title and would only win it if he won the New York Marathon. His focus and smart running in the race finally bore fruit for him as he battled the rest of the strong elite field to win it in a time of 2:10.59, Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa was second in 2:11.06 after running shoulder to shoulder with Kipsang at the last stages of the race before a sprint for the tape separated them. Gebre Gebremariam finished third in 2:12.13.
Because of the windy weather and the absence of pace-setters in the race, the men's leading pack had huddled together for the better part of the race often exchanging the responsibility of wind breaking at the front.
In the women's race, Sara Moreira did most of the front running while the rest of the elite field followed almost in a single file. It was in the last stages of this race that a competition between Mary Keitany and Jemima Sumgong made the race quite interesting, but Keitany was able to edge her compatriot to win it in 2:25.07.
Keitany's aim coming into this race was to test whether she was finally back to her former place in marathon running. Now she knows, and it will be interesting to see what follows for her come next year. Jemima finished second in 2:25.10 while Sara took the third in 2:26.00.
However, as Kenyans shone again at this year's New York City Marathon, sadly, questions still linger regarding the extent of the doping issue in our country: Is the federation in the country doing enough to curb cheating among its runners? Should managers and agents be responsible in monitoring their athletes and educating them on the dangers of doping? Should athletes be responsible individually when they are implicated in doping, or should their coaches and agents also be questioned?
Being one of the Kenyan athletes who advocate for and love a clean sport, I believe that each and every one of us who like the sport of running should contribute to the fight against doping in whatever way and capacity we are in. Not necessarily to level the playing field, but more for the health of the sport and its athletes in general.
I am almost certain that if only doctors who helped athletes in the past would confess (they may not do so for fear of getting arrested), they would admit that the benefit of doping is not beneficial to the athlete as much as it is to their pockets, and that athletes who have no ability to win a race in the first place would still not do so even with the help of drugs, and sadly, that those who win by doping also have the ability to do so without doping.