Ghebresalassie won NY Thinking of his bride & Driven by Recent Podium Misses, by Sabrina Yohannes

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Ghebreslassie_GhirmayFHH-NycMar16.jpgGhirmay Ghebresalassie wins TCS NYC Marathon, photo by PhotoRun.net

Ghirmay Ghebresalassie won the TCS NYC Marathon on November 6, 2016 in a battle for the top title with Lukas Rotich and Abdi Abdirahman. This is an interview done with Mr. Ghebresalassie by Sabrina Yohannes, who has written several pieces for us over the past few years. Ghebresalassie has proven himself to be a top talent, with his win in NYC, followed by two fourths in London and at the Olympics. His World Championships win in Beijing 2015 surprised many, but his win, in 2:07:51 on the tough NYC course should remind marathon fans that Ghirmay will be a force to reckon with in any race he chooses.

Ghebreslassie Won NY Thinking Of His Bride & Driven By Recent Podium Misses

By Sabrina Yohannes

As Ghirmay Ghebreslassie approached the finish line of the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon at the tail end of his victory there on November 6, he waved, pointed his index fingers skyward and repeatedly kissed the wedding ring on his left hand.

"I got married only one month ago, and I was going to come with my wife here," the Eritrean world champion Ghebreslassie told RunBlogRun afterwards.

He had met Bietel Tekie a few months earlier when she was a guest at a wedding where he was a groomsman, and the pair wed in early October.

"But I wasn't able to bring her," Ghebreslassie said. "We weren't able to facilitate the visa process in time. ... She said goodbye to me at the airport before my flight."

Tekie told him she would be watching him compete and he, in turn, said he would think of her during the race, and then told her: "We can believe we are together here."

His debut NYC marathon turned out to be a glorious event for the newlyweds experiencing the race together in spirit but geographically continents apart -- she watching on television in Asmara, he pounding the streets of the five boroughs of New York -- when he triumphed in 2:07:51 ahead of Lucas Rotich of Kenya who ran 2:08:53, and Abdi Abdirahman of the USA who finished in 2:11:23.

It was as the lead pack approached the incline of the Pulaski Bridge just before the halfway point that Ghebreslassie darted out from behind Rotich's left elbow and bolted forward, with only the Kenyan and the former Boston champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia giving chase.

"Normally, it's better to stay til 30K, 35K, but the pace was very easy," said Ghebreslassie, who considered surging around 25K. "But randomly, when I saw the hill, I decided to increase the pace."

As he descended off the bridge ahead of the 2015 Hamburg champion Rotich and Desisa, Ghebreslassie peeled off the arm-warmers he was wearing and powered on, decisively dropping his pursuers on another ascent, up the Willis Avenue Bridge in the 31st kilometer.

"I like hills a lot," said Ghebreslassie, who is from Kisadeka in southern Eritrea but is based in the capital. "The training course I have in Asmara is a little bit similar. If I get uphills or downhills, it's easy for me to make a sprint. That's why I prefer that."

He completed the remainder of the race's 42 kilometers alone, his upper body leaning forward, his eyes gazing ahead in determination, his shoulders swinging slightly from side to side, the gold cross on a chain around his neck bouncing off his chest.

He became the first Eritrean to win the NYC marathon, and was feted by his countrymen that night. "The Eritrean community in New York invited me for dinner, and I enjoyed that," he told RunBlogRun the next day. "It was a nice celebration."

Ghebreslassie was also the first from his nation to win one of the commercial big-city races - Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York -- on the Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM) circuit, just as he had made history at the 2015 worlds in Beijing.

"As I won for the first time in the world championships, the first from Eritrea, also today it's the first time - nobody has won any major marathon from Eritrea," he said. "It's just like a championship for me to be the winner in such a race. So I'm really proud of it."

It was back-to-back fourth place finishes at AWMM races after Beijing that partially motivated Ghebreslassie's success in New York.

He fell in the 2016 London marathon in April and finished behind Eliud Kipchoge and Stanley Biwott of Kenya and Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia. (Ghebreslassie did, however, come away with a 2:07:46 personal record to improve on the time he clocked in his 2014 debut over the distance.)

He narrowly missed the podium again at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where rain provided an obstacle, and he placed behind Kipchoge, Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia and Galen Rupp of the US.

"It was a little bit slippery with the shoes and it made me to have a pain on my leg and it made me to draw back from the leading group," said Ghebreslassie. "When the pain was gone, I came to the front and I was number four."

"Really, it makes me angry when I was number four twice because if you are far from the top three, it's OK, [but not] if you miss with a little gap from the medal," he told RunBlogRun on the Friday before the Sunday NYC race. Pointing to the "4th" designation on a list of his prior accomplishments, he added, "I am thinking to fight against this number. I have to be number one or number two." And number one he was, two days later, in dominant fashion.

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