Two-Time Boston Champion Lelisa Desisa Chasing NYC Title In 2018, Or As Long As It Takes, By Sabrina Yohannes


Desisa_Lilesa-NycM17.jpGLelisa Desisa, photo by

Lelisa Desisa is one of the toughest marathoners that I know. I watched him win Boston in 2013 and 2015. His races in NYC show that he wants to win in the Big Apple in a big way. Here is a Sabrinna Yohannes' article on Lelisa and his dream of winning in NYC.

Two-Time Boston Champion Lelisa Desisa Chasing NYC Title In 2018, Or As Long As It Takes

By Sabrina Yohannes

The two-time Boston marathon champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia has now made the podium three times in his four outings at the TCS New York City marathon, and he plans to be back next year.

"I won't quit until I win," Desisa told RunBlogRun after taking third in 2:11:32 behind 2:10:53 winner Geoffrey Kamworor and 2:10:56 runner-up Wilson Kipsang of Kenya in the 2017 race on November 5.

Desisa lost a duel at the finish in Central Park to Kipsang in 2014, taking second in 2:11:06 to the winner's 2:10:59, and he was third in 2015 behind Stanley Biwott and Kamworor.

"My leg was a little tight," said Desisa of the 2017 race. "But I was full of energy. We were all together until the final miles."

The top three finishers clocked the same time or were a second apart at each of the 5K markers from 15K through 35K, reached in 1:49:36 by Kamworor with the other two a second behind. The winner passed 40K in 2:04:25 with his pursuers clocking 2:04:31.

"I had prepared well, but it's what the Creator wills that takes place," said Desisa.

He said before the race that in his preparations, he had utilized information gleaned from the Nike Breaking2 attempt in May to cover the marathon distance in under two hours, in which he took part. He said injury-impaired preparations hampered his participation in the event, in which he came to a stop at one point, but he learned lessons about pacing and nutrition during training, among other things, from experts who provided input.

Desisa said after the New York race that that information had helped.

"Absolutely," he said, adding that changes in his race hydration were an example.

"I'm taking fluids properly," he said, something that stood in contrast to his past practice: "I didn't take them. I skipped stations. Even when I took them, I just took a little."

He illustrated that contrast with an analogy about two drinks in Ethiopia. Areqe (or areke) is a clear, strong, distilled alcoholic drink often served in a small shot glass. Tella is a frequently home-brewed milder drink often compared to beer, and served in a full-size glass like those used for water.

Joked Desisa of his race fluid, "I used to sip it like areqe; now I drink it like tella."

Unlike the past, when he took fluids "whenever it was convenient; I would miss about two stations," Desisa said that in the 2017 New York marathon, "I didn't miss any, except for once, at the end, when I picked it up but someone bumped into me and that made me drop it."

"I think missing that last drink may have affected his finish," Ethiopian former Olympic track champion Million Wolde, who was at the race finish and observed the mishap on the race broadcast, told RunBlogRun. Desisa said that collision took place at around 35K.

Some of Desisa's race victories have come with sprint finishes, including his 2013 debut marathon in Dubai in 2:04:45, and maiden Boston outing three months later. That win was followed by the bombing at the race finish a few hours later, after which Desisa donated his winner's medal to the city of Boston as a gesture of empathy for the victims. Five days before the 2017 New York marathon, a truck attack killed cyclists and pedestrians on a bike path in lower Manhattan.

"When unjust things are done to people, it's very sad," said Desisa. "The race is a source of pleasure: when you run it, when you participate in it. The other event is very sad. When such things are committed, there's nothing you can do."

The 2013 world silver medalist Desisa has run the Massachusetts Patriots' Day race every year since his first win there, repeating the victory in 2015 in 2:09:17 and placing second last year.

In his eight starts at World Marathon Majors commercial big-city races, he has racked up two wins and a total of six podium finishes. The world championships marathon also serves as a qualifying race in the Abbott WMM series. Counting his two appearances in the global championship race - earning a medal the first time and a seventh-place finish in 2015 -- Desisa has a total of seven podium finishes in ten WMM qualifying races.

A return to New England is in his plans for the coming year.

"I'll run Boston," he said, which means his calendar will likely feature the same two American marathons he has frequented, the one he has conquered and the one that has so far eluded him - though he hopes to change that in 2018.

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