The Future is Now: Geoffrey Mutai Smashes Course Record, Dado Outlasts Deba in Dual PR Performances at 2011 ING NYCM, by Jon Gugala, note by Larry Eder

This piece, I believe, puts the 2011 ING NYCM marathon into its' proper perspective. This piece was penned by one of our newest writers, Jon Gugala, who helps us consider what we saw in the battle of the five boroughs, on November 6, 2011. We hope you like Jon's feature as much as we do....

Fred Lebow Statue, photo by

The Future is Now:
Geoffrey Mutai Smashes Course Record, Dado Outlasts Deba in Dual PR Performances
by Jon Gugala

WomenBridge_NYCM11.JPg2011 ING NYCM, Bridge view, photo by

The men's marathon has been redefined in 2011, and New York City was no exception. The other four World Marathon Majors races, which include London and Boston in the spring and Berlin and Chicago in the fall, have had their course records broken in quick succession this year. In New York, the fifth and final race in the series, the stage was set for perfection. With arguably the race's strongest men's field ever assembled, Geoffrey Mutai smashed New York's course record by over two minutes, and second and third places were all under the previous best. The 2011 New York City marathon has confirmed that a new era of marathoning is here.

Mutai_GeoffreyA_NYCM11.JPgGeoffrey Mutai, 2011 ING NYCM, photo by

Mutai, who has already broken a WMM course record this year when he ran 2:03:02 at the 2011 Boston Marathon (due to the point-to-point nature of the course, his time was not world record-eligible), came into New York with the additional weight of impressing Athletics Kenya. AK had previously announced two of the three Kenyan Olympic marathon spots, which include world record-holder Patrick Makau (2011 Berlin, 2:03:38) and 2011 IAAF World Championships gold medalist Abel Kirui, and had said the final spot would be announced after New York so as to spare its athletes from having to race again in the spring. It made a strong New York performance all the more important for Kenyan nationals.

Mutai_GeoffreyFHL1a-NYCmar11.jpgto the winner, Geoffrey Mutai, 2011 ING NYCM, photo by

Mutai resoundingly stated his Olympic case by winning New York in 2:05:06, breaking Tsefaye Jiffar's 2001 course record of 2:07:43 by 2 minutes, 37 seconds. Mutai also answered any lingering questions about the legitimacy of his performance on the day-of-days in Boston.  "If somebody follows me, I have no fear," Mutai said later, referencing the decisive break he led at mile 20 with a two-mile split of nine minutes flat.
Second and third places went to Emmanuel Mutai and Tsegaye Kebede in 2:06:28 and 2:07:14, respectively. With his placing, the younger Mutai earned an additional payday by winning the 2010-11 World Marathon Majors series with a win in the 2011 London marathon and runner-up spots in 2010 in London and New York. Mutai seemed to sum up the current state of the sport best when asked when we can expect a sub-2:00 marathon: "If it is not me, the next generation is coming."

Mutai_GeoffreyPush1b-NYCM11.jpgpushing, Geoffrey Mutai, photo by

The U.S. had a respectable showing considering most domestic athletes took a bye from fall races to prepare for the trials hosted by the Houston marathon on January 14. There were two Americans in the top 10 and three in the top 15, led by 2009 New York champ Meb Keflezighi.
Keflezighi, who ran with the leaders until the break at mile 21, rallied to finish in a sixth place, 2:09:13 PR.

Keflezighi_MebH-NYCM11.jpgMeb Keflezighi, 2011 ING NYCM, photo by

It was his seventh New York City marathon, and of the city, he said, "[New York's] my second home, basically. I love it, and I love being here." Ed Moran, who was born on Staten Island and now trains in Williamsburg, VA, was tenth overall in his debut in 2:11:46, and Bobby Curtis was 15th in his 2:16:46 debut.

Mary Keitany in her natural state: leading, 2011 ING NYCM,
photo by

In the women's race, all eyes were on the supposed duel between Mary Keitany, owner of a 2:19:19 PR set in her sophomore marathon in London earlier this year, and Caroline Kilel, who won Boston in 2:22:36. But really, Keitany seemed to posses the greater momentum after setting a world record of 1:05:50 at the RAK Half Marathon in February. Instead, Firehiwot Dado, a first-time New York competitor with a 2:24:13 best, would take the win in over New York resident Buzunesh Deba, 2:23:15 to 2:23:19, which were PRs for both women. Keitany would settle for third in 2:23:39.

Keitany_MaryNYC_NYCM11.JPgwicked gravity, Mary Keitany, 2011 ING NYCM,
photo by

Keitany seemed like she'd learned her lesson from her debut in New York last year, where she allowed a conservative first 20 miles relegate her to a third-place position despite having the better credentials. Keitany went out fast and had already opened a gap on the lead pack at the bottom of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in the first two miles of the race. Her lead grew by the mile, finally peaking at 2 minutes, 18 seconds at 25km, but it proved to be too aggressive of a start this year, and her time buffer eroded precipitously, at one point losing 32 seconds in a single mile. "I [felt] fatigue in my leg and I slowed a bit," she said.

Dado_Firehiwot1_NYCM11.JPgFirehiwot Dado, 2011 ING NYCM, photo by

For eventual winner Dado, it was a surprise to see Keitany coming back in Central Park after being unaware of her location for most of the race. "I didn't imagine I'd catch her," Dado said.

Dado_FirehiwotR_NYCM11.JPg giving thanks, Firehiwot Dado, photo by

Dado's win is even more remarkable in that it is also her first Marathon Majors race. Buzunesh Deba, who set her previous best of 2:23:31 in June in San Diego, made a late surge to regain contact over the last quarter mile but ran out of road, settling for second.

Pritz_Molly_NYCM11.JPgMolly Pritz, 2011 ING NYCM,
photo by

The American women also showed promise in New York. Molly Pritz, debuting at a tender 23 years of age, established herself as a dark horse contender at the trials in January by finishing top American in 2:31:52, good for 12th. "Ever since I started running I wanted to be a marathon runner. This has been the goal. This has been the dream," she said. Lauren Fleshman, an Oregon Track Club member and 14:58.48 5,000m runner, finished in 2:37:23 in 16th. Rounding out the top three nationals was Camille Herron in 2:40:06, who was also the top American marathoner at the 2011 Pan American Games just 13 days before. Jen Rhines, a 2:29 marathoner and Olympian at the distance, did not finish.

Fleshman_Lauren_NYCM11.JPg Lauren Fleshman, 2011 ING NYCM,
photo by

The 2011 New York City marathon will be remembered no so much for its individual performances, as notable as Geoffrey Mutai's 2:05:06 course record was, but of where the race lies in history. In a year that saw four sub-2:04 performances and a new world record, it has been a year to remember.

Sammy Wanjiru, widely credited in ushering in the modern marathon and himself a former WMM course record holder, had prescient words about his race at the 2008 Olympics, which he won in record time: "It's all mental," he said. "It was a big thing that I went over this wall."

What Wanjiru did not live to see was a generation following hard on his heels, building a new structure for the marathon with walls that have yet to be established.

Wanjiru-Kebede.JPGseems so long ago, Sammy Wanjiru, Tsegaye Kebede, 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, photo by

For more on the sport:

New York City Marathon

World Marathon Majors

Running Network


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