NEW YORK (02-Nov) — A pair of course records were set here at the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5-K, as New Zealand’s Nick Willis and America’s Molly Huddle broke the finish tapes first in, respectively. Racing from the United Nations building to Central Park, Willis and Huddle prevailed over a field that included 16 Olympians.
WILLIS RETURNS IN TRIUMPHANT FASHION
Nearly six weeks after winning the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile here, Nick Willis returned to the streets of the Big Apple to earn yet another victory using his patented finishing kick once again.
Through the early stages of today’s race, Ireland’s Alistair Cragg pushed the pace up front. Passing the mile in, Cragg was trying to do two things: get a hard, “hurting” effort in as preparation for the Fukuoka Marathon on , and take the finishing kick out of milers Nick Willis and David Torrence. He succeeded to do the first, though couldn’t accomplish the second.
“I felt really good the first mile,” said Cragg. “Nick Willis sat on me the whole way and never gave me a chance to get into my comfort zone without backing off a little.”
Among those in the lead pack through two miles (hit in) were Cragg, Willis, Sam Chelanga, Aaron Braun, Torrence, and Lopez Lomong. As the group passed under the 25 mile banner for ING New York City Marathon, Chelanga injected a surge that would break up the pack. Braun was the only one to respond.
Making a sharp, 120-degree turn inside Central Park, Chelanga was moving. Having trained on hills in Hanover, NH, the 28-year-old was using the ups and downs to his advantage, cruising and creating separation back to the chasers behind.
Some 50 meters adrift sat Willis. Just as it seemed there was no chance to catch the leaders, Willis took a glance at his watch, which read. That’s when the 2008 Olympic silver medalist at 1500m began a kick of his own, perhaps channeling compatriot Rod Dixon who 30 years ago won the ING New York City Marathon in the same finish stretch with a kick of his own.
“I was looking at my watch and was thinkingwould be the time we were running,” said Willis. “So I was just counting down until there were two minutes to go cause that’s when I am mentally tougher.”
Willis was closing fast just as Chelanga and Braun began to feel the after-effects of their earlier surges. Suddenly, Willis saw the pair coming back towards him.
Willis cruised over the final stretch to the finish line in Central Park, passing both Chelanga and Braun in the final meters. He broke the tape in, bettering Chris Thompson’s record from 2011.
Willis said today’s victory was extra special considering his wife sierra, son Lachlan, and friend Piergiorgio Conti were here watching. He will pace Conti, a masters runner,here in the marathon.
“I wanted to try and win so she got to experience some of the euphoria again, and [for] my friends coming over from Italy to run the marathon here,” he said. “It’s great that they were there on the finish line to experience that as well.”
Chelanga finished with the same time as Willis,, while Braun took third in . Both praised Willis’s ability to finish strong.
“I tried to win the race. Nick Willis is a respectable guy and he can also kick, so to lose to him, it’s hard but it’s still incredible,” said Chelanga, who ironically was the last elite athlete added to the field before the race. “He was powerful, I can tell you. I was really shocked to see him go by. I have nothing but respect for him.”
Rounding out the top five were Torrence () and Cragg ( ). In total, eight men broke .
HUDDLE BREAKS FROM INFELD, FLANAGAN TO EARN TITLE
Molly Huddle waited and waited and waited to make her sprint to the finish. In fact, the 29-year-old waited until the finish line was visible in Central Park to separate from training partners Emily Infeld and Shalane Flanagan.
“I didn’t want to kick until I could see the finish, cause it was a pretty painful pace for me and I wanted to have that in my sight before I used what I had left,” said a happy Huddle, speaking to members of the media shortly after winning the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5-K.
From the start adjacent to the United Nations headquarters, Huddle, Infeld, and Flanagan asserted themselves out front. Though American Kim Conley and Kenya’s 2012 Olympic silver medalist in Sally Kipyego tagged along through the opening mile in, the trio would break away by the halfway point.
Trading the lead, the three Americans pressed the pace by iconic Radio City Music Hall. Sometimes it was Huddle, other times Flanagan. Infeld seemed content sitting a step behind.
“I just knew I wanted a good, hard effort for whatever I could do today,” said Flanagan, speaking of her decision to push in the middle mile. “I think that first mile was faster than I’ve run in like three months. I knew I was in for some trouble.”
Though Flanagan was hurting, she remained with Huddle and Infeld through asecond mile, totaling through two miles. Little did Flanagan –or Infeld– know that Huddle was feeling the pace as well.
Traversing the hills of Central Park to Flanagan and Infeld’s right, Huddle was focused on one thing: kicking close to the finish. For roughly 300 meters leading to the finish line, flags of many countries around the world line either side of the street. In between them, Huddle made her move.
“I felt kind of on the edge of going lactic much of the way, so I wasn’t sure how long I could kick for,” she said. “I did start to slow down the last few steps so I think I timed it as close as I could.”
Just as the move began to catch up to her and with the feeling of lactic acid building in her legs, Huddle broke the finish tape in a new course record of. She had barely fended off Infeld, who recorded the same time for second.
“It feels great to win. The field was phenomenal with Olympic and World medalists out there, and Emily’s having a fantastic year,” she said. “To win today was a big confidence booster.”
In third came Flanagan, who like Infeld is coached by Jerry Schumacher. Flanagan said it was fun racing in New York for the first time since finishing second at the 2010 ING New York City Marathon, and tough competing after taking time off.
“It feels really good to be back. It’s a bit nostalgic just to make it to Central Park. I was kind of having some flashbacks of some really great moments for me here,” she said. “It’s a great way to celebrate the weekend. It hurt really bad today; my legs are burning right now.”
Sally Kipyego of Kenya, healthy and racing for the first time in 14 months, finished fourth in, followed by Julia Bleasdale of Great Britain one second later. Kim Conley wound up sixth in , the last finisher under .