Keitany, Biwott rule TSC/NYC Marathon, by David Hunter


Biwott-KeitanyFL1-NyMar15.jpgStanley Biwott, Mary Keitany, New York City Marathon Winners, 2015, photo by

The New York City Marathon was a huge success on so many levels. The first marathon in many years without Mary Wittenberg at NYRR CEO, it was a fitting testament to the vitality and strength of the New York Road Runners.

The increased activities during the week, the amazing NYRR Media Pavilion, and the fifty thousand runners showed that the New York City Marathon is not sitting on its laurels.

Here is how David Hunter saw the race unfold. David survived our fear and loathing trip to Beijing, and continues to talk to me. I am grateful for that and we are grateful for his weekly column on the sport he so obviously loves.

By Dave Hunter

November 1st, 2015

Patience is a rare and elusive virtue - often most needed at times when it seems most difficult to grasp. Yet the most successful world class marathoners - even in the midst of a 26 mile 385 yard war of attrition - can summon the poise to embrace patience. On a beautiful, crisp fall day, Mary Keitany and Stanley Biwott - two Kenyan athletes - not only exhibited composed patience, but they were able to follow their self-restraint by unleashing furious finishes to capture victories in the 2015 TCS/NYC Marathon.

EliteWomenStart-NYCM15.JPgThe Elite Women's start, photo by

In the women's race, caution was the early watchword as Portuguese athlete Sara Moreira led an elite pack, featuring Kenya's Sally Kipyego, Priscah Jeptoo, and defending champion Mary Keitany; Ethiopia's Aselefech Mergia, Mestawet Tufa, and Buzunesh Deba; France's Christelle Daunay; and first-time American Laura Thweatt through the race's early stages. Stringing together miles in the mid-5:30's, the leaders were comfortably clicking off Brooklyn miles at 2:25-2:26 pace. The waiting game continued as Thweatt - a top American 5,000m/10,000m athlete - towed a front-running group of 14 through the first half in 72:56. Before long, the leading group was down to 10 as several - including two time NYC runner-up Deba, hampered by a balky calf - dropped back. After the silent 16th mile across the Queensboro Bridge and the swing onto the First Avenue scream tunnel, the leaders had been reduced to Moreira, Thweatt, Kipyego, Keitany, Tufa, Mergia, and Jeptoo.

Thumbnail image for Thweatt_LauraLeds-NYC15.JPGLaura Thweatt leads, mid race, photo by

After an extended cat-and-mouse game heading uptown toward the Bronx, Keitany decided the waiting was over. Cleverly utilizing the 30K aid station to disguise her break, the Kenyan star stepped on the gas in the 18th mile and at last the race was on. Keitany's downshift promoted the carnage she wanted. While Tufa, Jeptoo, and Mergia soon covered the break, Thweatt and Kipyego were gone almost immediately. Early leader Moreira struggled to hold on. After a quick spin in the South Bronx, Keitany - in full control - headed back to Manhattan over the Madison Avenue Bridge as Moreira finally let go.

KeitanyLedsMergia-Tufa-NYC15.JPGKeitany, Tufa, Mergia, and then, there were by

Keitany and Jeptoo were elbow-to-elbow as they passed the 20 mile mark - the defending champion meting out the punishment as her countrywoman (Jeptoo) fought to hang on. Keitany's 21st mile in 5:14 gave her an 8 second advantage. A 22nd mile in 5:13 gave Keitany a 30 second lead, and basically sealed her victory. For good measure, Keitany added an exclamation point - an uphill 23rd mile in 5:15!

And the coronation cruise over the final 5K was all that remained.

Keitany_MaryFV-NyMar15.jpgMary Keitany wins New York, 2015, for the second time, photo by

Mary Keitany hit the line in 2:24:25 to claim the Rudin Trophy and become the first NYC woman's champion to successfully defend her title since world record holder Paula Radcliffe turned the trick in 2008. Regathering herself over the final kilometers, Mergia got up for second in 2:25.32 as her Ethiopian countrywoman Tufa finished 3rd in 2:25:50. "At the beginning, I had no option to go in front. I had to wait," explained the winner. "Becoming the champion again is very important to me. I am happy and very excited."

EliteMenBridge-NYCM15.JPgElite Men on the Verranzano Narrows Bridge, photo by

In the men's race, the early stages also featured lackadaisical pacing - attributed by many to August's world championship marathon which forced compressed periods of recovery and preparation for those Beijing participants electing to compete in New York. Ten miles into the race, a crowded lead pack of 15-20 runners included Kenya's Wilson Kipsang, Geoffrey Kamworor, Stanley Biwott; Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa [two-time Boston champion]; and American's Meb Keflezighi and Crain Leon. A 4:47 12th mile shook up the pack, but dropped no one. After passing the halfway mark in 66:50, the pace slowed further as the leaders strolled the 5K stretch up First Avenue in 16:24.

Keflezighi_Meb-LeadsNYCM15.JPgMeb leads the pack, NYCM 15, photo by

At 20 miles, the real racing began as Kamworor threw down a 4:24 mile to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Only Kipsang, Biwott, and Desisa could survive that pace burst as the African quartet sped through the South Bronx. The Kenyan protagonist - who captured the silver medal in August's world championship 10,000 meters - kept the heat on with a 22nd mile in 4:22 that quickly sent the defending champion Kipsang out the back door. The three remaining Africans were left to sort out the medals over the final 7 kilometers.

Biwott-Kamworor-NYCM15.JPgBiwott, Kamworor, Desisa, Mile 22, and then, down to by

Knowing he lacked Kamworor's track speed, Biwott - the only one of the remaining trio not sapped by world championship competition in the Beijing late summer steam bath - took the lead and pressed the pace. It was a gamble that paid off. In the rolling hills of Central Park, Biwott forged a 35 meter lead. When the 10,000m silver medalist clawed back to within 10 meters of his countryman, Biwott had one final surge that broke Kamworor just before the duo exited the park onto Central Park South. Finishing strong, Biwott - who covered the 5 mile stretch from miles 20 to 25 in 22:46 - went on the win his first Marathon Major championship in 2:10:34. Kamworor crossed 2nd in 2:10:48 and Desisa grabbed 3rd in 2:12:10.

Biwott_StanleyH-NYCM15.JPgStanley Biwott, photo by

"It was fantastic for me. It is a great honor," declared Biwott on his unexpected victory. "I am very happy today to win the New York City Marathon. I'll be happy to defend my title next year."

Kamworor-Biwott-DesisaA-NYCM15.JPgKamworor, Biwott, Lelisa, NCYM 2015 top three, photo by

The Americans were not without performances to cheer. 40 year-old Meb Keflezighi posted his 8th top 10 NYC Marathon performance to finish in 2:13:32 and set a new American masters record and establish a new NYC Marathon masters event record. "The support and the crowd was just amazing. I always love it in New York," said the former champion. "To do it for my 10th time, I am just happy to be here. I wanted to finish top 10. And now I can get ready for the Trials."

Keflezighi_Meb-NYCM15.JPgMeb Keflezighi, photo by

Laura Thweatt - in her debut marathon appearance - ran like an experienced veteran to finish 7th in 2:28:23. "I did surprisingly well. It was my debut marathon, so I didn't quite know what to expect," said Thweatt afterwards. "I am really happy with the performance. I definitely got what I wanted out of this today."

Thweatt_Laura-NYC15.JPGLaura Thweatt, photo by

Earlier in the week, the 26-year old track specialist repeatedly ruled out any chance she would compete in the United States Olympic Marathon Trials in February.

Medals-NYCM15.JPgMedals, NYCM 2015, photo by

A hot bath, a delicious meal, and a good night's sleep might prompt Laura Thweatt to reconsider. Dave Hunter

VerranzanoNarrows1c-NYC_M15jpg.JPGVerranzano Narrows Bridge, fifty thousand runners! photo by

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