Carolyn Mather is a long time writer for the Running Journal, one of our magazine partners. Each year, at New York and Boston, Carolyn writes for us. Here is her story on the women’s race that she viewed from a unique perspective: the Women’s Press Truck.
THE VIEW FROM THE WOMEN”S PRESS TRUCK AT THE TCS NYC MARATHON
Early on this crisp Sunday morning, members of the press began boarding the MEDIA bus at 5am in mid town Manhattan to take us to Staten Island where we begin our trip back to Central Park leading the professional women’s race. The sun arose brilliantly in a crystal clear blue sky with temperatures in the mid 50’s which remained fairly consistent throughout the race.It is always a bit hectic getting everyone in place but you can feel the magic and the energy of the record 52.049 starters in the air. There is an excitement rarely felt elsewhere as each runner begins their own journey.
Sitting next to me was Doug Flannery, Director of Race Operations for the Boston Athletic Association and right hand man to Boston Marathon Director Dave McGillivray. Doug had run the NYC Marathon but wanted to see it from a different perspective. He was a great viewing partner. The professional ladies began their journey at 9:20am EST.
There was an incredible amount of construction on the Verranzo Narrows Bridge, so our view was fairly limited as the ladies have a significant number of vehicles surrounding them most of the race.The wind was blowing pretty hard on the ascent and a large pack went through the first mile in approximately 6:20. The downhill of mile two was still fairly conservative as the pack hit about 12:10. The women appeared to be sorting themselves out and 5K was passed in 18:42-18:47 with 15 women present led by Mary Keitany. Very few if any picked up their special fluid bottles at this first station.
By 10K Aselefech Mergia was at the front of a group of 12 in the 35:50 -35:56 range. They were on a 2:31 projected finish pace but we knew the action would soon heat up. The pace was unusually slow for this point of the race. The waiting game had begun but was not to last very long!
Joyce Chepkirui, Mary Keitany and Aselefech Mergia began a slight surge at mile 8 and by 15K they were leaving Molly Huddle in no woman’s land running all alone. The women began to become loners chasing the top three. Around twelve miles, three became two as Chepkirui and Keitany surged ahead. As we made one of the final turns in Queens about a half mile before the approach to the Queensboro Bridge, Keitany noticeably increased the cadence of turnover in her legs and she very quickly left Chepkirui. It was absolutely incredible to see her make such a decisive break so early in the race. By the time we had crossed the Queensboro Bridge and turned onto First Avenue, there were no pursuers in sight. Keitany continued to increase her lead. Her tiny figure moved quickly and steadily over the next eight miles until she began to struggle a bit and slow her pace.
At this juncture she had a significant lead and only needed to get home and cross the finish line without any problems. She did this in 2:24:26 over three and a half minutes ahead of second place finisher Sally Kipyego who avenged last year’s DNF with a stellar but conservative plan this year. She held back and finished strong in 2:28:01 over a fast closing Molly Huddle who made a smashing debut and podium finish in 2:28:13.
Although we did not get to witness the drama occurring due to Keitany’s lead, we watched a masterful Keitany take command of the race and win for the third consecutive time. That last happened thirty years ago when Grete Waitz first accomplished the feat. All three of the top finishers looked to be in good shape and enjoyed celebrating with each other at the finish.
At the post race press conference the three were happy with their performances although Huddle admitted that she struggled a bit grinding out the miles by herself and only passing Chepkirui after 40K. Eleven women of the USA finished in the top twenty with three in the top ten. It was a tough race as many had to marshall their own resources and run alone.
All in all, the women staged a good show with Keitany definitely in the starring role. She quipped “maybe, yes” I can do it again.
We shall see next year.