Mini 10K Champion Mary Keitany On Fast Times & Chasing NYC Wins
By Sabrina Yohannes
Kenyan Mary Keitany sandwiched a 31:20 win at the NYRR New York Mini 10K in between her record-setting London marathon last spring and her upcoming title defense at the NYC Marathon later this year. “The race for me was just fantastic,” Keitany told RunBlogRun after finishing the 10K some 48 seconds ahead of former champion Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia on Saturday. “I have won, and I won here in 2015, so it was good for me to come and repeat here. So I’m happy, and again, I’m very excited since I’m coming to New York in November for the full marathon.”
Some seven weeks prior to the race in New York’s Central Park, Keitany completed the April 23 London Marathon in 2:17:01 to break Briton Paula Radcliffe’s 2005 world record of 2:17:42 for a women-only marathon. Keitany took that race out hard, clocking 1:06:54 for the half, and a world record 1:36:05 for 30K. Although it seemed clear she was purpose-driven and confident in her quest for a fast time, her strategy in the early stages recalled for some observers her 2011 race in New York, where she was out front alone for about 16 miles before being reeled in by eventual top placers Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia, behind whom the Kenyan had taken third.
Told of that recollection on the part of some viewers of the 2017 Virgin Money London marathon, Keitany laughed. “In London, I think I went almost all the way alone because I decided to do that because mostly, when we are racing a race like in London, which is a flat course, everybody is just watching me,” she said. “So if I move, they go; if I stay, we stay together. So I wanted to go because I really knew that maybe they can follow me, but for me, I was very ready for the race and my expectation was to run under 2:18 because I trained well. I was not even thinking that maybe I would do the mistake of New York 2011. I was really expecting something good.”
The two-time former London champion Keitany, who had previously run 2:18:37 and 2:19:19 there, said she entered the 2017 race confident she could dip below 2:18. “I trained well after I raced a half marathon in 65:13,” said the Kenyan, who was the runner-up behind a then-record-setting 1:05:06 win at the February 10 Ras Al Khaimah half in the United Arab Emirates (since supplanted by a 1:04:52 world-record run in Prague, both times clocked by Keitany’s compatriots). No stranger to the top of the all-time lists herself, Keitany had run a world mark of 1:05:50 at the RAK half in 2011, as well as a still-standing 2010 world record of 1:19:53 for 25K clocked in a race with both men and women in Berlin.
“I put in my mind if I train well, probably under 2:18 is a very high possibility,” said Keitany about London, adding, “During the race, I knew.” Paced by a woman part of the way through the streets of the British capital, Keitany was chased by former Olympic track champion and 15K world record-holder Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia, who also ran under 2:18, clocking 2:17:56 for second place. “I was not even thinking just one person is following me,” said Keitany. “I thought three ladies were following me. If somebody caught me, I could hold on and run with her. I wouldn’t leave her to go.”
“It’s really nice,” Keitany said of her new record. “I’m happy I entered the book of history, because after Paula Radcliffe, I am number two. I’m a champion and motivating other young women.”
Asked if she is setting her sights on the only other women’s marathon time better than hers, Radcliffe’s overall women’s world record of 2:15:25 (set in a mixed-gender race), Keitany paused for a moment, then shook her head. “Maybe, I don’t know,” she said.
She had also expressed a pessimistic prediction, she said, when she heard about projects aiming for a sub-two-hour race for men. Nike’s Breaking2 attempt ultimately took place on May 6 and resulted in a 2:00:25 clocking over the 26.2-mile marathon distance by Kenya’s Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge under non-world-record-eligible conditions.
“It is not possible — he missed it by  seconds,” said Keitany, who had nevertheless watched the webcast attempt, in which alternating teams of pacers entered the course to run behind a pace car and in front of Kipchoge and others on part of an auto-racing loop. She said she thought at the time that her compatriot “might come close.”
“Maybe in the future, they will run under two hours,” she said. “Also, the women might run under 2:15.”
Keitany’s own attention is focused is on pursuing a fourth straight TCS New York City marathon win in the fall. “My plan for the marathon now is I’m going back home and working on the program for the marathon, and I hope to come in November and do well again because I know it’s a great pleasure for me to come again for maybe the [sixth] time,” she said. “I started in 2010, then ’11, and ’14, ’15 and ’16.”
After third place finishes in her debut and in 2011 in 2:23:38, her fastest time on the undulating course to date, Keitany won in a sprint finish in 2014 and has never been defeated there since, prevailing last fall in 2:24:26. She is currently tied with the three-time former winner Radcliffe in total number of NYC wins, and a 2017 victory would put the Kenyan ahead of the Briton and behind only nine-time former winner Grete Waitz of Norway, who reigned over the event more than two decades ago.
“It would be really amazing for me, because I’ve been coming to New York,” said Keitany, who in terms of consecutive NYC wins, is already ahead of Radcliffe’s two and behind the Norwegian’s five; and travels to the race from her base in Iten, Kenya. “I like the city; I like the fans, all the way; and Central Park is just where we have been training. It’s a nice place, because in Kenya, we have a place like Central Park for the training, and I can say New York is like my home.”