Lelisa Desisa Hopes to Apply Breaking2 Lessons Towards New York Marathon


Desisa_Lelisa1-BostonM16.jpgLelisa Desisa, photo by PhotoRun.net

Here is a piece by Sabrina Yohannes on one of our most popular athletes, Lelisa Desisa. Desisa has won two Boston Marathons, plus second in Boston in 2016. In NYC, Lelisa has finished second and third. What is his plan for 2017 NYC Marathon?

We have two weeks to wait. So, read Sabrina Yohannes's feature on Lelisa prior to the 2017 race through five boroughs.

Lelisa Desisa Hopes to Apply Breaking2 Lessons Towards New York Marathon

By Sabrina Yohannes

The former two-time Boston marathon champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia returns to the TCS New York City Marathon -- where he has twice made the podium in the past -- hoping to put to use lessons he learned while participating in Nike's Breaking2 project earlier this year.

Desisa joined Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya and world half marathon champion Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea in the project, which aimed to have the 26.2 miles of the marathon distance run in under two hours on part of an auto-racing loop in Monza, Italy. Although the finish times in Breaking2, which used alternating teams of pacemakers following a pace car, are not record-eligible, the 2:03:05 former London champion Kipchoge ran 2:00:25 in Monza and Tadese ran 2:06:51 (his London personal best is 2:10:41), while Desisa finished in 2:14:10, well off his 2:04:45 run in a standard marathon in Dubai.

"I was injured in January and February so I wasn't able to train well," Desisa explained after the Breaking2 race on May 6.

"I'm not the type to be discouraged," he added at the time. "This is a learning experience. An injured person heals. After I have recovered, I believe I will run well. I have seen a man run this time. Why not me?"

Desisa has taken valuable lessons from the experience.

"Although it didn't go well for me due to injury, it was great," he told RunBlogRun on Friday. "It means it's possible."

The 2013 and 2015 Boston champion - who said the early 2017 injury was to his hip and its effects ended a month or so after Breaking2 -- clarified, however, that such a fast time was doable in the Monza race's unique circumstances, not necessarily anytime soon in a regular marathon.

"In a normal marathon, it's difficult," he said. "That's different. That was done with everything under control: the nutrition, the pace calculations, even the preparation, and even the day of the race having been studied; everything. Other races take place when the day of the race arrives. It may be raining, there may be something else, so it's difficult."

He also had high praise for the former London and Chicago champion Kipchoge, who won the 2017 Berlin marathon in 2:03:32.

"The guy is very talented," Desisa said. "Mentally, and in his skills. He's a role model for other athletes. He's just a strong guy."

Desisa learned a lot from the advice given to the athletes in the project by experts. "For example, I didn't know enough about pacing; I didn't know enough about how to do speedwork; I didn't know enough about how much rest I need," he said. "On top of that, in terms of nutrition, about carbohydrates, protein and the like. They made facilities and running outfits and shoes available to us. As a result of all that, it's like I'm a beginner, a beginner athlete."

That has all come in handy during his preparation for New York. "Very much so," he said. "I think it's been better this year."

His hope: "To break the tape at the finish."

Desisa said that in the 180km weeks he's been doing, he's applied the lessons about speedwork, which he'd done previously "starting out fast, but then the pace sometimes lowering and then picking up again," something he learned was "very wrong."

"Whether it's tough or it's easy, it has to be consistent," he said. "If 3:00 is given as the pace for 1km, we shouldn't run 2:40 and 2:45 and we shouldn't run 3:10 or 3:05. If it's meant to be 5km at 2:55 pace, it has to be 2:55 consistently: 2:55, 2:55, 2:55, 2:55 ... not 2:40, 2:45, 2:50 ... Similarly, we shouldn't speed up endurance training."

He also said he learned to take adequate rest, especially after long training sessions, and to regularly take a day of rest, something he hadn't been doing, although many Ethiopian athletes do take Sundays off.

The 2017 NYC field includes the defending champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea (behind whom Desisa dropped out in 2016), as well as Tokyo champion Wilson Kipsang, who quit the September 24 Berlin marathon at 30K and to whom Desisa lost a duel three years ago in Central Park.

When Desisa attempted to pass the Kenyan near the end of that 2014 NYC race, he inadvertently made contact with Kipsang, who gave Desisa a memorable long look.

At the time, Desisa said he understood his rival being somewhat irate at the contact. "It's a peaceful war, isn't it?" Desisa told RunBlogRun after that race.

Kipsang won in 2:10:59 and Desisa took second in 2:11:06 then, and the two will face one another on the same course on Sunday November 5.

"I hope to repay the favor," said Desisa with a laugh. He said he was not fazed by the former 2:03:23 world record-holder Kipsang's having run a course record 2:03:58 in Tokyo in January.

"There are pacemakers in that race," the 2013 world championships silver medalist Desisa said. "In New York, there aren't. It's like the world championships. They will make it fast - but that's fine. Yes, he's run fast, he's fast ... but if he had that same fitness, perhaps he might not have dropped out of Berlin."

Desisa, who was seventh at the 2015 worlds, said the weather in Addis Ababa where he lives has been "very nice" with comfortable temperatures and a little rain, but not enough to hamper his training.

He didn't run any tune-up races before New York. "I focused on training and this race, and doing this work," he said.

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