Where Your Dreams Become Reality
LRC: 2008 ING New York City Marathon Men's Preview
We'll start by saying that limiting a countdown of a world marathon major's men's field in this day and age of so much worldwide talent is borderline criminal. We thought long and hard about taking a cop-out and having a tie at #5, but we've decided to stick with only five. At the bottom of this top 5 countdown, we list all of the elites entered in the race.
#1 Abderrahim Goumri (Morocco)
Goumri undoubtedly is looking for a breakout win and we think he'll get it in New York. We're sure detractors are likely to point out that he was only 20th in the Olympic marathon in Bejing. Well, last year, he dropped out of the World Championships and still managed to get 2nd in the Big Apple. These same detractors will also point out that he's never won a world marathon major before. All we can say in response to that is his 3rd in London this year was worth a win in virtually any marathon ever run. That performance certainly would have given him a win had he chosen to run Boston instead. He was only 6 seconds back of Sammy Wanjiru, who very well may go on to be the greatest marthoner in history.
#2 Paul Tergat (Kenya)
So now that it's been established that a 39-year-old can do great things in New York, we'll tell you why we the former 5-time World XC Champion and former world record holder at 10k and the marathon will do well this year in New York. For starters, Tergat is fresh. This is his first marathon in 18 months and Tergat admitted in the press conference on Tuesday that the break has rejuvenated him a bit. "I needed a break; it was good for me. Now, I'm much more relaxed. I'm more focused now than ever before," said Tergat.
"The only thing I didnít do this year was compete in the Olympics, and that was a little hard to miss, but I needed some time. During the 18 months, I took some time completely off from running, and I went back to school and took some classes. But, I knew that I would come back."
Tergat is back, and since he's clearly one of the all-time greats in history, it's hard not to pick him to do well no matter what the people on the messageboard are saying. Tergat has done well in his two previous New York runs as he won in 2005 and was 3rd in 2006 and he's in good shape. He's run one race in preparation for the 2008 ING New York City Marathon and it went well. On September 28th, he ran 1:01:33 for a half marathon
in Portugal, grabbing 2nd.
In 2007, dos Santos set the South American record in the half marathon when he ran 59:33 to get 7th at the World Championships. 59:33 is very, very fast and in our mind it totally legitimized his upset win in New York. After dropping out of the Olympics, dos Santos rebounded and got 8th in the World Half Marathon Championships last month in his native Brazil. A pretty solid showing. At the very least, it shows us he's in pretty good shape. And given his win in 2006 in the marathon in New York and his 2nd place showing in the Healthy Kidney 10k last May, it's clear that dos Santos enjoys running in the Big Apple.
We do have one major reservation about dos Santos and it's such a strong reservation that we honestly almost left him out of our top 5. We're wondering what his goal was for the fall? In running, there are very few things that are bigger than the ING New York City marathon, but the Olympic marathon certainly is something that is bigger than New York and the World Half Championships in his native Brazil likely were a bigger deal for him as well. Thus we're thinking he was probably trying
to train to peak at one of both of those races and not New York. If that's the case, we're worried he won't quite run up to our expectations, as it's nearly impossible to do well in New York if it isn't your primary focus for the fall. It's too bad that we won't be down in New York until later in the week as we'd like to ask him what his training was geared towards.
Kirui is clearly a guy that has the fast marathon down pat. Thus, there are two questions. 1) Is the 26-year-old fit? and 2) Can he handle the challenging New York course and do well in a real race that doesn't have rabbits?
Is Kirui fit? There is no doubt on this front. Kirui is very fit. Last month, he rabbited Gebrselassie to the world record of 2:03:59. Kirui made it 32 km (19.8 miles) with the Great One from Ethiopia. He did such a great job that Haile thanked him by name in his post-race comments. "The pacemakers did a great job. It was fantastic that Abel was able to stay with me as long as he did," said Gebrselassie after setting the record.
If Haile Gebrselassie knows your name, you must be pretty good.
Thus our main concern is how he will do in a non-rabbited race on the fairly hilly New York course. We also wonder how much speedwork he did to prepare to rabbit Geb, as we imagine he probably earned more money for doing that than he is getting to run New York.
Was Abel training to race well in New York and using Berlin as a great preparation workout? Or was he training to rabbit Geb and trying to add on a little bit of endurance after the fact?
We'll find out in New York on Sunday.
#5 Daniel Rono (Kenya)
Very easy. Rono's 2008 has been spectacular. He's run two races and they both were huge PRs. He ran a 2:06:58 to get 2nd in Rotterdam in April before going back to Rotterdam on September 14th to run a half marathon in preparation for his New York debut. Rotterdam was good to Rono once again as he ran a 59-second personal best of 1:00:27.
Clearly, Rono's in good form and we'd rather go with an unkown hot runner than a proven runner who is missing impressive recent results. We do have one big concern, however. Can he handle the difficult New York course? Guys that are solely time trial specialists or flat course stars often don't do well in New York. New York is a challenging course, ideally suited for a former cross-country star like Paul Tergat but not so much well suited for people who are more of the mold like Tergat's old nemsis, Haile Gebrselassie, who - despite all he's accomplished - never won a World Cross title. Rono's recent success has come on flat courses in Toronto and Rotterdam. Is he a complete runner who can excel on any course? We'll find out on Sunday.