By Tim Loh and LetsRun.com
March 16, 2014
Geoffrey Mutai cruised to victory in the New York City Half Marathon Sunday morning after would-be rival Mo Farah tripped and fell in Central Park near the 6-mile mark and lost touch with the lead.
Farah rapidly picked himself up and got back into third, and ultimately reeled in and outkicked Kenya’s Stephen Sambu for second place. (Race video highlights here)
Then, after the finish, Farah initially appeared fine exchanging post-race pleasantries, starting some of the post-race ceremonies. Then, he collapsed on the ground. Farah said he passed out. He had to be rolled off in a wheelchair, creating a scene of high anxiety. The good news was Farah an hour later was in the media room, smiling, carrying one of his kids, and addressing the media. (There are some scary looking photos of Mo on the ground here).
Kenya’s Mutai won the race in 1:00:50, Britain’s Farah finished in 1:01:07 and Sambu was 1:01:08.
Matt Tegenkamp was the top American, finishing sixth in 1:02:04, just behind Ethiopia’s Aschalew Nigusse.
Mutai, the 31-year-old defending New York City Marathon champ, was as economical with his words afterward as he had been with his running: “I’ve done good,” he said.
The Race: Drama in the Park
Early on, circling the rolling hills of a frigid and windy Central Park (18 m.p.h. winds were registered at the finish line and the temperature was 31 degrees Fahrenheit), the race was especially slow. The leaders hit the mile in 5:15 and 5k in 15:15.
Pretty much everyone later noted how cold the early miles felt.
Over the second 5k, it appeared the pre-race hype about a showdown between Farah (who turns 31 on March 23) and Mutai was materializing. Mutai went to the front and began to push the pace as the lead pack was down to eight.
But then, just before mile 6, as the pace quickened on a Central Park downhill, Farah got his leg snagged by another runner and tumbled on his right side. He got up pretty quickly, but was already four to five seconds back.
By that point Mutai, Sambu and Ethiopia’s Aschalew Nigusse — whose bib didn’t even have his name, but rather “1875,” and who therefore got little love on the TV coverage — were rolling ahead.
“I heard someone had fallen and tried to look back, but I couldn’t see who it was,” Mutai said later, recalling his perspective from first place at the time. It was around then, he added, that he was starting to feel pretty much warmed up.
Later, Farah added: “I’m not sure what happened. I just remember falling down and hitting the ground pretty hard. At that point, I just wanted to get back up and get with the group.”
The group was accelerating hard. Afterwards, Tegenkamp said Mutai had been running steady on the uphills and pushing the pace on the downwills. They were on a downhill stretch when Farah fell.
Mutai’s goal coming into Sunday was to run 59 minutes, he said. He knew after the slow start that that wouldn’t happen. Still, he’d strung out the pack in the latter portion of Central Park, leaving the park in lockstep with Sambu before taking charge of the race on Manhattan’s West Side Highway around mile 8
By then, Farah could be seen securely in third place, having pulled ahead of everyone else, but was still losing ground to Mutai and, to a lesser extent, Sambu.
Mutai passed 15k in 43:26 (for a mid-race 10k of 28:11), Sambu passed it in 43:35 and Farah in 43:51.
The next couple of miles were a straight shot down the western edge of New York, with the wind blowing slightly at the racers’ backs, they said. Farah could be seen methodically making up ground on Sambu, who’d later admit he had no idea anyone was catching him.
But Farah knew. “I saw I was closing the gap,” he said. “I wanted to close it; it was quite a massive gap.”
Mutai looked absolutely businesslike as he pounded his way around the city’s Financial District, down and then up through the Battery Park tunnel, to finish in 1:00:50. For a moment, TV reporters raised the possibility of him being caught over the final stretch, but it was pretty clear from our perspective that such talk was fantasy.
Yet, the excitement was building for second place. Descending into the Battery Park tunnel, Farah finally closed in on Sambu with roughly half a mile to go. (“I was pretty much seeing stars,” he later said.)
The two swapped the lead several times over the next few hundred meters. Ultimately, with about 150 meters left, Farah unleashed his famous kick, which Sambu couldn’t match.
Farah crossed in 1:01:07, Sambu in 1:01:08.
Post Race: Farah Falls to the Ground
Farah initially appeared fine according to people at the finish and started his post-race pleasantries. Moments later, though, Farah was back on the ground, having passed out he said. He was quickly surrounded by racers and coaches and ultimately rolled out of the finishing area in a wheelchair — creating a fair bit of commotion and anxiety.
Still, about an hour later, Farah showed up in the post-race interview area — to be sure, a while after Mutai and Sambu and then Tegenkamp had appeared — standing, smiling and carrying one of his kids.
“I just tried so hard in the race,” he said of the second collapse, smiling slightly. “Taking a fall, and then going through it, I’m all right. It’s not a big deal.” (portions of Farah’s post-race press conference on the right).
Sambu, who couldn’t stop shivering at the press conference — despite his Nike sweats and a warm tea (with milk and sugar) which someone had brought him — said that he was simply excited to be racing with Mutai and Farah.
He hadn’t known Farah was coming up on him until he heard footsteps. “I was surprised, I thought he was a little far from me,” he said. “I didn’t know he was following me.
Tegenkamp, the top American finisher, said he was a little disappointed with his time. He guessed he’d given up about 40 seconds with the slow first 2.5 miles, but was glad that — when the race essentially broke up into two contests: an international and an American one — he’d pushed forward in the former camp.
He said was cramping on his right side around mile 11, but that his experience in racing marathons helped him realize it was probably just a low point. Ultimately, he felt “really strong all the way to the finish” and was able to change gears.
Tegenkamp’s next race, he said, will potentially be the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in Washington, D.C. on April 6.
****Meb Missed 5 Days of Training, Fitter Than When He Won the Houston Half
After the race, LRC Talked to Sambu, Tegenkapm and Meb one on one. The big news of note was that Meb revealed he missed five days of training with a problem in his leg late last week and early this week. He was pleased with his run today and said overall his preparations for Boston have been great and he is fitter than when he won the USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston. He said he told the race about his five missed days, and they encouraged him to still come race which he did.
Tegenkamp Gearing Up for a Fall Marathon
Tegenkamp’s plan is to do some more road-races, possibly Cherry Blossom next, and then race into early summer, before regrouping and gearing up for a fall marathon. Everything this year is geared to running well in the fall marathon.
Teg with 5 months of hindsight discussed his marathon debut in Chicago last year and the things he still needs to figure out. Fitness is not the problem he said.
Sambu had another good run in NYC
Sambu’s claim to fame is winning the $100,000 BAA Distance Medley series last year where he ran 1:00:41 in the concluding half marathon. This was another solid half for Stephen. He has no plans for a marathon this year.
We forgot to ask him how the money has changed his career, but we did ask him whether he had talked to sometimes training partner Lawi Lalang about NCAAs last night. Sambu had not spoken to Lalang and agreed that possibility the altitude had affected Lalang.
Lalang did not like the cold weather, “The race was tough. It was so cold.”
Former Boston champ Wesley Korir did not like the cold weather here. He also indicated he’s running the Ottawa Marathon this year instead of Boston. Korir’s wife is Canadian and eventually Korir can get Canadian citizenship.
Top 10 Full results here
|4||8||Juan Luis Barrios||MEX||30||1:01:46||+00:57||4:43||1:01:46|
|7||155||Mengistu Tabor Nebsi||ETH||36||1:02:05||+01:16||4:45||1:02:05|
Men’s Pro Race Video Highlights (More video highlights here)