LRC: 2008 ING New York City Marathon Women's Preview
October 31, 2008
York City Marathon race director Mary Wittenberg says the 2008
women's race features the greatest field in the race's history and we're
certainly not going to argue with her, as the amount of talent amassed on the
women's side is impressive. The days where a world marathon major only
has one or two truly elite women in the women's field are officially over.
features the two fastest women in history in Great Britain's Paula Radcliffe and Kenya's Catherine Ndereba. Throw in last year's
world marathon majors champion Gete Wami,
2008 Boston champion Dire Tune, 2006
Boston Champion Rita Jeptoo, 2008
Rotterdam champion Lyubov Morgunova,
plus the debuts of American Kara Goucher
and New Zealand's Kim Smith and you
have a remarkable field. And we haven't even mentioned past champions Tegla Loroupe (1994 and 1995) and Ludmila Petrova (2000) or 2000 Olympic
champion Lidia Simon, who we think
are past their primes.
We'll break the field down in order of who we view as most likely to win on Sunday.
Undoubtedly, we're starting with Paula Radcliffe. Radcliffe comes into New York
after suffering her 2nd straight Olympic Games disappointment. In our minds,
her Olympic Games disappointment makes us actually more bullish about
Radcliffe's prospects as we know she's very hungry and motivated for
When she is on her game, Radcliffe has proven during her career that no one is close to
her in the marathon. We think she'll be on her game on Sunday in New York and
thus we expect her to win.
world record of 2:15:25 is 3:22 faster than the #2 all time of 2:18:47 set
by Ndereba. That's 7.7 seconds per mile, which is almost 24 seconds
exactly over 5k. Thus if you have a 14:10 5k and a 14:34 5k runner racing each
other, would you ever rightfully pick the 14:34 person to win? Not unless they
were injured or out of shape.
stellar 10 mile run last week proves that she's in shape. Last Sunday,
Radcliffe set a British record of 51:11 for 10 miles. Her pace of 5:07 per mile
is very fast. She said this week she only took a few days off after Beijing.
Thus she's had two-plus months of good training. Two months of good training
plus a few months of cross training before that are more than enough for
Radcliffe. Expect her to win.
Wami is our second choice for Sunday. We're picking her 2nd because
her motivation to finish 2nd is huge. She has 500,000 reasons to finish 2nd or
higher because if she does so, she will take home the World Marathon Majors
title and $500,000 for the 2nd straight year. While her fortune in 2008 hasn't been all that great,
Wami has been running well in all of our most recent world marathon majors.
Last year, she was 2nd in London, 1st in Berlin and then 2nd in New
year, Wami was with the leaders in London before falling in a collision at a
water station. Yet she still managed to gamely rally for third. Recently,
she set a personal best in the half marathon when she ran 1:08:51 to win the
BUPA Great North Run on October 5th. In that race, despite the fact that it
came down to a sprint finish with three people finishing within two
seconds of each other, Wami said afterwards that she didn't feel challenged
in the race. To run a PR and feel good doing it is certainly a
there not to like? Well, so far we have overlooked her DNF in the Olympic
marathon. However, her DNF doesn't really scare us at all, as it was reported
that she had intestinal problems and ended up dropping out before mile
20. If you get out before mile 20, you likely don't need much recovery time.
Additionally, she proved last year by winning in Berlin and getting second in
New York, that she doesn't need a lot of recovery time between marathons
anyway. Even if she had run all of the Olympic marathon, we wouldn't be
worried about her current form thanks to her recent half marathon performance.
We're not picking Ndereba for a top two finish for a number of reasons. First
of all, we think the emotional and physical letdown after a taxing Olympic
performance is significant. Remember, the Olympic champion Constantina Tomescu Dita was only a distant fourth in Chicago on
October 12th. Secondly, we think both Wami and Radcliffe have more motivation
to do well here.
Ndereba very well could end up in the winner's circle. She's proven that
she's recovered nicely from the race as she was 2nd in the ING Philadelphia
Distance Run on September 21st in 1:10:51.
Kenyan Rita Jeptoo, the 2006 Boston winner, has only the sixth-best personal
best in the field at 2:23:38, but in our mind she definitely deserves to be
ranked in our top five because she's in the prime of her career. Jeptoo
ran New York one other time, in 2006, and she was fourth, so
fourth is an appropriate pick for her in this race.
had one prep race leading into New York and it was a pretty good one. She ran
the second-fastest half marathon of her career to get the win in Lisbon in 1:09:48
on September 28th - four weeks out from New York. That race was very similar
to the 1:09:56 she ran six weeks prior to her win in Boston.
isn't incredibly fast, but it may be as fast as she wants to be if she's doing
proper marathon training. In 2007, she ran 1:07:08 four weeks prior to
Boston, yet she was only fourth that year in 2:33. We think Jeptoo is a
very solid top five pick, but don't expect her to challenge for the win. Her
Boston win was her only win in the marathon in her last seven tries at the
distance since 2005.
marathon debutante Kara Goucher is our #5 pick. Even though she's never run a
marathon, Goucher can't be taken lightly as she's the 9th-fastest in history at
the half marathon. Goucher ran
a 1:06:57 half marathon last September, defeating Paula
Radcliffe in the process. The half marathon is normally a very
good indicator of future marathon success. Don't believe us? Look no farther
than our 2008 Chicago Men's Preview when we said
that, given his success in the half marathon, Evans Cheruiyot was
the man to beat and we were proven correct.
yet, look at the chart below listing the eight women in history who have run
faster than Goucher in the half marathon and their marathon PBs. All of the
women have run under 2:30 and 7 of the 8 have run 2:25 or better with 6 of the
8 at 2:23 or better.
Providence Friar Kim Smith of New Zealand is another rookie marathoner who
can't be overlooked. Smith has better personal bests than Goucher at both
the 5k (14:45.93 vs. 14:55.02) and 10k (30:35.54 vs 30:55.16). Moreover, Smith
is 26 to Goucher's 30. However, Smith has never run even a half marathon, so we
really are just speculating how she'll be able to handle the 26.2 mile
distance. It certainly wouldn't surprise us to see her do amazing and never look
back and become a full-time marathoner.
Lyubov Morgunova, who was the winner in Rotterdam this year in a PR of 2:25:12
at the age of 37, is another runner that can't be totally ignored.
In addition to Wami, there is one other strong Ethiopian entrant in the field.
Dire Tune, the only Ethiopian to finish the Olympic marathon (she was 16th), was
the winner of the Boston marathon this spring, so we're sure most media outlets
are picking her for the top five. We aren't, though, because she seems
over-raced. This is her fourth marathon of the year and we think that's too
much to handle. She's only 23, so if anyone in the field could handle four
marathons within 10 months it would be her.
While we are picking Wami second, we are a bit worried about both her and Tune's chances. A
source that we trust, but who wishes to remain anonymous, wrote us earlier in
the week saying "the Ethiopians were trained into the ground by the
Federation" leading up to the Olympics and would be unlikely to run well
in New York. To support his point, he pointed out how Ethiopia's third entrant
in the marathon in Beijing for marathon, Berhane
Adere, bombed in Chicago in early October where she was just 10th. So don't
be surprised if both Ethiopians struggle on Sunday.
One person who we don't think will struggle will be Radcliffe. Look for the fastest
marathoner in history to add another significant chapter to her already
impressive marathoning resume.