2010 ING New York City Marathon Men's Race Recap: Geb Wins & Geb Retires
A 4:37 26th Mile Gives Debutante Gebre Gebremariam A Win In His Marathon Debut As Haile Gebrselassie Drops Out & Then Retires; Meb Keflezighi Once Again Proves He's America's Best
November 7, 2010
On a day that resulted in Haile Gebrselassie's retirement, it was both appropriate and somewhat ironic that the winner of the 2010 ING New York City marathon was Ethiopia's Gebre Gebremariam.
Fans across the globe, many of them Ethiopian, undoubtedly had been dreaming of a "Geb Wins" headline and they got it.
Ironic in that the winner was Gebremariam and not Gebrselassie. Also ironic that Gebremariam, who coming into the race was best known for being the 2009 world cross-country champion (a race Gebrselassie never won). Gebremariam blitzed the second half of the course in 62:54 to win in 2:08:14 on a day when Father Time caught up to the great Gebreslassie.
Gebremariam's win after the end of daylight savings turned back the clock to an earlier era when people used to frequent the summer road racing circuit and still win a major marathon in the fall. Gebremariam came into New York red hot - as he had won the Healthy Kidney 10k in May and the Beach to Beacon 10k and Falmouth 7 Miler in August - and he left red hot as the 2010 New York champion. Gebremariam turned back the clock to 1997, when Khalid Khannouchi won Falmouth and then Chicago in his debut that fall or even farther back to 1978, when Bill Rodgers won Falmouth and New York in the same year.
Gebremariam's win also reminded historians of an earlier era when runners would win a major in their debut. In terms of New York history, he took us back to 1983, when Rod Dixon was the last debutante on the men's side to win in New York.
The race itself started off slow, as is normally the case. The opening mile was covered in 5:55 and only one of the first five miles was covered in under 5:00, as five miles was reached in 26:06. However, the pace would gradually get more and more honest as the race progressed. From that point on, for the next 18 miles, the leaders never ran a mile slower than 5 minutes (miles 11 and 15 were both run in 5:00 flat), although the pace was still modest enough that a huge lead pack of approximately 15 - including Americans Tim Nelson, Dathan Ritzenhein, Jorge Torres and defending champion Meb Keflezighi - went through the half marathon together in 65:19. The real racing didn't begin until the runners started on the downhill on the Queensboro Bridge heading into Manhattan right before the 16th mile mark. But just as the runners were starting to wind up and race, the greatest runner to have ever lived, Haile Gebrselassie, dropped out near the end of the bridge. Knee problems which had caused him to get an MRI pre-race were too much to bear (more on Geb's day and subsequent retirement can be found here).
During the 17the mile, the course drops more than 50 feet in elevation, plus the runners get a huge adrenaline rush of seeing the massive Manhattan crowds. As is often the case - and as was the case last year when American Meb Keflezighi won - the pace immediately was slammed down in Manhattan, as mile 17 was run in a ridiculous 4:28. The flatter 18th and 19th miles weren't much slower, as they were covered in 4:32 and 4:33, meaning that the leaders probably ran a 5k between miles 16 and 19.1 in just over 14:00. 14:02 most likely. Unbelievable.
For comparison's sake, last year the field hit halfway in a very similar time to this year (65:11 last year, 65:19 this year) but last year, Meb ran miles 17-19 in 4:42, 4:39, and 4:47, meaning his 5k between miles 16 and 19.1 was probably covered in 14:38.
As one can imagine, that sudden injection of pace decimated the lead pack. None of the Americans could stay with the leaders and the race soon became a four-man slugfest between 2010 London runner-up Emmanuel Mutai of Kenya, 2008 Boston runner-up Abderrahime Bouramdane, the third-fastest man in history James Kwambai and Gebremariam. Ultimately, it came down to be a two-man affair between Mutai and Gebremariam.
At this point, Gebremariam, although a marathon rookie, may have been the man to beat. He is a proven winner - having won arguably the most difficult race in the world to win in World Cross-Country, plus winning road race after road race. Mutai, on the other hand, is known for being amazingly consistent in the marathon - always in the top 7 in 7 career marathons - but only a winner once and never in a world marathon major. Our pre-race description of Mutai as "an amazingly consistent guy who is a good bet for the podium but not the win" proved to be 100% accurate, as in the 25th mile at the 2:01 mark, Gebremariam, who had looked visibly fresher than Mutai and was often looking from side to side and seemed to almost be waiting to make sure he wouldn't blow up, put in a surge and the race was instantly his.
In the end, Gebremariam did what he's done all year - wait until the end and then sprint to victory. Only in the marathon, there's no point in waiting to the last 400, particularly when the pace is getting painfully slow. After 18 straight sub-5 minute miles, mile 24 was run in 5:14, as Mutai was tiring and Gebremariam likes to wait to the end to take the lead. Admittedly, mile 24 is about 60 feet uphill, which alone makes it between 10 and 15 seconds slower than a flat mile, but Gebremariam must have realized Mutai was weakened.
Near the end of the 25th mile, which was run in 4:50, he decided to finish off Mutai. Just before the 40k mark, he accelerated and instantly the race was over. After the fact, the stats reveal why, as Gebremariam ran his 26th mile in a ridiculous 4:37. If you drop your competition for good with over a mile to go, you get to enjoy the victory at the end and Gebremariam did a fine job of enjoying his victory over the final half mile. Nonetheless, he had run the 2nd half in a very credible 62:54.
Last year, in addition to Meb's win, the USA had six of the top 10 finishers. This year, the US put two in the top 10 and five in the top 20. Once again, Meb was the top American, as he ended up sixth in 2:11:38. Once again, Dathan Ritzenhein, despite a ton of hype, remains an unproven top-notch marathoner as he was eighth in 2:12:33. This was Ritz's second try at the ING New York City marathon, as he was 11th in 2006 in 2:14:01. In 2007, he ran 2:11:07 in New York City but on the Olympic Trials course.
Jorge Torres ended up 11th in 2:14:57 (last year he was 7th in 2:13:00) as debutante Tim Nelson was 13th in 2:15:06. Matt Downin was 17th in 2:20:41.
Looking Ahead To Next Year / Stat Of The Day
Gebre Gebremariam is the third man to win Falmouth and New York City in the same year. Alberto Salazar won both races in both 1981 and 1982. Before that, Bill Rodgers won both races in 1977 and 1978. If history is a guide, it looks like Gebremariam would be a good bet to win New York City again in 2011.
Gebremariam took to the marathon well and had the 5th-fastest New York winning time (excluding Salazar's win on a short course) despite the really slow first 5k.
Post-Race Comments: Geb's Advice To Gebre, Meb's Advice To Gebre, And Gebre Didn't Think He Could Win
Geb's retirement was the center of a lot of the post-race comments and we discuss that here. In non-retirement news, we have a few interesting tidbits. First, Gebremariam revealed he did not think he could win the race coming in. He said, "Even I told to my wife (Werknesh Kidane), I can finish this race, but I can't win." However, he said that 17 to 19 miles in he thought, "You know, I can win."
He also said he was behind Haile Gebrselassie when Haile dropped out. He tried to encourage Haile to keep running but instead Haile encouraged him. Gebremariam told Haile, "Haile, come on." Haile responded according to Gebremariam, "I can't, Gebre, you have to move, you have to reach them." Gebremariam had his orders from the emperor. As he said afterwards, "(Geb) told somebody (me) move and push the pace, so I have to reach them."
One of the reasons Gebremariam may have been holding back when the race was broken open on the Queensboro Bridge was because of advice from defending American champ Meb Keflezighi. Meb said Gebremariam asked him for advice before the start and Meb told him to hold back on First Avenue. Gebremariam held back and then when it was time to go catch the leaders he urged Meb to "come on, let's go" but Meb couldn't keep up.
Ritz's Take On Race
Ritz did not stop for interviews in the Mixed Zone after the race. However, he has spoken to the Grand Rapids Press. He said, "I was just hoping to do a little bit better. It was
my first race back after battling some injuries and I had higher
aspirations for Sunday. I think I just ran out of steam the last 10K of
the race." More here.
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