2011 ING New York City Marathon Preview: Expect The Course Record To Fall

By LetsRun.com
November 5, 2011

Running pundits have been saying for a while now that we are in the midst of a new era of marathoning. With way more money available in the marathon than on the track, runners, particularly those from Africa, are moving to the marathon earlier in their careers and also making the 26.2-mile distance their specialty before exhausting their credentials on the track. Before his untimely death, 2008 Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru, who captured the Beijing gold medal at age 21, was the leader of this new era in men's marathoning. Long gone are the days like the 1970s when only the "slow" pros made the marathon their specialty early in their careers.

The focus on the marathon by a slew of the young pros in their prime has resulted in some stunning performances. Never before has the world of marathoning been better (or deeper). For example, so far in 2011, every single one of the world marathon majors has seen its men's marathon course record broken.

London - 2:04:40 - Emmanuel Mutai
Boston - 2:03:02 - Geoffrey Mutai
Berlin - 2:03:38 - Patrick Makau
Chicago - 2:05:37 - Moses Mosop

New York is the one marathon major hasn't been run so far in 2011.

Given the trend above and since the weather forecast for Sunday is calling for "nearly ideal race weather" with a starting temp of 43 degrees and a finish temp in the low 50s with full sun and only a light breeze, can you guess what we are hinting at?

Expect the ING New York City course record of 2:07:43 to go down.

Now that we have that out of the way, the question is, "Who will take down the course record?"  Figuring that out in our minds is significantly harder than saying the CR will be broken.

The men's elite press conference isn't until Friday, so please be warned that the following breakdown is based on largely a runner's past body of work - not their current fitness, as we won't know who had great training or who is a little banged up until mid-day Friday.

The 2011 ING New York City marathon features six guys with PRs under 2:06:00. But hey, New York is a city of five boroughs, so we are going to narrow down our focus to "Five Guys That Could Win It." And we think that 6 different men might win in New York on Sunday. However, it's not all six of the sub-2:06:00 guys.

"Five Guys That Could Win It"

1. Gebre Gebremariam - ETH - 27 years old - 2:04:53
We'll start our profile with the defending champ as all previews should. There isn't a whole lot to dislike about Gebremariam. He made his marathon debut last year in New York and he won it. He ran his 2nd marathon in Boston this spring and ran 2:04:53 for 3rd. Gebremariam also was the 2009 world champion in cross-country. If he's in the mix late, watch out as he's clearly got a lethal kick. That being said, Gebremariam doesn't still consider himself to be a seasoned marathoner. Don't believe us? Read this nice profile of him from Running Times: Gebre Gebremariam: A Work in Progress: Despite his NYC Marathon title, the World XC champ has a hard time calling himself a marathoner.

LRC's Take: However, we really don't expect to see Gebremariam defend his title. Why? For one, simple odds. If there are five guys with a good chance, it's hard to have confidence in a single guy. But in reality, we have a few other reservations.

1) He was beaten by another New York competitor in Boston by nearly two minutes. 2) Dsepite the fact that he's a World XC champ and New York champ, we just have the belief that Gebremariam doesn't see himself as being truly elite. Like all Ethiopians, he's a bit in awe of Haile G. But boy was he pumped to run 2:04:53 in Boston. Despite the unreal time, we thought the New York champ might be a little disappointed since he didn't win. 3) He dropped out of the World Champs with a leg injury. Admittedly, this injury may have just been feigned, as New York was likely his #1 priority all year, but what if there really was something wrong?

2. Geoffrey Mutai KEN - 30 years old - 2:03:02
Mutai's last three marathons have been unreal. In 2010, he ra  2:04:55 at Rotterdam in the spring, then 2:05:10 at Berlin in the fall. The only problem is he didn't win either race. He must have wondered what he had to do to get a win. Well, he had to almost run 2:02 to win in Boston as his 2:03:02 - the fastest marathon in history - only gave him a six-second victory.

LRC's Take: A victory in New York could give Mutai the World Marathon Majors title and its $500,000 prize, the title as "Unofficial best marathoner on the planet" and a spot on the Kenyan 2012 Olympic team. Our only question is how will he do in a race if it doesn't go out fast?

3. Mathew Kisorio KEN - 22 years old - Debut
 Kisorio's debut in New York at the tender age of 22 is the perfect example of it being a new age in marathoning, as he has PRs of 12:57 (2010) and 26:54 (Pre this year) on the track, but what gets us excited about Kisorio is his half marathon PR. As we wrote last week about Kisorio:

    At LetsRun.com, we've long had an affinity for hyping the marathon debuts of guys who have great half marathon PRs, as the stats reveal that a super-fast half marathon almost always EVENTUALLY equals a super-fast marathon PR. In 2008, we hyped Evans Cheruiyot's debut in Chicago and in 2009 we hyped Patrick Makau's debut in New York. In Cheruiyot's case, we were immediately rewarded with a 2:06:25 win and while Makau dropped out in New York, our faith in him has certainly be justified as he now holds the world record.

    Well, there is therefore little reason to not hype Kisorio. Kisori ran 58:46 in Philadelphia this fall and is the 3rd-fastest half marathoner in history. Of the 10 fastest half marathoners in history that have finished a marathon, 5 of them have run UNDER 2:05 for the marathon. A 6th is a guy with the name of Sammy Wanjiru, who was arguably the greatest marathoner in history and had a 2:05:10 PR. A 7th is Cheruiyot, who won Chicago in 2:06:25. 70% of them have been TOTAL studs in the marathon. Only three have been subpar.

    Half Marathon PR                        Marathon PR
    1      58:23      Zersenay Tadese           2:12:03                 
    2      58:33      Samuel Wanjiru            2:05:10            
    3      58:46      Mathew Kisorio              ?????
    4      58:48      Sammy Kirop Kitwara         ?????     
    5      58:52      Patrick Makau             2:03:38      
    6      58:55      Haile Gebrselassie        2:03:59
    7      58:56a     Martin Irungu Mathathi      ?????             
    8      58:59      Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich  2:04:57      
    9      59:05      Evans Kiprop Cheruiyot    2:06:25
    10     59:06a     Paul Tergat               2:04:55  
    11     59:07      Paul Kosgei               2:09:00         
    12     59:08      Jonathan Maiyo            2:12:45
    13     59:09      James Kipsang Kwambai     2:04:27                

LRC's Take: Kisorio eventually will be a marathon star. The question is will it happen this weekend at age 22. God bless him and us if it happens, as we'll have conceivably the first sensation since Wanjiru. It's hard to imagine a 22-year-old winning a major in his marathon debut, but then again Wanjiru was an Olympic champ at age 21 and Gebremariam won New York in his debut last year. Also, Kisorio has twice been top 6 at World Cross-Country and we think good cross-country runners are suited well for the hilly New York course.

4. Tsegaye Kebede  ETH - 24 years old - 2:05:18
This guy was our favorite for the 2011 Virgin London marathon this spring. That means we thought he was the best marathoner on the planet at the time. Given his first subpar showing in London (Kebede was 5th in 2:07:48) and all of the 2:03s that have been run so far this year, Kebede is seemingly a bit of a forgotten man.

But people need to remember he is only 24 years old. Also he has a lot riding on the line in New York. A victory could give him the World Marathon Majors title (see below). He narrowly lost out on $500,000 when he lost in an epic duel to Sammy Wanjiru in Chicago.

LRC's Take:
No one gets the marathon right every time, so we think his subpar showing in London can be excused, as 8 out of 9 is pretty good. Look for him to move that up to 90%. Not necessarily a win, but a top 3 showing.

Tsegaye Kebede's Last 9 Marathons
2008 - 1st in Paris 2:06:40, 3rd in Olympics (2:10:00), 1st in Fukuoka (2:06:10)
2009 - 2nd in London (2:05:20), 3rd in WChamps (2:08:35), 1st in Fukuoka (2:05:18)
2010 - 1st in London (2:05:19), 2nd in Chicago (2:06:43)
2011 - 5th in London (2:07:48)

5. Emmanuel Mutai KEN - 27 years old - 2:04:40
The 27-year-old Emmanuel Mutai is an amazingly consistent marathoner. He has run 9 marathons in his career. In five of them, he has run 2:06 or faster. In two others, he has come in second - once in New York (2010) and once at the World Championships (2009). Only twice has he been subpar (his debut in 2007 when he ran 2:13:06 and Chicago in 2008 when he ran 2:15:36). His last four marathons have left very little to complain about, as he's been first or second every time and his last marathon was the best of his career as he got a huge PR and win in London - which is viewed by most as the most competitive marathon in the world.

2:07:48 - 2nd at World Champs
2:06:23 - 2nd in London
2:08:18 - 2nd In New York
2:04:40 - 1st in London

The win in London was huge in many ways for Mutai. It removed him from the list of "Greatest runner to never have won a major" and it also catapulted him to the top of the World Marathon Majors standings. Mutai will certainly have a lot of motivation to continue his streak of top 2 finishes, as if he finishes 2nd or higher on Sunday, he guarantees himself the 2011 World Marathon Majors Title for 2010-2011 and $500,000.

Four of the top six in the World Marathon Majors Points Race - Emmanuel Mutai of Kenya (55 pts.), Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia (41 pts.), Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya (40 pts.), and Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia (35 pts.) - are all running New York and are all statistically in the hunt to win the $500,000 on Sunday.

The World Marathon Majors Standings




If 1st

If 2nd

If 3rd

If 4th

If 5th


Patrick Makau


Not in NYC


Emmanuel Mutai








Tsegaye Kebede








Moses Mosop


Not in NYC


Geoffrey Mutai








Gebre Gebremariam







The World Marathon Majors Point Structure
1st Place -- 25 pts.
2nd Place -- 15 pts.
3rd Place -- 10 pts.
4th Place -- 5 pts.
5th Place -- 1 pt.

LRC's Take On Mutai: We'd be stunned if he didn't run well in New York. If he wins, he'll be regarded by us as the best on the planet, but if he loses and doesn't get at least second, he might be $500,000 poorer and off the Kenyan Olympic team. We don't think he'll win, as up until London he was viewed as "The greatest guy to have never won" but look for him to pick up $500,000.

The Other Guy That Could Theoretically Win It But We Wanted To Leave Off Our List, Which We Wanted To Limit To 5 In Honor Of New York's 5 Boroughs

Lilesa Feyisa ETH - 21 years old - 2:05:23
The Ethiopian enters New York fresh off becoming the youngest World Championships medallist in marathoning history, as he got the bronze in Daegu. Last year, he ran 2:05:23 as a 20-year-old. And that only got him 4th - in Rotterdam!!!

LRC's Take: We don't expect him to win. He was only 7th in Rotterdam earlier this year and this is his 6th marathon in the last 23 months.


The Americans

Meb Keflezighi - 36 Years Old - 2:09:15

Only two years ago, Meb shocked the world and won in New York. Even though he's a great tactician, we just don't see Keflezighi doing it again. He's starting to get up there in age. He's 36. It would only be natural for Father Time to be catching up to him. Each of the last three years, he's won a half marathon in San Jose before coming to New York. Well, the trend for his winning times isn't heading in the right direction.

61:00 - 2009
61:45 - 2010
62:17 - 2011

LRC's Take: Meb's probably got one or two good efforts left in him. But a good effort would be top 5, not a win. Meb fans take hope in the following stat: 2004 NYC champ Hendrick Ramaala was 5th in London and 6th in new York at age 37.

Bobby Curtis - 26 Years Old - Debut
We think Curtis's debut should be getting more publicity. In 2006, when Dathan Ritzenhein made his marathon debut in New York at age 24 with a 27:35 10,000 PR, he allegedly did so after getting a large six-figure appearance fee.

Well, Curtis isn't that much older and his 10,000 PR is 27:24. Alberto Salazar's career 10,000 personal best was 27:25.

Now that doesn't mean we think Curtis will contend for the win. A lot has changed since the early 1980s. That being said, Curtis ran a 61:52 for the half in mid-September in Philly to show he's in good form.

LRC's Take: We think Curtis will be the top American in New York. If he was running on a flat course like Chicago, we'd say there is a good chance he'd be just the fourth American to break 2:10 in his debut.
We'll act like we're a teacher and give out grades for Curtis. 2:15 = C. 2:14 (equal to Ritz) = B-. 2:13 = B. A 2:12 would be a very good debut in New York in our minds =  B+. 2:11 = A-. 2:10 =  A. And sub-2:10 on New York's course is A+++.

Ed Moran - 30 years old -  Debut
Moran grew up in Staten Island, so his marathon debut is a return home of sorts. He ran 13:20 in 2010 and 27:43 in 2007, so he's by no means past his prime. One might think that if he was made for the marathon, that he would have run one beforre now, but Moran suffered a lot of injuries in college, so it's hard to know for sure.

LRC's Take: He ran a 46:51 at the US 10-Mile champs last month to get 4th, which equates to 2:13:28 in the marathon according to John Kellogg. But New York isn't flat. If we were Vegas, we'd put the over/under at 2:15:00.


LRC Predictions:
Come back on Saturday, as we want to hear what the gossip is at the men's elite press conference on Friday. Update: We made our 2011 New York City marathon predictions here.

Note: There are a lot of other "elites" in the field, including a 2:05 guy. See below.

The 2011 ING New York City Marathon Elite Field
Mutai Geoffrey KEN 2:03:02 - see above.
Mutai Emmanuel KEN 2:04:40 - see above
Gebremariam Gebre ETH 2:04:53 - see above.
Kebede Tsegaye ETH 2:05:18 - see above.
Lilesa Feyisa ETH 2:05:23 - see above.
Gharib Jaouad MAR 2:05:27 - Until he got 6th in London this spring (2:08:26), Gharib had finished in the top 4 of 8 straight marathons. Expect the downward trend to continue, as he's 39 now.
Röthlin Viktor SUI 2:07:23 - 2007 WC bronze medallist and 2010 European champ is getting up there in age - 37. Ran 2:12 in London this spring.
Falil Abdellah MAR 2:08:18 - 35-year-old ran 2:08:18 in Daegu in March.
Keflezighi Meb USA 2:09:15 - Meb somehow won this thing and medalled in the Olympics with his modest PR, but his PR seemed competitive several years ago (see Silva below).
Silva German MEX 2:09:18 - 1994 and 1995 New York champ is 43 now.
Kibet Stephen KEN 2:09:27 - 24-year-old was 5th in Dubai in January and then ran 2:10 in Paris in April.
Van Hest Greg NED 2:10:05 - Not sure why he's on the list. He ran that 2:10 in 1999 but is 38 now and hasn't broken 2:15 since 1999.
Kipkosgei Moses Kigen KEN 2:10:12 - Ran 61:19 half marathon in NY in March. 28 years old.
Sousa Antonio POR 2:13:00 - 41-year-old is leading Masters guy, as he ran 2:22 in Boston.
Barrios Juan Luis MEX 2:14:20 - 28-year-old who was 7th in 2008 Olympic 5,000 meters ran 2:14 in his marathon debut in March and then PRed in 5k at adidas meet in June in 13:09.
Belz Christian SUI 2:15:08 - 37-year-old Swiss guy had (or still has?) Swiss steeple record (8:22) and 10,000 record (27:53).
Wardian Michael USA 2:17:49 - Ultra marathon stud. World indoor marathon record holder. *Meet Marathon Man Michael Wardian, Who Is An Olympic Trials Qualifier & Has Run 225 Races In The Last 5 Years & Trains On A Treadmill While Babysitting His Kids
Neven Koen BEL 2:17:53 - 34-year-old broke 2:20 for first time earlier this year.
Muzhingi Stephen ZIM 2:20:22 - 3-Time Comrades Ultramarathon Champ Stephen Muzhingi Shooting For Sub-2:12 In NYC
Biwott Shadrack KEN 2:20:28 - We consider the former Oregon star to be a "FOL" -  Friend of LetsRun.com. He is the brother of 2:04:27 guy Duncan Kibet and also is the guy who called us to notify us of Sammy Wanjiru's death. Only ran 63:56 at Philly Half.
Beattie John GBR Debut - Former Tulsa star has 13:42 5,000 PR.
Curtis Bobby USA Debut - 26-year-old ran 27:24 earlier this year and 61:52 in Philly. To put that in perspective, Alberto Salazar's 10,000 PR is 27:25.
Kisorio Mathew KEN Debut - see above.
Moran Ed USA Debut - 30-year-old ran 13:20 in 2010 and 27:43 in 2007.


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