Ethiopians Firehiwot Dado and Feyisa Lilesa Motivated for NYC Half

By Chris Lotsbom
March 17, 2012
(c) Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK, NY (17-Mar) -- At the starting line of Sunday's NYC Half here, two Ethiopian contenders hope to build off of their successes earned in 2011. Firehiwot Dado, 28, and Feyisa Lilesa, 22, will take off from Central Park aiming to stand on the podium when they reach the South Street Seaport 21.1 km later, something both have done in their last full marathons.

Dado, the reigning ING New York City Marathon champion, returns targeting the $20,000 first place prize on Sunday. Having burst onto the world stage last November, when the Addis Ababa native edged compatriot Buzunesh Deba, Dado comes back to the city with more confidence and excitement than ever before.

"I knew that I would be coming back [someday].  But to actually come back here and know that this is the place I was victorious, I am very happy about that," said Dado yesterday through translator Sabrina Yohannes.

Before her victory last November, though, Dado didn't consider herself a favorite.

"I expected I could be a good competitor, and I knew I would put up a big fight. That was the expectation that I would have," she explained.  Noting other entrants like Mary Keitany, who had run 2:09 for the marathon, were in the race, Dado knew she would have to rise to her competition in order to contend. "Once I was in the race, I started to think I could medal. And after that it went very well for me."

Since then, Dado has been invited to run the NYC Half on Sunday, and will also run the Boston Marathon next month.

"Knowing that I have won New York opens up many paths for the future," she said, the same smile seen last November across her face.

Similarly for Lilesa, progress has been made since earning a bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships in the marathon.

"I was happy with that," said Lilesa, also of Addis Ababa. "But I am really preparing well for the future to do even better."

At only 22, Lilesa is following the recent trend of transitioning to the marathon at a younger age.

"My thinking is more that, what sense would it make to start running a marathon when I am older and weaker; isn't it better to do it now when I am younger and stronger?  I do think it helps to do it that way," he said.

Running for the first time in New York City, Lilesa is excited to compete on the same streets in which many other Ethiopians have achieved victories.  Past Ethiopian champions of the NYC Half include Haile Gebrselassie and Tadese Tola.

"To come here to a place where people like Firehiwot have won, I think I can do very well here. I am looking forward to being able to continue that," he said.

Dado shares the same enthusiasm.

"I know with God's help, I can have major achievements again, and I look forward to running in major races," she said. "I've been preparing with that in mind."


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