NYC Half Athletes Getting Recognized in New York City

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

NEW YORK, NY (17-Mar) -- In this city that never sleeps, celebrity sightings are common, with many renowned musicians, actors, and athletes calling New York home.

But for a number of elite runners who have come here to compete in Sunday's NYC Half, fans and tourists alike have recognized some of distance running's familiar faces, showing their support for the stars of the sport.

Talking with reporters on Thursday, Boston Marathon runner-up and 2012 Olympian Desiree Davila explained how with distance running's growth over the past few years, a sort of fame has come along with it.

"I got a high five in [Central] Park yesterday and some girl turned around and was like, 'Oh My Gosh!'" said Davila, 28. "That was pretty cool."  She continued: "Every time out is a little bit more and a little bit more. It's another gradual stepping stone that I am getting used too."

Other Americans like Meb Keflezighi and Ed Moran have also been noticed in Central Park. For Moran, a brief encounter earlier this year took him by surprise.

"Someone knew who I was in Central Park, and I just thought 'this is awesome.' Stuff like that doesn't even happen in Williamsburg, (Virginia)," where the 30-year-old trains. "It's not only the number of fans, but how knowledgeable the fans are. They really want to see everyone who is here succeed."

Even for ING New York City Marathon Champion Keflezighi, the support and recognition received has developed drastically since the first time he ran here ten years ago.

"They've (the New York Road Runners) have done a great job to promote and help us out financially, promotionally, and everything they can to have recognizable names," said the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the marathon. With numerous billboards around the city sporting his face, Keflezighi often gets messages when friends see him up in the spotlight.  "Somebody sent me a text or whatever to my phone saying we see you all over on the boards," he said.

For a pair of Japanese competitors, fame even found them at the top of the Empire State Building. Kento Otsu and Yuta Shitara, both collegians from Toyo University taking part in the NYC Half for the first time, were recognized by a group of Japanese tourists last Thursday, asking for pictures. Otsu and Shitara are known as celebrities back home, for they were part of this year's Hakone Ekiden record setting team. In Japan, the Hakone Ekiden is equivalent to America's BCS Championship for college football, with the college relay covering 217.9 kilometers garnering huge amounts of media attention.

The publicity for the athletes is all a part of the New York Road Runners' efforts to help running grow as a sport. Tomorrow, the NYC Half will be broadcast on television live on local affiliate WABC, as well as streamed live on the internet at tv.nyrr.org. Joining the athletes named above will be ING New York City Marathon champions Marilson Gomes dos Santos and Firehiwot Dado, as well as NYC Half defending champion Caroline Rotich, all familiar faces to New Yorkers.

"Everytime I come back here I feel good," said Rotich. "Every time you go out, there are a lot of people and a lot of cheering. So it feels like good."

Editor's Note: Race Results Weekly is owned by David Monti, who does the elite athlete consulting for the NYC Half Marathon and NYRR.

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