Discount Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba At Your Own Peril, The Two Ethiopians Say They’ve Been Training Better Than Ever

October 30, 2013

New York, NY – We’re on the ground in the Big Apple and the 2013 ING New York City Marathon race week activities began today with day one of three media days.

The top two finishers from the 2011 ING New York City Marathon (the last one held because of Hurricane Sandy), defending champion Firehiwot Dado and runner-up Buzunesh Deba, both originally from Ethiopia, addressed the media today with their coaches.

What did we learn?

Here are our three takeaways from talking to Dado and Deba and their coaches. Make that four takeaways as we embarrass ourselves at the end of this piece.

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1) Discount Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba at your peril as both claim their training has gone better than ever.

Our preview of the women’s race focused on Kenyan stars Edna Kiplagat and Priscah Jeptoo who have run at least 3:01 faster for 26.2 than either of the Ethiopians. But after talking to the Dado and Deba today, don’t totally discount them.

Buzunesh Deba and Firehiwot Dado Pre New York 2013 Buzunesh Deba and Firehiwot Dado Pre New York 2013

Defending Champ Says She’s Been Training “Tremendously”

Both of the Ethiopian women said they have trained better than the did in 2011. The defending champion Dado, who had to take 7-8 months TOTALLY off from running due to a blister problem midway through last year, said she’s been training tremendously.

When asked about her Kenyan competition, Dado said the following, “Kiplagat is very — she’s an amazing athlete, and I am her fan, but Buzunesh and I have been training tremendously, and we are hoping with the help of God that we will (win).”

But what about the fact that Dado only ran 72:03 for a half-marathon earlier this month (Oct. 6th)?

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Dado and her coach say you should discount that result. Dado said she was training for the marathon, had no intentions on running the half-marathon, but her manager made her do it. After speaking with Dado, we asked her coach Haji Adillo Roba, himself a former 2:12:35 marathoner, about the result, and he too discounted it, “The marathon and the half marathon are different. She’s a very strong athlete. You can’t compare the marathon to the half-marathon.”

Deba, who lives in the Bronx, also spoke very confidently about her training. After running Lilac Bloomsday in May where she dropped out with a calf injury, Deba took a month off and then started to prepare for New York. She was very pleased with her preparation.

She said in 2011, she was running 130 per week but now she’s up to 135 in preparation for the 2013 race. After talking to Deba, we got an exclusive chat with her coach, husband, and training partner (and LetsRun fan) Worku Beyi.

Beyi said according to GPS which he uses, Deba was often in the 120 to 130 mile per week range during this buildup but sometimes he drops the training way down to 70 miles per week for key workouts.

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As for his wife’s training, he said it’s definitely been “better than ever.”

He said that prior to the 2011 New York City Marathon, Deba ran four laps of Central Park (each loop is 6.1 miles) in 2:33. This year she did it in 2:29:09. He said Deba was going so fast that he couldn’t keep up and let her finish on her own.

Bayi said that he learned how to coach his wife by reading books on marathon training as well as his own mistakes when trying the marathon. A 61:57 half-marathoner himself, he said he struggled at the full marathon distance. When asked about his marathon personal best, Bayi laughed and admitted it’s slower than his wife and it came in New York as well. His only career marathon finish was a 2:25:56 in New York in 2007.

He also revealed that Deba did one 27 mile run in practice (While we were talking to Bayi, Deba told the rest of the media her favorite workout is 10-12 by mile and 12 x 400. She said the miles were in 4:50 and 400s in 62-3. We’re wondering if that’s one workout or two. We’ll ask Bayi next time we see him).

2) Expect the pace to be honest from the start.

On two occasions during today’s Q&A, Deba said she is very much focused on improving her personal best time of 2:23

“If it’s slow, I’m going to go by myself. I need to run my best time,” said Dado. “(I want to run) under 2:23. I need to break my (personal best) time (2:23:15).”

3) Deba and Dado were great friends for nine to ten years as children in the village of Arsi Assella, and were reunited after seven years apart at the 2011 ING New York City Marathon.

It’s worth noting, however, that two didn’t race each other as kids for two reasons. One, Dado is nearly four years older than Deba (44 months). Two, Dado, was a sprinter in her home village.

Yes the 2011 ING New York City Marathon champion said she was a sprinter in Ethiopia. Now because of some translation issues, it’s not exactly clear what that meant.

The interpreter said Dado claimed she ran the 150 and the 1500, which clearly was confusing to many in the press corps. But when directly asked if she was a sprinter like Usain Bolt she said, “Yes.” I asked her current coach about that and he said he wasn’t sure but thought she did the 400 with an occasional 1500 in there.

4) Re-read point #1. Discount them at your own peril.

There is a reason why you come to We believe that in addition to it being the only place in the world where professional distance running is treated as front page news each day, you also come because you want our insight.

Normally we think our insight is quite good. But two years ago, we totally swung and missed.

While listening to Dado and Deba speak today, one of us thought, “You know, I bet two years ago, Mary Keitany was probably an even bigger favorite than either Jeptoo or Kiplagat is this year. I wonder what we wrote about the Ethiopians prior to the 2011 race.”

Since we aren’t afraid to toot our own horn when we or John Kellogg is right, it’s only fair that we call ourselves out when we are wrong.

In 2011, we previewed the women’s race with a 1411 word story. Exactly 17 of them were devoted to the eventual champion and they came as a PS:

Others not mentioned: Dado Firehiwot has won the Rome Marathon twice but will need to improve here.

So we totally forgot her when writing the preview, added her as a PS and got her name backwards. Brilliant.

As for the eventual runner-up, we were equally as bad. Here’s the opening two sentences we wrote about Deba:

Buzunesh Deba is getting a lot of press attention in New York (NY Times profile here). Why?

To be fair, the rest of what we wrote about Deba was pretty spot on as we said if she breaks through it’s likely because she’s no longer racing 5 marathons a year like she did in 2009, and at today’s presser, Deba said her reduced racing schedule allowed her to improve her pb.

Tidbit: Deba was asked about altitude training which she does not do, since she lives and trains in New York City. She said, “I don’t believe in altitude.”  When we were talking to her husband and pointed out she ran a lot of miles, he said it was necessary because she’s not at altitude.

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