2014 NYC Half Preview: Mo Farah, Meb Keflezighi and Geoffrey Mutai to Clash

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Editor’s note: David Monti consults for the NYRR and brings in many of their elite fields.

Editor’s note: This article was from last week, but with the World Indoors last week and NCAAs this week, Sunday’s great match-ups at the NYC Half have not received a lot of attention, so we’re putting it back up on the homepage. For an updated article this week, “Seven Story Lines Ahead of Sunday’s NYC Half” click here.

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(04-Mar) — Double-Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah will face two-time TCS New York City Marathon winner Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya and Olympic Marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi of San Diego among other stars at the NYC Half on Sunday, March 16, organizers announced today.

Like Farah, Mutai will be tuning-up for the Virgin Money London Marathon on April 13, while Keflezighi will be testing his fitness for the Boston Marathon on April 21. The three athletes have never competed in the same race together.  Farah and Mutai ran together in the London Marathon lead pack last year, but Farah wasn’t considered a bona fide competitor because he planned to drop out before halfway mark (he did).

“I’m happy that I will compete in the NYC Half,” Mutai said through a statement. “For me, it’s like coming home after my victory at the New York City Marathon last year. This will be my first time to run in a race together with Mo Farah, although I know him from his job as pacemaker in the Virgin Money London Marathon last year. I’m happy because I like to compete with strong athletes, and it is a challenge for me to compete with Farah. If the weather conditions fare well on race day, I will try to set a new course record.”

Geoffrey Mutai celebrates his 2013 New York City Marathon victory on top of the Empire State building. *More Empire State Building Photos

Mutai, 32, has the fastest half-marathon time of any athlete in the field: 58:58.  The event record is 59:24 by Haile Gebrselassie in 2007 on a different course when the NYC Half was held in the summer.  During his career, Mutai has broken 60 minutes for the half-marathon six times.

Keflezighi, 38, who recently won the USA Half-Marathon title in Houston, has run the NYC Half three times before.  He finished second in the inaugural year (2006) in 61:28, 15th in 2011 in 62:52 (Farah won in 60:23), and 13th in 2012 in 61:41.  His half-marathon best is 61:00.

Also competing on the men’s side will be 2012 Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir of Kenya (61:19 PB); 2013 BAA Distance Medley champion Stephen Sambu, also of Kenya (60:41); reigning USA 20-K champion Matt Tegenkamp of Portland, Ore. (debut); the top American finisher at the 2013 and 2012 Boston Marathons Jason Hartman of Boulder, Colo., (61:51); and 2012 European Championships 5000m silver medalist Arne Gabius of Germany (debut).


The women’s race will be similarly competitive, featurin 11 women with sub-71:00 personal best times.  Ethiopia’s Buzunesh Deba, 26, a long-time resident of The Bronx, leads the women’s field.  The two-time TCS New York City Marathon runner-up has a personal best of 69:53, a mark the marathon specialist is likely to better at the NYC Half.

Pressuring Deba will be world 12-kilometer record holder Molly Huddle, 29, of Providence, R.I., who will be making her half-marathon debut.  Huddle, who just ran a world-leading 15:13.86 for 5000m indoors last Sunday, has never raced longer than 10 miles (about 16 kilometers), and is excited for the New York race.

“I’m excited to be running the NYC Half as my first race at that distance,” Huddle said through a prepared statement. “I’m hoping my positive experience from the USA 12-K Championships carries over and that all the strength work I did to prepare leads me to some fast track races, and gives me the confidence to race some longer road events in 2014.”

Also making her half-marathon debut will be Olympic and world championships silver medalist Sally Kipyego, 28, a Kenyan who lives and trains in Eugene, Ore., under the Nike-sponsored Oregon Track Club Elite.  Kipyego’s 10,000m personal best of 30:26.37 is roughly equivalent to a 67:40 half-marathon, so she has to be seen as a contender to win in New York.

Desiree Linden, 30, the former Desiree Davila, is the fastest-ever American woman at the Boston Marathon (2:22:38) and, like Keflezighi, will be using the NYC Half as a tune-up race for Boston.  This will be her first appearance at the NYC Half.  Her career best time is 70:34.

Other contenders for the $20,000 first prize will be Dutch Olympian Hilda Kibet (68:39 PB), Burundian Olympian Diane Nukuri-Johnson (69:12), Croatian Olympian Lisa Stublic (69:18), 2013 USA half-marathon champion Adriana Nelson (69:59), 2011 Boston Marathon champion Caroline Kilel of Kenya (68:16), Portuguese Olympian Jessica Augusto (69:08), and English cross country champion Gemma Steel (70:19).

“This is one of the most exciting half-marathon fields ever,” observed New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg through a statement.  “To have Geoffrey and Mo highlighting such a top-notch group of men, and Molly and Sally both making their half-marathon debuts alongside such great stars of women’s road racing as Buzunesh and Desiree, New Yorkers are in for a real treat.  This really sets the stage for two huge World Marathon Majors events this spring in London and Boston; what a great way to kick the marathon season into high gear!”

The NYC Half has the largest prize money purse of any half-marathon in the United States ($100,000) and was rated the most competitive half-marathon in America in 2013 by the independent Association of Road Racing Statisticians.  The event will have a record number of finishers because the City of New York has allowed the NYRR to expand the field to 20,000.  The race, which begins in Central Park and finishes in Lower Manhattan, will be televised LIVE on WABC-TV in New York and streamed globally by WABC’s own website, 7online.com.

SUMMARY ATHLETE LIST (as of March 4; subject to change):

Last, First, Nat, Twitter, HM PB
Barrios, Juan Luis, MEX, 1:01:48 (Great North Run, 2008)
Burrell, Ian, USA, @juanlbarrios, 1:02:51 (Duluth, 2012)
Chelimo, Kevin, KEN, 1:01:21 (NYC Half, 2012)
Coolsaet, Reid, CAN, @ReidCoolsaet, 1:02:42 (NYC Half, 2011)
Gabius, Arne, GER, Debut (5000m PB 13:12.50)
Eggleston, Jeffrey, USA, @jde66leston, 1:03:41 (Boston, 2013)
Farah, Mo, GBR, @Mo_Farah, 1:00:10 (South Shields, 2013)
Gillis, Eric, CAN, @EricGillis42_2k, 1:03:34 (Virginia Beach, 2011)
Gotcher, Brett, USA, 1:02:09 (Houston, 2009)
Hartmann, Jason, USA, @JasonRHartmann, 1:01:51 (NYC Half, 2013)
Ichida, Takashi , JPN, 1:02:36 (Ageo, 2013)
Keflezighi, Meb, USA, @runmeb, 1:01:00 (San Jose, 2009)
Korir, Wesley, KEN, @weskorir, 1:01:19 (NYC Half, 2012)
Mutai, Geoffrey, KEN, 58:58 (Ras Al Khaimah, 2013)
Puskedra, Luke, USA, @LukePuskedra, 1:01:36 (Houston, 2012)
Riley, Jake, USA, 28:08.26 10,000m (Olympic Trials, 2012)
Sambu, Stephen, KEN, @sksambu, 1:00:41 (Boston, 2013)
Tegenkamp, Matt, USA, @MattTegenkamp, Debut (58:30 20-K, New Haven, 2012)
Yufu, Ikuto, JPN, 1:02:51 (Ageo, 2013)

Augusto, Jessica, POR, @JessicaAugusto3, 1:09:08 (South Shields, 2009)
Caballero, Yolanda, COL, @YolandaAtleta, 1:10:30 (NYC Half, 2013)
Costello, Liz, USA, 1:14:42 (Brooklyn, 2013)
Cummings, Sarah, USA, 1:14:06 (Houston, 2014)
Linden, Desi, USA, @des_davila, 1:10:34 (Naples, 2011)
Deba, Buzunesh, ETH, @DebaBuzunesh, 1:09:53 (RNR Philadelphia, 2011)
Duchene, Krista, CAN, 1:10:52 (Vancouver, 2013)
Erb, Esther, USA, 1:14:35 (USA Champs Duluth, 2013)
Gage, Marci, USA, 1:14:49 (Duluth, 2013)
Huddle, Molly, USA, @MollyHuddle, Debut (31:27.12 for 10,000m)
Jimison, Lauren, USA, 1:14:29 (Sacramento, 2013)
Kilel, Caroline, KEN, 1:08:16 (WHM Birmingham, 2009)
Kibet, Hilda, NED, @HildaJKibet, 1:08:39 (Ras Al Khaimah, 2010)
Kipyego, Sally , KEN, @sallykipyego, Debut (30:26.37 for 10,000m)
LeFrak, Caroline, USA, 1:14:23 (Philadelphia, 2011)
Nelson, Adriana, USA, @adi_nelson, 1:09:59 (Lauwersoog, 2005)
Nukuri-Johnson, Diane, BDI, @dnjbdi, 1:09:12 (NYC Half, 2013)
Steel, Gemma, RBR, @GemmaSteel4, 1:10:19 (Birmingham, 2013)
Stublic, Lisa, CRO, @LisaStublic, 1:09:18 (NYC Half, 2013)
Vongvorachoti, Jane, THA, 1:15:24 (Houston, 2014)

Note: Ther NYRR has been advertising the internet stream of this race on LetsRun.com this month. This article is not part of any advertising package.

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