7 Story Lines To Follow at 2015 United Airlines NYC Half Which Will Feature A Big Tailwind

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By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (14-Mar) — In advance of Sunday’s United Airlines NYC Half, Race Results Weekly highlights seven storylines to look forward to before thousands take to the starting line in Central Park. Race Results Weekly will be on hand to cover the race live from Manhattan– Asst. Ed.

1) Sally vs. Buzu vs. Molly, Part 2: Last year, the trio of Sally Kipyego, Buzunesh Deba, and Molly Huddle separated themselves from the field by the time they hit the West Side Highway for the charge to the finish in Lower Manhattan. It was somewhat of a surprise that Kipyego and Huddle –who were both racing their debut half-marathons– tested the waters up front in the Big Apple. This year, all three return with another year’s experience under their belts.

Kipyego won the NYRR Millrose Games 3000m last month in a world leading 8:41.72 after a training stint in Kenya, and said that the United Airlines NYC Half was her primary focus for the early portion of this year. She’ll try and better her event record of 1:08:31. Deba, who is training for next month’s Boston Marathon, knows the streets of Manhattan better than anyone in the field, having lived and trained in the Bronx. Her personal best is 1:08:59 from last year’s race.

For Huddle, the United Airlines NYC Half will be her season opener after spending most of the winter training in Phoenix, Ariz. Look for the trio to race similar to last year and battle out front.

We shouldn’t forget to mention two-time champion Caroline Rotich of Kenya. She also is racing, and could join the group at the head of the charge.

2) Boston Marathon Preview: This year’s United Airlines NYC Half is truly serving as a preview of the 119th Boston Marathon, to be run on April 20. Of those racing here and in Boston include reigning Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi and 2012 victor Wesley Korir, as well as Americans Dathan Ritzenhein, Matt Tegenkamp, Fernando Cabada, Jeffrey Eggleston, Desi Linden, and Adriana Nelson. Of the international elites preparing for next month’s marathon are the aforementioned Deba and Rotich, Joyce Chepkirui (Kenya), Lanni Marchant (Canada), and Lusapho April (South Africa).

Interestingly, past Boston Marathon champions have fared well at this event. Geoffrey Mutai won last year in 1:00:50; he is the Boston Marathon course record holder with a 2:03:02 win in 2011. Fellow Kenyan Catherine Ndereba claimed the crown here twice, at the inaugural edition in 2006 and again two years later in 2008. She is a four-time Boston Marathon winner.

It should be noted that half marathon performances don’t always indicate what is to come in a marathon. Case in point is Keflezighi. Last year he placed tenth here in 1:02:53, more than two minutes behind winner Mutai. He would go on to win the Boston Marathon in a personal best of 2:08:37.

3) Favorable Weather: In the past two United Airlines NYC Halfs weather played a large factor in the outcomes, with very cold temperatures and harsh winds impacting the early tempo in Central Park. According to local ABC affiliate ABC7, we can expect ideal conditions for Sunday’s early morning contest, bolstered by significant tailwinds. This could help the field chase a fast time, especially if the leaders are going after Haile Gebrselassie and Sally Kipyego‘s event records of 59:24 and 1:08:31, respectively.

4) Stephen Sambu Returns: Keep an eye on Stephen Sambu, the University of Arizona graduate coached by James Li. Sambu has had quite the career racing in New York, including a win at last year’s UAE Healthy Kidney 10-K in a personal best of 27:39.

Sambu is the top men’s returner from a year ago, when he was only beat by Mutai and Mo Farah. In 2014 he completed the Central Park-to-Lower Manhattan course in 1:01:08. His personal best comes from the B.A.A. Half Marathon, a 1:00:41 performance from last fall.

Whenever Sambu toes the line in Manhattan, he seems to bring his ‘A’ game. In the event’s host hotel, Sambu smiled brightly when asked if he was happy to be back here.

“Very happy,” he said. “Very happy.” Don’t be surprised if Sambu smashes his personal best, or even gets close to the one-hour mark.

5) Andrew Bumbalough Debut: Making his half-marathon debut is Nike Bowerman Track Club’s Andrew Bumbalough. According to respected statistics website Tilastopaja.org, Bumbalough has not run a road race longer than 5-K in his professional career. While he’s most familiar with the track, ‘Bumby’ should have what it takes to mix it up with the top Americans. His 10,000m track best is 27:56.78.

If the pace is right, Bumbalough could find himself next to teammate and training partner Matt Tegenkamp. When asked about his outlook on Bumbalough’s debut, Tegenkamp smiled and said, “He’s put the work in and should race really well. I think he’ll do great.”

6) Welcome Back: A number of athletes who have seen success in New York City return for what they hope will be podium worthy races. Rkia El Moukim, sixth at last year’s TCS New York City Marathon in her debut at the 26.2-mile distance, is back four months after surprising many with her 2:28:12 performance. Her half-marathon personal best is 1:10:03.

Also back is April, the third place finisher at the 2013 TCS New York City Marathon. April timed 2:09:45 in 2013, though fell to 12th in 2:16:50 at last year’s marathon. Can he bounce back at the United Airlines NYC Half?

7) American Winner: In the nine years this event has been contested, never has there been an American winner. Will that change this year? It’s hard to say, but many of the Americans mentioned earlier could score the win on a good day. Ritzenhein has the fastest half-marathon personal best for Americans in the field at 60:00, while Molly Huddle has the best American women’s time with her 1:09:04 showing here last year.

The United Airlines NYC Half will begin at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 15. The race will be televised live locally on ABC7 and WatchABC from 7:00-9:00 a.m. EST, as well as on ESPN3 and WatchESPN from 7:00-10:30 a.m. EST.


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