October 30, 2015
NEW YORK — The top elite men at Sunday’s 2015 TCS New York City Marathon were put in front of the media this afternoon, and we caught up with all of them (minus Meb Keflezighi and defending champ Wilson Kipsang, whom we spoke to yesterday). We’ve got six takeaways below, including what the future holds for Geoffrey Kamworor, why Lelisa Desisa is running his fourth marathon of 2015, how Yemane Tsegay is dealing with near-misses in Boston and at Worlds and why Stanley Biwott believes he is finally ready to win a major.
1) No matter how Sunday’s race goes, Geoffrey Kamworor will run the 10,000 at the 2016 Olympics
Kamworor was very excited about Sunday’s race, but he maintained that no matter the result, he will be running the 10,000 in Rio “for sure.” That info was confirmed by both his agent (Valentijn Trouw) and coach (Patrick Sang). The plan moving ahead is to run NYC, then focus on the world half marathon championships on March 26th, then the Olympic 10,000.
Right now, Kamworor’s coach Patrick Sang said he believes his athlete’s best distance is the half marathon, which is a good thing because it allows him to move up to the marathon or down to the track without much trouble. Ultimately though, Sang believes Kamworor’s best distance may be the marathon and as of now, Kamworor wants to run that event at the 2020 Olympics if everything goes according to plan.
In terms of beating Farah, Sang thinks it could happen. “With good planning, it’s possible,” said Sang. Sang said he thought it would take a serious team effort to beat Farah and thought the Kenyan team at the World Championships in Beijing displayed good team work this past August. When asked if they’d change up Kamworor’s training or just hope the solution to Farah is one more year of advancing age for Farah and one more year of Kamworor getting closer to his peak, Sang said there are “one or two things” they plan to change in training. He optimistically said that “The range (between Farah and the other competitors) is getting narrower and narrower.”
Kamworor spoke quietly and confidently about his chances on Sunday. He’s been training with Berlin champ Eliud Kipchoge and Stephen Kiprotich in his base in Kaptagat, and believes that the hilly roads in that area have prepared him well for New York.
“I think New York will probably fit for me because it is more like the place I train,” Kamworor said, noting he thinks the course will suit him well also because he’s a great xc runner (reigning World xc champ).
After taking second behind Mo Farah in the 10,000 at Worlds on August 22, Kamworor took a week off before launching into his marathon buildup. The biggest difference in Kamworor’s buildup has been his long runs. Sang said that in the past, Kamworor has run well through about 37k of his marathons, but he lacked the endurance to handle the final 5k (his best finish in five career marathons remains his debut, 2:06:12 for third in Berlin in 2012). “After 37k, everything was cooked,” said Sang.
So they made an effort to include longer long runs in this buildup, getting up to 40 kilometers (~24.9 miles) on three separate occasions whereas in the past, Kamworor would only run 30k (~18.6 miles).
It was obvious that Kamworor is pleased to be in New York. We asked him why run the NYC Marathon after a long year that included a World XC gold in March and World Champs silver in August, and he said that he has always been drawn to New York and the NYC Marathon.
“It has been my dream to run here in New York,” Kamworor said. “I’m really happy to make my dream to come here.”
2) Lelisa Desisa is playing things close to the vest — but he isn’t worried about running his fourth marathon of the year
Desisa was guarded in speaking to the media, but the 2014 runner-up was willing to share some details about his New York preparations. Desisa’s last race was the World Champs marathon in Beijing on August 22, where he was seventh overall. Desisa, who was second at Worlds in Moscow two years earlier, wasn’t happy with the performance but said that the conditions were extremely challenging.
“Two hours in sun — very difficult,” he said.
Desisa downplayed the challenge of bouncing back from Beijing and running his fourth marathon of 2015. He only took one week off — compared to one month after his Boston victory in April — but said that he decided to run New York because he’s in good shape and may as well race. Desisa also noted that his first two marathons this year went well (he was second in Dubai and won Boston), which helped convince him to run another.
Though four marathons is a lot for any elite to tackle in a year, Desisa, 25, ran three in 2013 (1st Dubai, 1st Boston, 2nd Worlds) and also put together two great marathons in a short span recently, taking second in New York on November 2, 2014 and second in Dubai on January 23, 2015. However, the gap between Worlds and New York (10 weeks) is two weeks shorter than the gap between 2014 New York and 2015 Dubai.
Desisa didn’t want to reveal much about his strategy, but he did say that he learned something from last year’s race, when Kipsang waited to sprint until there was about 400 meters to go. “Last year I have small mistake,” Desisa said. “All [race], I follow Kipsang. But [it would have been better] if I go in front and push. Maybe I have a chance.”
Desisa didn’t necessarily say he’d want to lead a lot of the race, but he insinuated he probably should have moved at some point in the final miles instead of waiting for Kipsang to make the move late in the race. Of course, dropping Wilson Kipsang is easier said than done.
3) 2015 Boston and World Championship runner-up Yemane Tsegay had a good attitude about his near misses this year.
“I hope history changes on Sunday, maybe,” said Tsegay in English when asked about what he felt about coming so close in two different races this year.
Tsegay, who ran two 2:06 marathons in the span of just 50 days in 2014, said he had “no problem” recovering from August’s World Champs 10 weeks ago. When asked to compare his three marathon buildups this year, Tsegay said they were similar but said this one was definitely the best in terms of his speed work.
In terms of mileage, he said he’s been able to get in 1,100 miles since Worlds, much of it on hilly terrain as he said it’s key to prepare for the New York course.
When asked if he’d be the winner on Sunday, Tsegay had a somewhat philosophical response. “I don’t know. Sometimes in competition, [things] come up. Because we are human and not machines – machines even break sometimes.”
4) After training with Chicago champ Dickson Chumba, Stanley Biwott believes his time is now
Biwott and Chumba are based in Kapsabet, where they are the leaders of a training group comprising approximately 20 athletes. As the top guys in the group, Biwott and Chumba lead the way in devising the training plan (neither have coaches) and after a successful fall, Biwott feels he is better prepared than ever to win his first career major (he has three top-five finishes, most recently taking fourth in London in April — a performance he deemed “average”). He has incorporated more hills into his training to simulate the NYC course (he was fifth here two years ago).
One other area Biwott has worked on improving is his speed endurance. He battled Wilson Kipsang in London in 2014 (eventually taking second in 2:04:55; Kipsang ran 2:04:29 to set the course record) and since then has included more speed endurance training to ensure he still has something at the end in a close race.
The best sign for Biwott is that he is healthy. His London buildup was shortened to two months due to a nagging hamstring injury, but Biwott said that he’s been healthy since then and was able to put together a strong three-month buildup for NYC — something rivals such as Kipsang, Tsegay, Desisa and Kamworor can’t say as all will be coming back from Worlds.
We also asked Biwott about the short-lived Kenyan Olympic Marathon Trials. He wasn’t a fan of the idea.
“The best is to select in the big races — New York, London, Tokyo and Boston,” Biwott said, adding that he probably wouldn’t have done the Trials if they were in February as he wouldn’t have had enough time to recover from New York.
5) American Hopeful Nick Arciniaga “My best day would be to win, but I have a legitimate shot of actually finishing top five this year”
Nick is aiming for a PR (2:11:30) and top 5 finish in his 18th marathoner on Sunday. Nick has had past success in New York with two top 10 finishes. Coming off a disappointing run this past spring in Boston, Nick has a hamstring injury setback this fall, but is confident he can run well Sunday at the Olympic Trials in three months in LA. We spoke 10 minutes with Nick and have a longer article on him here.
Full video on Nick below (longer article on Nick here, if you don’t want to watch the video).
6) Juan Luis Barrios Hoping to Continue Fine Mexican Tradition in New York
People under the age of 40 may not know it, but Mexico has a tremendous distance running tradition especially at the NYC Marathon. From 1991 to 1995, 3 different Mexicans (Salvador Garcia, Andrés Espinosa and Germán Silva) won New York 4 times over five years. Arturo Barrios also set the world record for 10,000m in 1989 running 27:08.23, a mark that is still the Mexican national record, and was the first man to run the half-marathon distance under 1 hour (in a 1 hour race on a track).
Juan Luis Barrios is the lone Mexican pro in Sunday’s field. Barrios who had previously trained with Bernard Lagat in America under coach James Li, now trains in Mexico under Poland’s Tadeusz Kepka, who was Arturo Barrios coach.
While Juan Luis Barrios with his 27:28 pr is not as fast as Arturo Barrios on the track, he wants to help restore the Mexican marathon tradition and said his goal is a sub 2:12 on Sunday. He ran 2:14:10 in his marathon PR in New York in 2011.
Juan Luis Barrios said one of the reasons the Mexicans aren’t as good as they were in the past due to a lack of resources and support. Some of the guys he trains with do not have passports and can not travel outside of the country to race.