Star-Laden But Shallow Men’s Field Will Compete On Sunday
October 27, 2015
The year’s final Abbott World Marathon Major, the TCS New York City Marathon, is on Sunday, and it’s time to get excited. In its first year under the helm of Peter Ciaccia after Mary Wittenberg’s departure, New York has assembled a strong, albeit shallow, field. Last year, NYC boasted nine runners who had broken 2:08 and 15 total with PRs under 2:10. This year, those numbers are down to five sub-2:08 and seven sub-2:10. Fortunately, NYRR retained its ability to land big stars, and this year’s race is still very compelling.
Defending champion and former world record holder Wilson Kipsang is back, as is last year’s runner-up Lelisa Desisa, who won in Boston in 2013 and 2015. Boston and World Championship runner-up Yemane Tsegay of Ethiopia will also run, as will 2:04 man Stanley Biwott (2nd to Kipsang in London in 2014). Plus World Half Marathon/World Cross Country champ Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya, who was second behind Mo Farah in the 10,000 at the IAAF World Championships in August, will run his first marathon on U.S. soil.
Many of the top U.S. marathoners will sit this one out in anticipation of February’s Olympic Trials, but two of the top three Americans from 2014 — 2009 champ Meb Keflezighi and Nick Arciniaga — will race on Sunday.
We give you the need-to-know details for Sunday’s race below followed by a preview of the men’s race.
What: 2015 TCS New York City Marathon
When: Sunday, November 1, 9:20 a.m. ET
Where: New York, New York
How to watch: The race will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2, with coverage beginning at 9 a.m. ET. You can also stream the race online through WatchESPN. Locally, the race will also be shown on ABC7, with coverage beginning at 7 a.m. ET.
Additionally, there is masters and NYRR prize money. For a full breakdown, go here.
Abbott World Marathon Majors
The Abbott World Marathon Majors consists of eight major marathons – Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York, the World Championships and the Olympics – with the winner of each series taking home $500,000. Starting this year, the AWMM changed its format so that each series lasts a year plus one race. So the current series began at the 2015 Tokyo Marathon and will conclude at the 2016 Tokyo Marathon.
The scoring is as follows:
1st: 25 points
2nd: 16 points
3rd: 9 points
4th: 4 points
5th: 1 point
Athletes can only score in two events per cycle. If there’s a tie for first, the tiebreakers are, in order: 1) Head-to-head record in AWMM events; 2) Most wins. If they’re still tied after that, the race directors of the AWMM will vote for the champion, though they can choose to split the title if they feel that’s fair (from talking to a source, it seems like it’s unlikely they would split it unless they truly felt the two wins were equal).
The current standings are as follows:
1. Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya, 50 points
2. Dickson Chumba, Kenya, 34 points
3. Yemane Tsegay, Ethiopia, 32 points
4. Lelisa Desisa, Ethiopia, 25 points
4. Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, Eritrea, 25 points
4. Endeshaw Negesse, Ethiopia, 25 points
Kipchoge secured the maximum 50 points with his win in Berlin in September, but he hasn’t officially locked up the entire $500,000 prize yet. Chumba and Negesse could tie him if they run and win Tokyo in February, but his biggest threat is Desisa, who will tie Kipchoge if he wins in New York on Sunday. Tsegay is ahead of Desisa right now, but because each athlete can only count two races during the qualifying period, the most points he can get is 41 (unless he wins New York and Chicago). If Desisa does win NYC, then it will be up the AWMM to award the winner as the second tie-breaker (after wins, which would be equal at two) is head-to-head matchups and Kipchoge has not raced Desisa this year. After that, the AWMM race directors vote and they can award a sole winner or split it. Kipchoge’s win in London is better than any other result, but if Desisa wins Boston and New York in the same year, he will make a strong argument that he deserves a share of the pot.
Men’s Elite Race
Below, you will find the elite field for the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon. We break the top contenders down by category – Three Big-Time Studs, The Star in Waiting?, The Beast, Other Internationals and The Americans – so you’ll know who to watch for on Sunday.
We’re still several days out, so the weather forecast is subject to change, but right now Weather.com projects a high of 65 on race day, with a 50% chance of rain and 9 mph winds.
|Wilson Kipsang||Kenya||2:03:23||Defending champ was 2nd in London behind Kipchoge before DNF at World Champs in August|
|Lelisa Desisa||Ethiopia||2:04:45||Runner-up last year, Boston champ in 2013 & 2015|
|Yemane Tsegay||Ethiopia||2:04:48||2nd in Boston and at Worlds; can he finally get a win in his third marathon of the year?|
|Stanley Biwott||Kenya||2:04:55||Several strong runs in recent years but has yet to break through and win a major; 4th in London in April|
|Geoffrey Kamworor||Kenya||2:06:12||World XC champ was 2nd in 10k at Worlds in August; best marathon finish is 3rd in Berlin (’13 + ’14)|
|Yuki Kawauchi||Japan||2:08:14||NYC will be marathon #11 of ’15 (not including one ultramarathon); 11th in NYC last year|
|Meb Keflezighi||USA||2:08:37||Suffered late-race problems in Boston but still took 8th overall; 4th in NYC in ’14|
|Daniele Meucci||Italy||2:11:08||European champ was 8th at Worlds in August|
|Nick Arciniaga||USA||2:11:30||Struggled in Boston in April but generally good on tough courses; 10th last year|
|Zicheng Li||China||2:11:49||Ran 2:11 at age 20 but has not raced in two years|
|Andrea Lalli||Italy||2:12:48||DNF’d last marathon in Rome in March|
|Craig Leon||USA||2:13:52||NYC will be his 4th marathon of ’15; most recently took 5th at Pan Am Games marathon on 7/25|
|Juan Luis Barrios||Mexico||2:14:10||3rd at NYC Half in March (61:14); only 64:38 at Great North Run on 9/13; first marathon in 2 years|
|Hector Rivera||Puerto Rico||2:22:18|
|Kevin Chelimo||Kenya||2:29:40||Ran 62:11 at NYC Half in March but his one career marathon (2013 CIM) went poorly|
Three Big-Time Studs — But They All Ran Worlds 10 Weeks Ago
Wilson Kipsang — Kenya, 33 years old, 2:03:23 PR (2013 Berlin), 58:59 half
Last two marathons: DNF at 2015 Worlds; 2nd at 2015 London (2:04:47)
Tuneup race: Ran 46:42 for 7th at Dam tot Damloop 10-Miler on September 20 (winner 45:19)
Kipsang entered 2015 as the top marathoner in the world and while countryman Eliud Kipchoge — who beat Kipsang in London in April and won Berlin last month — now holds that title, Kipsang remains extremely good. In fact, you can make a compelling argument that his run in London was the second-best marathon performance of 2015; it just so happened that the best performance came by the guy in front of him.
- Kipsang ran with Kipchoge for over 25 miles in London (including a 4:33 25th mile) and only lost to him by five seconds.
- Kipsang beat everyone else in a field we described as the greatest in history by over a minute. That includes third-placer Dennis Kimetto, who was coming off a world record in his last marathon.
- Kipsang’s time of 2:04:47 was the fastest non-winning time in race history and the fifth-fastest overall. The only men to have run faster? Emmanuel Mutai (2:04:40 in 2011), Kipchoge (2:04:42 in 2015) and Kipsang himself (2:04:44 in 2012, 2:04:29 in 2014).
That performance alone is enough to make Kipsang a strong contender in New York. But then you remember that his previous three races (a world record in Berlin, a course record in London and a win in New York) comprised probably the greatest three-marathon stretch in history and it seems silly to write Kipsang off merely because he could not beat Kipchoge in London.
Yet there are concerns about Kipsang. Most recently, there’s his DNF at the World Championships in Beijing on August 22. Obviously, failing to finish is never a good sign, but the conditions on race day were very hot and Kipsang was hardly the only man to struggle: 25 of the 67 entrants (37%) dropped out. In a way, dropping out could actually benefit Kipsang. There’s a quick turnaround from Worlds to New York (10 weeks) and if Kipsang had stuck it out and run the entire 26.2 miles, his body would have taken more time to recover. Coming back from Worlds will still be tough, but it’s easier than it might have been. We have good reason to believe he’s recovered pretty well as he ran 46:42 for 10 miles less than a month after Worlds on September 20.
The bigger challenge facing Kipsang is that it’s incredibly hard to stay on top in the world of marathoning. Two years ago, Geoffrey Mutai (who is 19 months older than Kipsang) was in a similar situation to the one Kipsang now finds himself in. Mutai won New York in the fall of 2013, capping a three-year run in which he won four majors, including course records in Boston and New York. Mutai’s four marathons since then? 6th at 2014 London, 6th at 2014 New York, DNF at 2015 London and 5th at 2015 Berlin. Chances are, he never wins another major.
You could argue that Kipsang is already on the decline when you consider his DNF at Worlds. We’re willing to overlook that given the brutal conditions and Kipsang’s nearly impeccable track record before that — the dude has won eight of his 12 career marathons and run twice as many career sub-2:05s as anyone else in history! Kipsang is only six months removed from a terrific marathon in London, and as the defending champion, he knows how to win in New York. Kipsang, 33, will inevitably decline, but we’re banking that the former world record holder has at least one more good one in him on Sunday.
Most Career Sub-2:05 Marathons In History
Wilson Kipsang 6
Eliud Kipchoge 3*
Haile G 3
Emmanuel Mutai 3
Geoffrey Mutai 3
Dennis Kimetto 2
Patrick Makau 2
*Kipchoge also has a 4th at 2:05:00.
Lelisa Desisa — Ethiopia, 25 years old, 2:04:45 PR (2013 Dubai), 59:30 half
Last two marathons: 7th, 2015 Worlds (2:14:53); 1st, 2015 Boston (2:09:17)
Desisa is similar to Kipsang in many ways. Though he hasn’t been around as long as his Kenyan rival, Desisa has won a bunch of big races since taking up the marathon in 2013, (2013 Dubai, 2013 Boston, 2015 Boston) and even when he loses, he still runs well. He’s finished first or second in six of his eight career marathons (the exceptions were a DNF in Boston last year and a 7th at Worlds in August) and, like Kipsang, he was denied a win in one of those by the world #1 in an epic battle.
Last year in New York, the final 5.2 miles were epic. Mile 22 was 4:37, mile 23 was 4:35, mile 24 was 4:55, mile 25 was 4:38 and mile 26 was 4:33. Yet Desisa was right there with Kipsang throughout. 26 miles wasn’t enough to decide the race. After the 26-mile mark, Desisa and Kipsang made contact, then Kipsang gave him “The Look” and hammered home to victory thanks to a final split from 26 to the finish of 55 seconds – 62.5-second 400 pace.
Like Kipsang, Desisa will be doubling back from Worlds, and while Desisa ran okay in Beijing (7th overall), 10 weeks isn’t a lot of time between marathons, especially when you consider New York will be Desisa’s fifth marathon in the last 365 days. Desisa is young and has successfully managed a busy schedule in the past (in a seven-month span in 2013, he won Dubai and Boston and took second at Worlds), but four marathons in one year might be one too many for a truly elite runner like Desisa.
Yemane Tsegay — Ethiopia, 30 years old, 2:04:48 PR (2012 Rotterdam); 61:37 half
Last two marathons: 2nd, 2015 Worlds (2:13:07); 2nd, 2015 Boston (2:09:48)
Tuneup race: None
Tsegay has already run two extremely good marathons in 2015. In April, he took second to Desisa in Boston, and two months ago he earned silver behind Ghirmay Ghebreslassie at the World Championships. Those performances demonstrate that Tsegay is in tremendous form. And while he lacks the pedigree of Kipsang and Desisa, he makes up for it with his ability to recover. New York will take place 10 weeks after Worlds. In his career, Desisa’s shortest break between marathons is 12 weeks; Kipsang’s shortest is 16 weeks. In the last two years, Tsegay has run two marathons with less than 10 weeks’ rest and he placed well in both of them.
Check out Tsegay’s last six marathons:
Tsegay had only nine weeks between Eindhoven and Taipei in 2013 but came just seven seconds from winning in Taipei. Last year, he had only seven weeks between Daegu and Ottawa, but after winning Daegu in 2:06:51, he ran an almost-identical 2:06:54 to win Ottawa too. An American has run 2:06:54 or better only four times in history; Tsegay did it twice in seven weeks! That 2:06:54 in Ottawa was also Tsegay’s fourth marathon in seven months.
So yes, 10 weeks should be plenty for Tsegay to recover from Beijing. But New York isn’t Taipei or Ottawa, and even when fresh, Tsegay has never won a major. Still, Tsegay beat both Kipsang and Desisa in Beijing and it helps him that both of those guys won’t have had time for a full buildup after Worlds. Tsegay’s form over the last few years suggests he’s close to the level required to win a major; if his chief rivals aren’t 100% recovered, he could claim his first on Sunday.
Stanley Biwott — Kenya, 29 years old, 2:04:55 PR (2014 London), 58:56 half
Last two marathons: 4th, 2015 London (2:06:41); 2nd, 2014 London (2:04:55)
Tuneup race: 59:24 for 2nd at Great North Run on September 13 (winner 59:22)
From a talent perspective, Biwott probably belongs with the group above, but he doesn’t have a major marathon victory or a World Championship medal, as Kipsang, Desisa and Tsegay do. Still, Biwott should be among the favorites on Sunday, and considering he has had much more rest since his last marathon, in London in April, you could even argue he’s better-positioned than any of the “Big Three” above.
Biwott’s breakthrough race came three years ago in Paris when he set the course record at 2:05:11 (since surpassed by Kenenisa Bekele); the following year, he ran 58:56 for the half marathon, a time that currently ranks him #11 in history. He would have won the London Marathon in 2014 were it not for a course record by Wilson Kipsang, and he was close again this year, losing only to Kipchoge, Kipsang and Kimetto — perhaps the three greatest marathoners on planet Earth.
Now, for the first time in two years, Biwott will run a marathon outside of London as he tackles New York for the second time (he was 5th in 2013). Everything he’s done so far this year has gone well. In March, he ran 59:20 to win the City-Pier-City Half Marathon in The Hague; that time stands as the third-fastest half marathon of 2015. A month later, he was fourth in London, and in July, he won the Bogota Half Marathon by 1:34 in 63:15 (Bogota sits at an elevation of 8,660 feet). Most recently, he was outkicked by Mo Farah at the Great North Run on September 13, running a very respectable 59:24 half marathon (though the course is a net downhill).
Biwott is in superb shape, he’s well-rested, and he’s run New York before. If the top three struggle to rebound from Worlds, he is primed to take advantage. And even if they don’t Biwott is good enough that he could still beat them on the right day.
Geoffrey Kamworor — Kenya, 22 years old, 2:06:12 PR (2012 Berlin), 58:54 half
Last two marathons: 4th, 2014 Berlin (2:06:39); 6th, 2014 Tokyo (2:07:37)
Beast is meant as a term of endearment here — it seems appropriate for Kamworor, a monstrous talent and one of the world’s strongest, toughest runners. Kamworor, the 2011 world junior xc champ, is the reigning World Half Marathon and World Cross Country champion, and he came within .63 of a second of dethroning Mo Farah as 10,000 world champ on the track in Beijing, running 27:01 in steamy conditions. Now for the first time, Kamworor will race a marathon in the United States.
If New York ended after 13.1 miles, Kamworor would be our pick. But a marathon is double that distance, and so far the 22-year-old has not been able to conquer the full 26.2. Kamworor’s marathon record is actually very consistent — he debuted with a 2:09:12 in Rotterdam two years ago and since then has run between 2:06:12 and 2:07:37 in each of his four subsequent marathons. 2:06 is a fine time for a marathon, but when you’re running Berlin — as Kamworor has on three occasions — it won’t put you near the win. He finished third, third and fourth in the German capital from 2012 to 2014, with a sixth in Tokyo in 2014.
It will be fascinating to see how Kamworor responds to the hills of New York. Normally when a guy is the world half marathon champ and owns a 58:54 PR at the distance, you’d think he would excel at a flat, fast course such as Berlin. Kamworor has not, but you could make the argument that he’s actually more of a strength guy, which could benefit him on the technical New York layout. After all, in his two biggest races this year — World Cross and the 10,000 at the World Champs — Kamworor relentlessly pushed the pace from the front. And we’ve always felt that great cross country runners – like Kamworor – should excel in New York. If Kamworor is to break through as a big-time marathoner, it could come in New York, as his five previous marathons have all come on flat courses.
Of course, it’s also possible that Kamworor may need a couple years of pure marathon training to master the distance. Right now, he’s racing a lot of distances, and racing well. But none of his rivals in New York are racing on the track anymore — they’re all 100% focused on the marathon. If Kamworor were to win on Sunday, he would become the first man in history to earn a World Championship track medal and win a major marathon in the same year.
Kamworor’s got a long career ahead of him, and it would be a shock if he doesn’t win at least one major marathon before he’s done. The question is, can he do it now, against this field?
As fans, we’re torn when it comes to Kamworor. We think it would be great for the sport for Mo Farah to have a worthy rival in 2016. Great stars need rivals to elevate them. Borg had McEnroe, Bird had Magic, Gebrselassie had Tergat, and Farah has had ??? It also would be good for Kenya to have a great 10,000-meter man as it’s hard to believe their last 10,000 Olympic gold came in 1968. So generally we root for Kamworor to excel. But if he excels too much on Sunday, he may end up running 26.2 in Rio instead of 10,000. On the other hand, if he’s not great in New York, it’s also hard to imagine him being good enough to beat Farah in Rio.
Other Internationals of Note
It would be a huge shock if any of these guys won it, but they’re worth mentioning.
- Yuki Kawauchi, Japan (2:08:14 PR) — Kawauchi has earned cult hero status for racing a ridiculous amount while holding down a full-time job as a government clerk. What’s most amazing is that Kawauchi doesn’t just race a lot — he races fast. He’s run 10 marathons already this year (the most recent a 2:13:21 victory at the Kitakami Marathon on October 11) and nine of them have been run in under 2:18. He’s finished 11th in New York the past two years (fastest time being 2:12:29) and could crack the top 10 on Sunday.
- Daniele Meucci, Italy (2:11:08 PR) — Meucci won the European Championships marathon last year in a personal best of 2:11:08 and this year placed eighth at Worlds in the same event, finishing with the exact same time as Lelisa Desisa. Meucci owns track PRs of 7:41/13:19/27:32, so he’s obviously talented and he’s still got some time to figure out the marathon as he only turned 30 a few weeks ago.
- Juan Luis Barrios, Mexico (2:14:10 PR) — Barrios is best-known as a track runner (he finished seventh and eighth in the 5,000 at the last two Olympics) but he has run three marathons in his career, including one in New York (13th in 2011 in 2:14:10). Barrios started 2015 by running a 60:46 half marathon in February in Japan and followed it up with a 61:14 for third at the NYC Half in March. He also picked up several nice wins on the track, claiming the Stanford Invite 10,000, the Payton Jordan 5,000 and the Pan Am Games 5,000. His most recent race, the Great North Run on September 13, didn’t go great though (12th in 64:38) so asking him to step up and run well over the full marathon distance in New York might be too much to ask.
With the Olympic Trials just over three months away, we could easily have seen no top Americans in New York. But that’s not the case as two of the top three Americans from 2014 will return this year — Meb Keflezighi (4th) and Nick Arciniaga (10th). Beyond them, Craig Leon (2:13:52) is the only other domestic athlete of note, but for him to finish as the top U.S. runner would most likely require Keflezighi and Arciniaga to blow up or DNF.
Meb Keflezighi — USA, 40 years old, 2:08:37 PR (2014 Boston), 61:00 half
Last two marathons: 8th, 2015 Boston (2:12:42); 4th, 2014 New York (2:13:18)
Tuneup race: 63:02 for 2nd at San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon on September 27
At this point, you know what you’re going to get from Meb. If he makes it to the start line healthy, Meb will give you a solid to great performance, which could result in a very high finish if everything breaks right. And more often than not, Keflezighi does make it to the start line in good shape, thanks to a careful approach necessitated by his advancing age. The 40-year-old Keflezighi, who will run his first marathon as a master on Sunday, frequently uses an Elliptigo to add low-stress mileage and will back off his training if he feels banged-up.
In his most recent marathon, in Boston in April, Keflezighi was with the leaders at 35k when eventual winner Desisa made his move. At that point, Keflezighi had his bottle in hand and tried to take on fluid while responding to Desisa’s acceleration. He couldn’t manage both at the same time and had to stop to throw up, something he repeated four more times over the final seven kilometers. Considering all that, the fact that he finished eighth in 2:12:42 — only one spot behind top American Dathan Ritzenhein — is pretty impressive.
Assuming he doesn’t suffer any fueling issues in New York, Keflezighi should hang with the leaders as long as no one pushes an extremely aggressive pace. And even if that happens, Keflezighi could still be a factor as he will be able to pick off athletes who fade over the second half of the race.
Could Meb win on Sunday? Sure there’s a chance but he’s going to need some help. There are four guys in the field who at their best are much better than Meb right now — Kipsang, Desisa, Tsegay and Biwott. There’s one more — Kamworor — who should be better too, though he’s unproven in New York. So if everyone runs to their potential, Meb is the sixth-best guy in the field. For Meb to win, he would need Kipsang, Desisa and Tsegay to all feel the effects of doubling back from Beijing, Kamworor to struggle with the distance and the New York course and Biwott to have an off day. And Meb would have to run a great race himself. The odds of all of those things happening are very low, but it would not be unprecedented (see Boston 2014),
The difficulty lies in the last part: Meb running a great race. Even an athlete as accomplished as Meb will eventually decline; as you age, it becomes harder to summon consistently great performances (see Bernard Lagat‘s track career over the past few years). Meb has remained fairly consistent to this point in his career, but his decline is coming; it’s just a matter of when. Still, until Meb runs a bad marathon (and his 2013 race in New York was his only truly awful one in the last eight years), we won’t bet against him. A good race would see Meb match his 2014 finish of fourth (we’re assuming at least one of the guys ranked ahead of him has an off day); anything higher than that is a bonus.
The fact that New York isn’t quite as deep as it has been in years past certainly has raised Meb’s odds.
Nick Arciniaga — USA, 32 years old, 2:11:30 PR (2011 Houston); 63:22 half
Last two marathons: 14th, 2015 Boston (2:18:02); 10th, 2014 New York (2:15:39)
On paper, Arciniaga’s last marathon, in Boston in April, looks like a disaster. After taking seventh in Boston and 10th in New York in 2014, Arciniaga slipped to 14th in Boston this year, running 2:18:02, his slowest marathon since 2012.
But all marathons are different. In 2014, Boston and New York went out at paces comfortable enough for Arciniaga to hang with the leaders for a good deal of the race. But the 2015 Boston Marathon went out quickly despite windy conditions (2:05:30 pace through 10k, though the first portion of the course is downhill) and Arciniaga was forced to choose: go out at a pace faster than he was comfortable with or go out slowly and tackle the full force of the wind alone. Arciniaga chose the former, and he wound up paying for it: he went out in 64:35 for the first half (much faster than his 2:11:30 PR pace) but came home in 73:27.
Arciniaga should do much better than that in New York, as long as he has people to run with. Always one to dream big, Arciniaga will want to finish in the top five on Sunday, and that’s not out of the question with a good race — he’s not on the Meb/Ritz level, but he’s firmly entrenched in the next tier of U.S. marathoners (he’s America’s 8th fastest man since the start of 2013), and he already has two top-10 finishes in New York to his credit. At his best, Arciniaga should be capable of a 2:11-2:12 in New York, and that could land him in the top five on the right day.
As in Boston, it will be interesting to see who Arciniaga chooses to run with on Sunday. If the race goes out really fast, Arciniaga may be better served hanging back with the second group and hoping that some of the early leaders fade down the stretch. However, employing that strategy will require discipline and focus — even if athletes from the lead group start to drop, Arciniaga can’t allow the gap to become too big or else he won’t be able to catch them at the end of the race.
The fact of the matter is, when you’re a 2:11 guy like Arciniaga, the dynamics of the race are almost as important as your race-day fitness. If he finds a favorable situation — a conservative first half that allows him to run in the top group, or a solid second pack that he can run with — Arciniaga can produce a good result if he’s fit. If Arcinaga goes out too fast or is forced to run alone, he can still finish in the top 10 (New York isn’t particularly deep this year) but it will require a much greater effort.
Prediction: We’ll be making our picks on Saturday once we get a chance to talk to some of the pros, their coaches and agents in New York. Tell us what you think by voting in our polls below.
Discuss the race on our messageboard: MB: 2015 TCS New York City Marathon Men’s Race: Who you got? Kipsang, Desisa, Tsegay, Biwott, Kamworor, or Meb?