November 1, 2015
NEW YORK — After 20 miles of buildup, the men’s race at Sunday’s 2015 TCS New York City Marathon exploded once the professional men crossed the Willis Ave. Bridge into the Bronx. Taking off at the 20-mile mark, World Cross Country champion Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya dropped a 4:24 mile that thinned the lead pack from eight to three. Only countryman Stanley Biwott and 2014 runner-up Lelisa Desisa could handle the furious pace — defending champ Wilson Kipsang answered the move initially but was off the back within a mile. Mile 21 was almost as tough (4:31) but Kamworor, Biwott and Desisa remained together until mile 24, when Biwott ramped up the pace just before the trio entered Central Park.
Kamworor gamely battled on, but he could not hang with Biwott, who ran 28:35 (4:35 pace) for the stretch from 20 miles to the finish (just longer than 10k). Biwott crossed in 2:10:34 to win his first major marathon (his previous best was 2nd in London in 2014). Kamworor took second in 2:10:48, good for his highest finish in a major, while Desisa was third in 2:12:10 ten weeks after taking seventh at the World Championships.
Meb Keflezighi was the top American man once again in seventh in a new US Masters record of 2:13:32, with Team Run Eugene’s Craig Leon one place behind him in eighth (2:15:16).
The men went out at a very modest pace and through 11 miles (56:20, which translates to 2:14:15 pace for a full marathon), the lead pack comprised 17 men. A 4:47 12th mile — just the third sub-5:00 mile of the race to that point — whittled the group at the front to eight men: Biwott, Kamworor, Kipsang, Desisa, Keflezighi, Ethiopians Birhanu Dare Kemal and Yemane Tsegay and Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi.
The pace would slow again, however and by halfway (1:06:49), the lead group had ballooned to 15. Indeed, during mile 15, Americans Keflezighi and Craig Leon of Team Run Eugene were running 1-2 as the leaders approached the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. Leon eventually fell off during mile 18, but there were still eight guys left in the top group at the 20-mile mark, including Keflezighi.
At 20 miles, sparks began to fly. Kipsang took off and Kamworor immediately followed as the lead pack splintered behind them. Desisa and Biwott hung with them, but no one else could: it was a four-man race now. Kamworor, apparently unsatisfied with the already blistering pace, pushed even more and by 21 miles, Kipsang himself was struggling to hold on. When the 21st mile split flashed on the screen, it was shocking: 4:24!
The great Kipsang may not have been able to match Kamworor’s furious pace, but Biwott and Desisa were ready and those three tore down 5th Avenue, recording a 4:31 for mile 22. Their two-mile split from mile 20 to mile 22: an unthinkable 8:55.
Kamworor began to feel the effects of his move over the next mile. Just before the group head into Central Park (around 24 miles), Biwott made a move of his own. Desisa was dropped immediately; Kamworor allowed a gap of around 15 meters to form but was not ready to concede victory just yet. Kamworor tried mightily to reel Biwott in over Central Park’s hills, and he succeeded in cutting a few meters off Biwott’s lead. But he could never catch him, and when Biwott re-entered Central Park after making his way through Columbus Circle, he allowed himself a small fist pump, his lead eight seconds and growing. Biwott poured it on with a 4:45 26th mile — the slowest of his final six miles! — and broke the tape in 2:10:34, the second-slowest winning time since 2003 (only Kipsang’s 2:10:59 last year was slower).
Kamworor wound up a well-deserved second in 2:10:48 with Desisa a distant third in 2:12:10. Kipsang took fourth in 2:12:45. Quick takes and video interviews below.
Top men’s finishers * Mile by mile splits
|9||259||Birhanu Dare Kemal||ETH||2:15:40||+05:06.31||2:15:40||5:11|
|12||9||Juan Luis Barrios||MEX||2:18:06||+07:31.84||2:18:06||5:16|
|13||249||Negash Abebe Duki||ETH||2:20:30||+09:56.10||2:20:30||5:22|
Quick Take #1: Stanley Biwott’s Final 10 Kilometers Were Out of This World
We could try to put into words how phenomenal Biwott was over the final 10k today, but it’s easier just to list his splits over the final six miles:
Mile 21: 4:24
Mile 22: 4:31
Mile 23: 4:33
Mile 24: 4:45
Mile 25: 4:35
Mile 26: 4:45
Add in his pace over the final .2 of a mile and from 20 miles to the finish (which is almost exactly 10 kilometers) Biwott ran 4:35 pace (2:00:30 pace for a full marathon). And the final 10k in New York is not flat — it’s actually one of the hilliest portions of the course.
Normally when an athlete runs miles 21 and 22 of a marathon in 4:24 and 4:31 in a marathon, they’re spent for the final four-plus miles. The 4:24 was enough to burn off one of the world’s best in Kipsang, and Desisa, the reigning Boston champ, had nothing left once Biwott moved heading into Central Park — Biwott put 1:20 on Desisa over the final 2.2 miles. Yet Biwott was unfazed by the scorching pace, riding Kamworor’s move until he was ready to spring one of his own.
Today’s performance won’t go down as the best in New York history — it’s going to be extremely difficult for anyone to top Geoffrey Mutai‘s ridiculous 2:05:06 course record from 2011 — but Biwott’s final 10 kilometers were as impressive as anything anyone’s done in the race’s 45-year history.
The win also validates Biwott, who has been one of the world’s best marathoners in recent years but had yet to claim a signature victory. He ran 2:04:55 in London last year only to lose to a course record by Kipsang and was fourth there in April, losing to three studs in Eliud Kipchoge, Kipsang and Kimetto.
Quick Take #2: Kamworor’s Agent and Coach Were Both Pleased With His Run – His Agent Thinks He Could Run 3:30 for 1500!!
Kamworor’s agent, Valentijn Trouw, was very pleased with Kamworor’s run today. He said Kamworor had really struggled in his other marathons around 34-35 k but today Kamworor was the one throwing down the punches late in the race. Trouw thinks a race like today will give Kamworor the confidence that in the future he can be a marathon champion.
Kamworor’s coach Patrick Sang was also pleased with Kamworor’s run. “I think this was his best marathon ever,” Sang said. When I asked him if it was part of the pre-planned strategy for Kamworor to thrown down the gauntlet after mile 20 (the 21st mile was 4:24, the 22nd was 4:31), Sang said it was not. “In competition, you have to make instant decisions.”
When we gave Sang the exact splits for mile 21 and 22, he pointed down at 4:24 on our pad and said he thought that “probably cost” him the win as he thinks that’s too fast.
When we asked Trouw if he was surprised that Kamworor could run 4:24 for the 21st mile in a marathon, he said he was not. He said Kamworor has good speed and he thought he could run 3:30 for 1500 if he trained for it.
Hearing this, we later asked Sang how fast could Kamworor run for 1500. Sang said at least 3:35. He said someone who is capable of running 26 something for 10,000 likely needed to be that fast at 1500 to be able to run 26:xx for 10,000. He added that Kamworor had run 3:39 for 1500 this year without training for it.
Quick Take #3: Wilson Kipsang Was Satisfied with His Race But Says He Needs to Work on His Speedwork
Kipsang was smiling as he crossed the finish line today and when we exclusively caught up with him by the finish line, he told us that he was pleased even though he only finished fourth.
“This is the most I could do for today,” Kipsang said. “I ran my best. I gave it [my] all.”
Kipsang felt that 20 miles was “the right time” to push but Kamworor and the others were simply able to maintain their speed better than he could.
“The last 10k I was feeling good but [my] speed was maximum,” Kipsang said.
He said that heading into his next marathon, he will need to do more speed work to prepare as he simply couldn’t turn it over quickly enough at the end of the race.
We wondered if Kipsang was concerned about his standing on the Kenyan Olympic team (he was the third Kenyan today, though Kamworor will not run the marathon), but he was confident that if he runs well in his next marathon, he will still be selected to the team (Athletics Kenya will consider performances from spring 2016 marathons). Barring injury or absolute disaster in the spring, Eliud Kipchoge is all but assured a spot (assuming, of course, that AK acts rationally) and right now, Kipsang, despite his pedigree, is probably behind Biwott and Chicago champ Dickson Chumba. So Kipsang will need to win whatever spring marathon he enters (likely London) or beat Biwott/Chumba convincingly without losing to any other Kenyans. A tough task for sure, but if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s Kipsang.
Quick Take #4: Meb Keflezighi Was Pleased to Make It Through the Race Feeling Good
Meb erred on the side of caution in today’s race and knew he had to find a delicate balance between producing a strong effort while also ensuring he could come back on a quick turnaround for February’s Olympic Trials. Keflezighi felt he struck that balance today, saying he felt strong during the race and that his body wasn’t too beaten up after he finished. Once he realized the pace was slow, Meb did consider making a break as he did in Boston last year but said that he chose not to as they were running into a slight headwind in the middle of the race. His hamstring was a concern coming in — he strained it in practice last week — but Meb said it wasn’t a big issue today.
“A little bit toward the end, about mile 20, it was getting stiff,” Meb said. “I thought, you know what, 6 miles, maybe 35 minutes, hold onto it. Think about the trials. If somebody was going, challenging me or go neck to neck, I think I would have gone with them and got a little bit of time off. But the whole point for the number one goal for this one is to come out healthy and build up on it for the Trials.”
Keflezighi said he needs to work on his speed between now and February as he was three seconds up on Yuki Kawauchi at 26 miles but wound up three seconds behind him at the finish. But overall, he was happy to be back in New York and was proud he could lay claim to two new records — the American masters record (previous best 2:13:52 by Mbarak Hussein in 2006) and best time by a master’s runner in New York (eclipsing John Campbell‘s 2:14:34 from 1990).
Now he’s off to Naples, Fla., for a break — “Isn’t that where old people go to retire?” joked Craig Leon, who was seated next to Meb on the press conference stage — before shifting his focus to Los Angeles and the Olympic Trials, where he’ll be favored to make his fourth team (third in the marathon).
Quick Take #5: Mission Accomplished for Yuki Kawauchi
The Japanese cult hero accomplished what he wanted to in New York. He said before the race his goal was to be top six as sixth is the highest a Japanese man has ever finished in New York and sixth is where he finished as he gunned down Meb Keflezighi at the finish. Yuki was three seconds down from Meb at mile 26 but ended up three seconds ahead thanks to a big kick. Kawauchi took 61 seconds to go from 26 miles to the finish which is 69.3 400 pace. That was the fastest of any of the elite runners in the race. For comparison’s sake, Biwott took 64 seconds and Kamworor 65 seconds.
Kawauchi, as he almost always does, gave it his all. We tried to interview him after the race but he was as close to being passed out while standing as is humanly possible. This is what total effort looks like:
Kawauchi is going to have his hands full in accomplishing his next goal. He said he must win December’s Fukuoka Marathon, which includes both WR holder Dennis Kimetto and former WR holder Patrick Makau, or he’s not going to go the Olympics.
Quick Take #6: Craig Leon Wasn’t Thrilled with His Time of 2:15 but Really Enjoyed Being in the Thick of it in New York
We caught up with Leon, the second of the two Americans in the top 10 (8th in 2:15:16) after the race and he said at one point when he was leading just after halfway on First Avenue, he turned to Meb and said, “This is a lot of fun. I understand why you do this thing (lead major marathons).. [Meb] just smiled, laughed and said ‘Yeah.’ I think he definitely was in race mode. I think I was enjoying the moment more as I don’t know if I’ll have that opportunity again.”
It was nice to see an unheralded guy like Leon have his moment in the sun and appreciate it.
Leon said for much of the race he was thinking he might be able to PR (2:13:52), which was surprising as his marathon buildup for this race had been far from perfect. He had been battling plantar fasciitis for most of this year and then he got sick and missed a week in October (though that rest did allow his plantar issues to clear up). He also had to go to Singapore for work for two weeks ,where his training was less than optimal. However a 2:15:16 on New York is probably at least the equivalent of a 2:13:52 in Chicago so this can very much be considered to be Leon’s best-ever marathon, especially considering he was just 14th when he PR’d in Chicago in 2013. Leon himself said this was up there in terms of quality, but he considered his performance at Boston in 2013 (when he was 10th in 2:14:38) to be very close to today’s run.
Blue collar running fans, you should embrace Leon as he’s not a full-time runner. Leon, a walk-on at Ohio University, is a professor at the University of Oregon, where he helps head the sports marketing program. As mentioned above, Leon said his job impacted his buildup for New York as he had to travel to Singapore and it was difficult to train optimally while there. He’s pumped for the Olympic Trials buildup as when Oregon is out of school in December, he is going to Mammoth Lakes to try altitude training for the first time.
One more thing: the marathon is definitely Leon’s distance. He said, “I can’t stick with these guys for 10k. I think I’ve run under 30 minutes once, but I can run a marathon.”
Quick Take #7: It wasn’t a good day for Nick Arciniaga, who ran 2:22:07 (14th), but thankfully it’s quick turnaround to the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials.
Arciniaga won’t have a lot of time to feel sorry for himself as the Trials are coming up soon.