Women’s Media Day in NYC: Mary Keitany Has No Idea How Many Miles She Runs But is Ready, Sally Kipyego Ready for Marathon #2, Lanni Marchant Has Recovered from Olympic Double with Burgers and Beers, Diane Nukuri Keeps Getting Better

by LetsRun.com
November 5, 2016

NEW YORK – Friday was the international athletes media day at the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon. We give you the insights we learned below. Our insights from the US women on Thursday are here, and our women’s race preview is here.

Mary Keitany thinks she’s in better shape than when she won last year; she doesn’t know how many miles per week she runs

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Mary Keitany is the defending champ and heavy favorite on the women’s side. Keitany desperately wanted to run in the Olympics this summer, but she’s tried to downplay her Olympic snub publicly, allowing her results to do the talking. So far, they’ve spoken volumes: course records at the Bix 7-Miler (35:18) and Beach to Beacon 10K (30:45) over the summer. Keitany hasn’t raced since Beach to Beacon on August 6, saying a half marathon would have interfered with her long runs. But she’s been logging consistent training since last year and feels that she’s only built on the fitness that carried her to the last two NYC Marathon titles.

Keitany has the talent to challenge the NYC course record (2:22:31, Margaret Okayo), which was set in 2003. But Keitany said that’s not on her mind. She simply wants to win, and in doing so become the first woman to three-peat since Grete Waitz 30 years ago. It makes sense. Keitany went out too fast in New York in 2011 (67:56) and got burned, but has benefited from more patient strategies the last two years. In addition, it’s supposed to be windy on Sunday and it’s very hard to lead an entire marathon from the front, into the wind and run fast.

Keitany was also asked how much she runs per week. She claimed she does not know.

“Per week? I’ve never counted because I’m doing twice. Once maybe 40 minutes in the evening, and right now in the morning, I do a one hour workout. So I never counted.”

Perhaps logging your mileage is overrated. More likely, Keitany was just being coy.

On Sunday, Keitany will look to be the first woman in 30 years to three-peat in New York

On Sunday, Keitany will look to be the first woman in 30 years to three-peat in New York

Last year’s runner-up Aselefech Mergia said her training this year has been a lot better than last year

The 31-year old Mergia knows it’s not going to be easy to defeat two-time defending champ Mary Keitany but Mergia beat Keitany in London this year (Mergia was 5th, Keitany was 9th).

“I’m very aware that she’s a very strong athlete and I’m a fan. I admire her. Both she and I have come here to win and I believe I have made the necessary preparation (to do that),” said Mergia through an interpreter. “The difference is last year I had a lot of personal problems that I don’t want to get into. I was both as prepared as this year. I’m in better condition than last year and I’m ready to win.”

Buzunesh Deba is back after returning to Ethiopia for the first time in 11 years; her return to NYC was greeted with a trip to the hospital

It’s been an interesting last few years for Buzunesh Deba. In 2014, she finished second at the Boston Marathon in 2:19:59, which would have been a course record if not for Rita Jeptoo, who finished 62 seconds ahead of her. Jeptoo tested positive for EPO five months later and last week was finally stripped of her Boston title.

However, Deba has not yet been elevated to 2014 Boston champ (and course record holder). BAA officials told us they are analyzing the situation and will be making a decision soon.

According to Deba, however, she didn’t know that Jeptoo had been stripped of the title until we told her today. She said that she had not heard from Boston race organizers (after we spoke with her we we saw two B.A.A. officials talking to her at the media center).  Deba said she felt like she deserved to be named the champion (and course record holder) but that even if that happens, she said she’ll never fully get to enjoy the moment of winning a World Marathon Major on the course as Jeptoo robbed her of that chance.

Deba Friday in NY

Deba Friday in NY

After finishing third in Boston last year, Deba developed a knee injury and that lingered into her NYC Marathon buildup last fall, ultimately causing her to drop out during the race. She’s now recovered from the knee injury but revealed that she had to go to the hospital yesterday after suffering food poisoning after eating raw meat in her native Ethiopia.

No matter how Deba runs on Sunday, however, she’ll have a pick-me-up at the finish line: for the first time in her professional career, her mother will watch her race. Deba moved to the Bronx in 2005 and had lived here for 11 years on a B-1 (business) visa. But she did not have a green card,  which prevented her from returning home to Ethiopia and seeing her family, whom she missed a great deal. Deba’s green card finally came through in August, and she went back to Ethiopia for about three months of training during this buildup. But after 11 years away, she struggled with the altitude, as it was higher than what she’s used to in New Mexico, her altitude base in the U.S.

“My training is going good, but not so much like two years ago. The altitude (in Ethiopia) is very hard for me,” said Deba.

All of which makes for a very interesting marathon. Deba has had success in NYC in the past (runner-up in 2011 and 2013), but it would take a minor miracle for her to win on Sunday considering the competition, her rough recent results and tumultuous buildup.

Joyce Chepkirui is in her best shape ever this year

The lean at the NYC half

The lean at the NYC half

Chepkirui won Amsterdam and Honolulu last year, but she said today that she’s in the shape of the life as she goes for her first major victory in New York. She did battle some right Achilles issues about six weeks ago but that has cleared up in the ensuing weeks.

Chepkirui was third in Boston in April, and though her recent results haven’t been terrific, there are explanations for them. When she ran the Olomouc Half in June in the Czech Republic (72:40), she struggled with the hot 86-degree temps and she battled a blister in her next half at the Great North Run in September (69:57).

Before Boston, Chepkirui, who trains not in a large group, but rather with four men who pace her in workouts, added a new wrinkle to her training: more hills. She’s kept that as part of her routine and now hopes to benefit from some training advice she received from a guy who knows a thing or two about New York: two-time champ Geoffrey Mutai, her first cousin. In the past, Chepkirui had never asked for advice from him before the race, but this time he gave some pointers, noting that she needs to be prepared for a slow first mile (Verrazano Narrows Bridge) and the challenging Queensboro Bridge at 25k.

Sunday’s race will be a reunion of sorts for Chepkirui and Molly Huddle, who controversially outleaned her at the NYC Half back in March. Chepkirui said the incident did not bother her and that there’s no bad blood between her and Huddle.   

After Olympic Double in Rio and Drama Preceding It, Lanni Marchant Can Just Focus on Racing in New York

The Canadian record holder in the marathon, Lanni Marchant, has had an eventful road to the New York starting line.

First, she made her Olympic dream become reality in Rio in grand style. She ran the 10,000m and finished 25th in 32:04.21 and then just two days later ran the marathon and finished 24th in 2:33.08.

Before that she endured a battle with Athletics Canada to let her run both events at the Olympics even though she had met all of their qualifying standards. She was kept in limbo. She only found out a month and a day before her first race in Rio that she would be allowed to double.

Lanni, a practicing lawyer in the United States (she went to the University of Tennessee Chattanooga and ran a very modest 34:16 for 10,000m with a best place finish of 15th at NCAAs), said “There was nothing preventing me from doubling except for the fact the head coach and the NTC (the National Teams Committee) felt they had the right to say what I could do with my body more than me and my coaches.”

The delay on approval from Athletics Canada did not affect her training too much as she said her marathon training is the same as her 10k training which she calls “10 weeks to 10k”, except with more mileage.

However it was taxing mentally. “I wasn’t allowed to speak about wanting to double after a certain point because they threatened a member conduct policy sanction against me which would have prevented me from going to Rio,” she said.

The running community in Canada, and even the US and UK rallied behind her. “Petitions were started and articles written on the importance of me doing the double and what that  would mean for girls and boys but obviously for me mostly girls, “ she said. “You don’t have to limit yourself and if somebody says no you just yell louder yes,” she added.

Lanni originally was just training to make the Canadian Olympic team in the marathon in 2016. After being left off the Canadian Olympic marathon team in 2012 despite having run 2:31:51, she decided to embrace the opportunity of the double after qualifying in both events. “My mom’s always said you’re a girl you can change your mind. It’s not that you are wishy-washy, it’s just don’t lock yourself into one goal. My goal was always to make it to Rio and the Olympics. Then I went and qualified for two events so why limit it?” she said.

As for New York Lanni is looking forward to just racing in a race that has been on her bucket list.  She loves racing in women’s only races, noting that the the women have not had that opportunity for very long as the first women’s Olympic marathon was in 1984, the year she was born.

She feels recovered from her double in Rio. She took five days off completely and enjoyed watching the Olympics and her “burgers and beers”. Then she started light running, went to Argentina, and four weeks in resumed more serious training.

She’s hoping that pays off with a big performance on Sunday.

Kipyego in NYC

Kipyego in NYC

Sally Kipyego has gotten over her disappointment at failing to get a chance to defend her Olympic silver medal and is hoping to avoid making more ‘rookie’ mistakes in New York

In 2012, Sally Kipyego was far from a lock for the Kenyan Olympic team at 10,000 as she was third by just .72 of a second at the Kenyan Trials, but she ended up winning a silver in London. This year, Kipyego didn’t make Kenya’s team even though she thought she was in better shape in 2016 than 2012.

“I was heartbroken (to not make the Olympics),” said Kipyego. “Every preparation that I did was to go to Rio. Not once did I think I wouldn’t be in Rio. Everything was on that. Ironically, I felt more prepared in 2016 than I did  in 2012. Everything felt better and I felt more prepared for the Trials than in 2012.”

Kipyego said she felt the fact that the Trials were held in Eldoret this year (7,000 feet) versus Nairobi (5,000 feet) in 2012 affected her (she finished 6th at the Trials).

“I just had a bad day. I’ve never really liked running at altitude,” said Kipyego. “Sometimes it’s not about fitness. It’s about adaptability.”

Last year, Kipyego made her marathon debut in New York. She’s still looking for her first marathon finish though, as after running with the leaders for close to 20 miles, Kipyego ended up a DNF.

Kipyego blamed her DNF on a ‘rookie mistake.’ She said in a “lapse of concentration” she missed her bottle at the 30k aid station and panicked. Instead of just drinking water, she decided to turn back and go get her bottle. As she did that, the leaders surged and Kipyego said she decided to hammer to try to catch back up.

“I pushed too hard as I wanted to catch up to the leaders. The wheels fell off after that. I was too aggressive for a short period,” said Kipyego.

The DNF didn’t discourage Kipyego though as she told Runner’s World, “I really liked [the marathon] until my wheels fell off. It didn’t discourage me one bit. If it did anything, it actually inspired me to do another one. [Dropping out] just made me respect the distance a little more and it made me realize this is not a 10K. You can’t just come in with running 80 or 70 miles [per week] and get away with it. You have to do the work…you can’t really fake it.”

Kipyego is feeling good about her chances for 2016, however. Since she didn’t make the Olympics, she’s had more time to get ready for 2016 New York than she did for 2015 New York.

“Training has been going well. I’ve been training in Flagstaff the last two months. It’s gone as well as it could have. I think the body is ready. My mind is there. I am committed,” said Kipyego, who stayed at Matt Llano’s place in Flagstaff. “I am going to try to run to the best of my ability and try to have a good experience. The objective is to have a good experience.”

Kipyego said she learned an important lesson from last year’s race which resulted in her adding in more long runs to her training this year.

“I learned that the marathon is a brutal distance. Just because you are feeling good at mile 17 doesn’t mean that much. You need to be able to finish it,” said Kipyego.

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Diane Nukuri Didn’t Know What the Olympics Were at Age 14, At Age 15 She was An Olympian and 16 Years Later She’s On the Start Line in New York

Half her life ago, Diane Nukuri was a 15 year old running the 5,000m at the Sydney Olympics. She grew up in rural Burundi and didn’t even know what the Olympics were when a local teacher started organizing races. A year later, she was Burundi’s sole female Olympian (she ran 16:38 for 5000). She ran the Francophone Games the next year in Canada. She then made the decision to stay in Canada with a cousin. Her mother was not happy with the decision, but eventually gave Diane permission (it was required for her to stay in Canada).

Diane eventually learned English, went to the University of Iowa, and now lives in Flagstaff, Arizona where she gets advice from American Olympians Abdi Abdirahman and Janet Bawcom. Diane does a lot of training with Janet and likes her two elders’ advice, “I won’t say they’re old because they will probably get offended,” Diane said with a smile (Janet is 38, Abdi is 37 and Janet are 38, Diane is 31).

Something Abdi and Janet are telling Diane must be working because she set a PR at the Olympics this year (31:28.69 for 10,000m). We doubt many other athletes have PR’d at the Olympics 16 years after their first Olympic appearance, but we can think of one: Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot, who ran 29:32.53 to take second in the 10k in Rio 16 years after finishing 14th in the 5k in Sydney as a 17-year-old.

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