November 1, 2018
NEW YORK — It was men’s and women’s international day at the press center for the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon. Most of the major international contenders were on hand, and they all indicated training has gone well and they are fit — which is usually what they say — but they also shared some tidbits on how they’ll attack the course on Sunday.
The biggest news may have been that Ethiopia’s Shura Kitata, who ran 2:04:49 in London to finish second behind Kipchoge this spring after going out in 61:00 and most recently ran 59:16 for the half marathon in Philly, said he is fitter than he was before London.
Plus some of the athletes talked what they think about the Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes, which have a carbon plate in them and may give athletes wearing them an advantage over athletes who don’t wear them.
Highlights from each of the athletes we spoke to below.
Geoffery Kamworor wants to target the world record in the marathon some day, says Nike shoes are not an unfair factor provided you are prepared and training hard
Defending champ Geoffrey Kamworor is the most versatile runner on the planet, being the reigning world cross country, world half marathon and New York City Marathon champion.
The one thing he doesn’t have is his training partner Eliud Kipchoge‘s world record in the marathon. But he doesn’t rule out making an attempt at the 2:01:39 record one day.
“I’m actually optimistic that in the future maybe I’ll try and break it,” Kamworor said.
We tried to press Kamworor on who beats who in training and who could beat who in the half marathon. Kamworor deflected the question saying, “We normally do teamwork in training,” but did say he thinks about beating Kipchoge, “actually you believe maybe one time you can beat him.”
When asked what Kamworor thought the Vaporfly 4% shoes, he said, “It’s a nice shoe from Nike. They improved the knowledge, the stability. I can say it’s a really nice shoe from Nike.”
When asked if he felt people representing other shoe companies were at a disadvantage he said, “Actually I don’t think that the shoe is a factor provided that you are prepared, that you are training hard, you can run with any kind of shoe. So [not having] the shoe is not a [disadvantage to other people].”
Kamworor was certain of one thing: his own fitness. “I’ve trained well. I’m optimistic and looking forward to a great result,”
Shura Kitata says he’s fitter than in London, has a lot of respect for Feyisa Lilesa
Ethiopia’s Kitata has had an amazing last year and a half:
April 2017: Ran 2:07:28 to win Rome Marathon, 11 seconds off the course record
October 2017: Ran 2:05:50 to win Frankfurt Marathon
April 2018: Ran 2:04:49 (after going out in 61:00) to finish second behind Kipchoge at London Marathon
September 2018: Soloed a 59:16 half marathon pb to win Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly by almost four minutes
The bad news for Kamworor is Kitata says he’s fitter than he was in London. He said, “London was my first major marathon where I competed with really top athletes so it gave me a chance to see where I am. Based on that I’ve gone back and trained really well.” When we asked him if he was fitter than London the answer (via translation) was succinct: “Yes”.
Kitata is Oromo like Feyisa Lilesa, who threw up an “X” at the finish of the Olympic marathon in Rio and then went into exile, to protest the treatment of the Oromo people by the Ethiopian government. There is a new prime minister in Ethiopia who is Oromo and Lilesa just returned to live in Ethiopia.
We asked Kitata what he thought of the new government. He said via double translation (Oromo to Amharic). “The current prime minister is not just for the Oromo people but for all the Ethiopian people. He is someone who looks out for everyone and will lead our country to a good place.”
We also asked what he thought when Lilesa threw up the “X”. “At that time in Ethiopia the Oromo people were facing great difficulties so when he did that at that time he turned the world’s attention to Ethiopia and I felt that was a great thing,” he said.
When his attention was on less important things, Sunday’s race, Kitata sounded confident, “I have done what is expected, so I’m not concerned with who else is here and how they’ve trained and how they’ve prepared,” he said.
Vivian Cheruiyot ready to battle with Mary Keitany again
Two years ago Cheruiyot was the Olympic 5,000m champion, and she has quickly figured out the marathon. Her first two marathons were both in the 2:23s (London and Frankfurt in 2017), but she upped her game by winning London this spring in 2:18:31, defeating Mary Keitany in the process.
This will be Cheruiyot’s first crack at a championship-style marathon course with hills, but the track speedster (five World and Olympic track golds) is not worried about the New York course. “I’m not worried because Kenya has a lot of hills,” she said.
In her victory in London, Keitany went out faster than Cheruiyot but paid the price at the end. When Cheruiyot was asked if she viewed Keitany as her main competition on Sunday, Cheruiyot dismissed the question, saying her focus is on running her best. “I run on my own as Vivian. It will be done with my own body…my own race,” she said knowing that when she runs her best it usually results in gold.
Mary Keitany will try to not go out too fast
Mary Keitany was upset by Shalane Flanagan last year in New York, but she had a good excuse, as she had her first period in three months just prior to the race.
When Keitany is on her game and runs smart she usually emerges as the champion. She had won three straight New York marathons prior to last year. However, when she does lose a marathon when she is 100% it is often because she goes out too fast. In New York in 2011, she ran a ridiculous 67:56 for the first half before blowing up and finishing third in 2:23:38. On the faster, flatter London course this April, Keitany went out even faster in 67:16, but paid the price big time, finishing 5th in 2:24:27.
Keitany said she doesn’t want that to happen again and will try to run like she does in training and not get caught up in the “pressure” of a big city marathon. “I don’t want it to happen again. I have to follow my fatigue. I have to run my own race. I have to run as me. How I train is what I’m going to do (in the race),” she said.
Keitany is an adidas athlete and we asked her if she felt she was at a disadvantage by not having a shoe with a carbon plate. She said no. “The shoe doesn’t run. It’s you who’s running. The human being is running,” she said.
Alphonce Simbu is back from military service & ready for NYC course
Tanzania’s Alphonce Simbu has had great success in championship marathons with a fifth at the Olympics and third at the World Champs. He has not run a marathon since the bronze at Worlds in 2017, and that is because he had obligations to the military in his native Tanzania.
Now he’s back to training full-time and ready for New York. Simbu trains in his native Tanzania, where he said he has a group of seven. “We are not a big group but we are enough,” he said.
Simbu said he is fit and ready to compete. When asked if he could win on Sunday he gave a “maybe.”
Simbu is an adidas athlete and we asked him if he thought the Nike Vaporfly shoes put him at a disadvantage. He wasn’t aware of the shoes, but when we and his agent explained them to him and he learned there is a shoe that might make him faster he said, “Ohhh. I’ll take it.”
Juan Luis Barrios talks about Mexican runners of today vs. a generation ago
Brit Chris Thompson still motivated with stuff to prove in the marathon at 37