Mon, 21 March 2011 - 3:09 p.m. MT
Credit: Steve Nearman - American Running Association
While most of them disappointed, Goucher did not. Nor did the greenest of the U.S. men.
Goucher, a native New Yorker now training in Portland, OR, clung to the leaders until after 10 miles, placing third in a solid 1:09:03. While the time was well short of her personal best 1:06:57 in 2007, it did earn her $5,500 and was a good fitness test six months after giving birth as she prepares for next month’s Boston Marathon where she hopes to improve on her third-place showing in 2009.
“I had a good time out there,” said the 32-year-old Goucher, a member of the Oregon Project coached by legend Alberto Salazar. “I wish it had been a mile longer. I’m really relieved because I think I can pull this thing off [at Boston]. My word right now is ‘Free,’ free of expectation.”
The expectations were high, too, for Goucher’s teammate Galen Rupp, the kid wonder who racked up a boat-load of NCAA titles at University of Oregon and now by age 24 already has made two World teams, one Olympic team and an American 5,000-meter mark.
Rupp did not falter. Lining up on a sunny 35-degree morning in Central Park against a competitive and experienced international field, Rupp ran fearless and notched the third spot in 1:00:30 just seven seconds off the victory.
Ahead of him was newbie teammate Mo Farah, the Somali-turned-Brit who had outrun Rupp in all five previous meetings including a 5,000-meter track race in Birmingham, England, last month, and the most devastating road racer on last year’s summer circuit, Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia.
The NYC Half was Rupp’s first professional road race – one cannot count last year’s Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 5K – and it was twice the distance of Rupp’s longest race in his life, giving concern whether he would be competitive throughout the race.
He was stride for stride with much more experienced distance runners until the last 200 meters, despite tripping over defending champion Peter Kamais around the 10K mark and crashing his right hip into the pavement.
“I’m very happy with third, but I would have liked to have won,” said Rupp, who plans to run the 5,000 and 10,000 on the track this summer in hopes of making his third World team. “Unfortunately, I fell. I got tangled up with [Kamais]. But I don’t think it affected my race…I kept telling myself ‘relax, relax, relax and get back up there.”
Rupp was all smiles after the race.
“It was a lot more interesting than running laps on the track,” he said. “Throughout the last two to three miles, I put a few surges in to see how they’d respond to it. At one point, Mo said ‘It’s just me and you until we start to kick’.”
In the end, as they sprinted down West Side Highway to Battery Park, the three-pack of Rupp, Farah and Gebremariam became a free-for-all.
First Rupp surged, then Farah jumped out in front but Gebremariam countered. Then Rupp started to fade as Gebremariam made what appeared to be the last move with 200 meters left, that lightening-speed kick that won him four major U.S. road races last year before notching New York City Marathon in his marathon debut last November.
But Farah was not done. The 27-year-old British 5,000-meter record-holder bolted past Gebremariam with 75 meters remaining and broke through the tape first, in 1:00:23, in his first half marathon. His time was third-fastest in the race’s six-year history.
“Galen is a good runner and Gebremariam is strong,” explained Farah, earning $20,000 of the $100,000 total prize pot before taking some time off before the August World champs. “It was a matter of hanging in, hanging in, and getting close to the finish and sprint.”
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he continued. “I’ve done 10 miles before (in 46:25 in Portsmouth 2009) and I asked somebody how much farther is the half marathon and they said three miles. But it was great to have Galen there. We helped each other through some tough spots.”
While Rupp excelled, the other top American men did not exactly shine.
Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 New York City Marathon champion who was second in the inaugural NYC Half in 2006 in 1:01:28, ended up 15th in 1:02:52.
Coming off a slow start to 2011 due to a bout with the flu after Thanksgiving, Keflezighi nonetheless was confident coming in. But he said he got injured two days before the race while training in Central Park.
“This was not a great performance,” said Keflezighi, 35, the 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist. “I was running in Central Park on Friday and my foot landed funny trying to avoid a dog and I injured my [left] knee. It aggravated an IT band injury from a couple of weeks ago.”
He said he had to walk back to his hotel.
“At the beginning [of the race] it was good but the muscles were starting to fatigue when the runners were surging and around 10K I dropped off the pack,” he explained.
Dark horse American Jason Lehmkuhle from Minnesota followed a place behind Keflezighi in 1:02:58. In his first trip to the NYC Half, the 33-year-old self-described marathoner ran just 26 seconds off his half marathon personal best set at Houston in 2008.
Keflezighi still was able to outdistance another top American Abdi Abdirahman, a familiar competitor of his. In fact, the two have raced each other 50 times in their professional careers, with Keflezighi now leading 36-14.
Abdirahman, 34, was no stranger to the NYC Half, competing in all six NYC Halfs including a runner-up effort to Haile Gebreselassie in 2007, when he closed in 1:00:29. But today, Abdirahman was still trying to find his stride after being sidelined with a femoral stress fracture he sustained here in the New York streets during the Healthy Kidney 10K last May.
Abdirahman could only muster a 1:03:12, good for 19th place.
The surging in the early stages also took its toll on American Ryan Hall, during his final preparation for another run at the Boston Marathon title next month.
“The first 10K was on and off which made it tough,” said Ryan Hall, 26, who owns the U.S. half marathon record in 59:43. Hall eventually fell off the lead group and fell back to 21st in 1:03:53. The now self-coached Hall said that he was “a little flat out there” as he has been training at 4:50 pace for the marathon and the 4:40 pace today felt uncomfortable.
In the women’s race, the pace became pretty uncomfortable for Goucher, too. Two top-shelf Kenyans – Caroline Rotich and 2010 New York City Marathon victor Edna Kiplagat – and Goucher were still in contention as the lead pack of seven women passed Times Square at eight miles. After 10 miles, the 26-year-old Rotich and the 31-year-old Kiplagat pulled away and Goucher could not longer hold on.
“At the turnaround at the 10-mile mark, I felt like we were sprinting,” Goucher said, “And I was dying.”
This was not the case for Rotich, who came to New York with a personal best 1:10:23 and is preparing for the London Marathon next month.
“I was feeling still great and strong and I felt like I could push more,” Rotich said. “Today’s race was a nice one…but I need more speedwork. The last 10 minutes were flat.”
By the 13-mile mark, Rotich pulled away from Kiplagat and sped away with a smile on her face, winning her debut NYC Half in 1:08:52, handily shattering the course record of 1:09:25 set by Mara Yamauchi of Great Britain last year. Kiplagat, also her first time here, followed in a 32-second personal best 1:09:00.
And then came Goucher three seconds later. Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (11th in 1:11:38) and Reilly Kiernan (17th in 1:13:44) rounded out the top three American women.
“It’s a kick in the pants, I’m tired of finishing third,” joked Goucher, who moments after finishing had her arms full with 6-month-old Colt. “Third at Worlds, third at New York City Marathon, third at Boston, third here. I’m ready to win one. Third is great being on the podium but I’d like to win one once."
1. Mo Farah (GBR), 1:00:23, $20,000
2. Gebre-Egziabher Gebremariam (ETH), 1:00:25, $10,000
3. Galen Rupp (USA/OR), 1:00:30, $5,500
4. Tesfaye Girma (ETH), 1:00:35, $3,500
5. Peter Kamais (KEN), 1:00:46, $2,500
6. Alistair Cragg (IRL), 1:00:49, $1,500
7. Moses Kigen Kipkosgei (KEN), 1:01:19, $1,000
8. Marilson Gomes Dos Santos (BRA), 1:01:23, $750
9. Shawn Forrest (AUS), 1:01:25, $600
10. Ezkyas Sisay (ETH), 1:01:56, $400
11. Dylan Wykes (CAN), 1:02:14, $300
12. Alejandro Suarez (MEX), 1:02:16, $250
13. Reid Coolsaet (CAN), 1:02:42, $200
14. Girma Tolla (ETH), 1:02:46, $100
15. Meb Keflezighi (USA/CA), 1:02:52, $100
1. Caroline Rotich (KEN), 1:08:52, $20,000 (breaks course record of 1:09:25 by Mara Yamauchi of Great Britain in 2010)
2. Edna Kiplagat (KEN), 1:09:00, $10,000
3. Kara Goucher (USA/OR), 1:09:03, $5,500
4. Shewarge Alene Amare (ETH), 1:09:25, $3,500
5. Werknesh Kidane (ETH), 1:09:32, $2,500
6. Jo Pavey (GBR), 1:09:33, $1,500
7. Jessica Augusto (POR), 1:10:00, $1,000
8. Olesya Syreva (RUS), 1:10:18, $750
9. Irvette Van Blerk (RSA), 1:10:56, $600
10. Madai Perez (MEX), 1:11:12, $400
11. Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (USA/GA), 1:11:38, $300
12. Adriana Pirtea (ROM), 1:12:03, $250
13. Aziza Aliyu (ETH), 1:12:47, $200
14. Fiona Docherty (NZL), 1:12:49, $100
15. Malika Mejdoub (MAR), 1:12:58, $100
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