NEW YORK - Two athletes who had dropped out of the Olympic marathon in Athens proved their mettle by winning the men's and women's titles Sunday at the ING New York City Marathon, while Meb Keflezighi posted the best finish by an American in the race since 1993.
World record holder Paula Radcliffe won the closest women's race in ING New York City Marathon history to re-assert her position atop the women's distance-running world with a time of 2:23:10. Hendrik Ramaala of South Africa broke free of a three-man race to win the men's title in 2:09:24, with Olympic silver medalist Keflezighi second in a personal-best time of 2:09:52. It was the best finish by an American since Bob Kempainen placed second and Arturo Barrios third in 1993.
The American record holder at 10,000 meters, Keflezighi (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) worked with fellow American Abdi Abdirahman (Tucson, Ariz.) throughout the early miles as the men ran at just under course-record pace. Passing through the 5 km at 15:34, 10 km in 30:29, and half-marathon at 1:04:15, a large lead pack of 12 runners started breaking up at the Queensboro Bridge.
Shortly after the bridge, from mile 17 to 18, Enos Kibet Ketter, Boston Marathon champion Timothy Cherigat and Ramaala put the hammer down, covering the span in 4:32 to separate themselves from the pack. Keflezighi remained with the chase pack in third and started to reel in the leaders.
Two miles later, Cherigat and Ramaala were alone at the front, with Keflezighi drawing nearer with every stride. Keflezighi caught the pair 1:41 into the race and briefly took the lead at 1:55, but a surge by Ramaala 1 hour and 58 minutes into the race put the South African in the lead for good.
Keflezighi did battle with Cherigat and made his own move on Central Park South, less than a mile from the finish, and crossed the finish line firmly in second. Cherigat placed third in 2:10:00 as 2003 U.S. marathon champion Ryan Shay (East Jordan, Mich.) also broke the top 10, placing ninth in a personal-best 2:14:08. Abdirahman finished his debut marathon 14th, in 2:17:09.
Radcliffe gained redemption after dropping out of both the marathon at 10,000 meters in Athens. Running shoulder-to-shoulder with Susan Chepkemei of Kenya, Radcliffe finally shook free with 100 meters to go, winning in 2:23:10 to Chepkemei's 2:23:14. Lyubov Denisova of Russia came from well off the pace to place third in 2:25:18.
The women went out at sub-2:20 pace, coming through 5 km in 16:37 and 10 km in 33:20. A lead pack of 10 runners, including Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.), came through 10 km in 33:20, but over the course of the next mile Kastor dropped back. The American record holder dropped out of the race at approximately 16 miles, suffering from cramps throughout her legs and the effects of running 140-mile weeks to prepare for the Olympic Games. Jenny Crain of Milwaukee was the top American, placing 15th in 2:41:06.
After passing the half-marathon in 1:10:51, the pack slimmed down to include only Radcliffe, two-time New York champion Tegla Loroupe, Lornah Kiplagat and Chepkemei. Moments later, only Radcliffe, Kiplagat and Chepkemei remained. It quickly became a two-woman race between Radcliffe and Chepkemei, as the world record holder from Great Britain went up against the Kenyan who has won four major U.S. road races in 2004. In the end, Radcliffe prevailed.
For complete results, visit www.nycmarathon.org
Meb Keflezighi quotes
"I just tried to be smart today. At about 16 miles, they threw in a really strong surge. I was struggling with a cramp. It took a lot of energy to catch up to those guys. Ramaala had his day today. People had doubts about what I was gong to do, but the doubts have been answered.
"Coach Larsen and I had a long meeting last night to determine the possibilities. Today I was a winner to be able to come back and recover."