Flanagan places 2nd in NYC, wins USA title in marathon debut


Jill Geer
Chief Public Affairs Officer
USA Track & Field

NEW YORK - In her highly anticipated debut over 26.2 miles, Shalane Flanagan on Sunday turned in the highest place finish by an American woman at the ING New York City Marathon in 20 years, placing second in 2:28:40 and winning the 2010 USA Women's Marathon Championship.

In a race in which competition took precedence over time trials, Flanagan found a race that suited her. The Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist and American record holder at that distance ran with a huge women's lead pack through most of the race, as the average mile pace hovered close to 6:00 for the first 5 km (18:40).

The size of the lead pack, no fewer than 18 women strong when the half marathon was passed in 1:15:52, reflected the wide-open nature of the field. Without the long shadow of world record holder Paula Radcliffe looming over the starting line, athletes such as Flanagan, world half marathon champion Mary Keitany of Kenya, 2010 road racing "it" girl Edna Kiplagat of Kenya, defending champion Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia and '09 runner-up Ludmila Petrova of Russia all were ready to take their shot at the winner's podium.

The race started to shape up at around the 30k mark as the pace began to quicken, with a split of 1:14:12. Approximately 2 hours into the race, 13 women still remained in the lead pack, but Flanagan and Keitany at that point assumed positions at the front of the group.

Shortly past the 35km marker, at a water stop approximately 2:07 into the race, Flanagan, Keitany and Kiplagat separated themselves from the pack, and at that point the race was on. Flanagan led the three women into Central Park, with Keitany and Kiplagat both looking great on her heels. A 23rd mile passed in 4:58 proved this was no longer a tactical race.

As they approached mile 25, Kiplagat, the 2010 Honda Los Angeles Marathon winner, pulled away with long strides. By the 25th mile she had a 5-second lead over Keitany as Flanagan fell back to third. The American moved into second along Central Park South but Kiplagat extended her lead, crossing the finish line in 2:28:20, 20 seconds up on Flanagan. Keitany, who like Flanagan was making her marathon debut, finished third in 2:29:01, with Inga Abitova of Russia fourth in 2:29:17 and New Zealand's Kim Smith fifth in 2:29:28.

Kiplagat took home $135,000 for the win and $5,000 for breaking 2:29, while Flanagan won $110,000 in prize money: $65,000 as overall runner-up, an additional $40,000 for winning the USA women's title and a $5,000 time bonus for breaking 2:29. Flanagan's performance was the best placing by an American at this race since Kim Jones finished second in 1990 in 2:30:50.

"My team really prepared me for this moment and this stage to seize and opportunity that was out there," Flanagan said. "I stayed calm and collected. I tried to stay with the women for as long as I could. It came down to who had the legs and the heart. I couldn't be more pleased in my first marathon, really.

"Having a win is the ultimate goal. As soon as I finished second, I thought about what I could have done to finish first ... My passion for the marathon is very strong after today."

American Katie McGregor was with the women's lead pack until almost 25 km. The 2010 USA 10-mile and 15 mile champion, she crossed the finish line as the second American, 11th overall in 2:31:01 to place second in the USA Championships and set a personal record. Kathy Newberry was third American and 17th overall in 2:35:23. With her performance, McGregor finished off the 2010 USARC winning the women's overall standings. Antonio Vega won the men's overall standings.

For more information on the USA Running Circuit, visit www.usarunningcircuit.com

Gebrmariam makes it look easy; Haile bows out

The men's field featured perhaps some of the deepest talent of any ever to toe the line in New York and like the women's race featured a tactical, cautious beginning. World record holder Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia was the man to watch, making his first appearance in New York despite a bothersome right knee.

Running as a group, it seemed every runner kept an eye on Haile. A pack of 15 men led the field through the half-way point in 1:05:19 as defending champion Meb Keflezighi led the wear in his USA jersey. The lead pack also contained Americans Dathan Ritzenhein, Jorge Torres and Tim Nelson along with world cross country champion Gebre Gebrmariam in his marathon debut; 2010 Virgin London Marathon runner-up Emmanuel Mutai of Kenya; and two-time NYC champion Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil.

At roughly 16 miles, Gebrselassie abruptly stopped, limping markedly on the Queensboro Bridge. The sudden change in the field's dynamics made for a more intriguing than usual sprint up 1st Avenue.

Normally a time when adrenaline-prone runners surge and patient champions wait, the 1st Avenue stretch in 2010 proved the decisive moment in the race. Mutai, Kwambai and Gebrmariam seized the moment, dropping a 4:26 miles to immediately leave the rest of the field behind, including Keflezighi and Ritzenhein.

Kwambai took over leading duties with Gebrmariam, Mutai and Abderrahim Goumri of Morocco in tow, hitting 17 miles in 1:24:08. By 20 miles, it was Mutai and Gebrmariam clocking 1:38:06, and a two-man race was on. Although both had been striding easily throughout the race, the tall and lanky Ethiopian looked as though he were on a leisurely Sunday stroll through Central Park. When he broke away from Mutai, it was no surprise.

Gebremariam kept on striding to the finish in 2:08:14, followed by Mutai in 2:09:17 and Moses Kipkosgei in 2:10:39. Goumri finished fourth in 2:10:51, while Kwambai fell to fifth in 2:11:31. Keflezighi was top American in 2:11:38, with Ritzenhein eighth in 2:12:33 and Torres 11th in 2:14:57.

"The make-or-break decision was on 1st Avenue," Keflezighi said, "but the gap was so big, that was it for me. I ran a lot of people down. I gave it a shot.

"For the first 15 miles, it (the race) was fine. I felt very comfortable. When Haile, we didn't see him, some guys made a huge move. That was the difference - they wanted to get away from Haile."

In his post-race press conference, Gebrselassie said he was retiring from running. "I never think about retiring," he said. "But for the first time, this is the day. Let me stop and do other work after this. Let me stop and give a chance for the youngsters."

For more on the ING New York City Marathon, visit www.nyrr.org