What you need to know:
- With a personal best 2:01:41, just three seconds outside Kipchoge’s world record, Bekele is the top draw here, with Dutchman Nageeye who has a PB of 2:06:17 offering the supporting cast
In New York
Josephus Maria Melchior Hermens paced up and down the Media Centre at Central Park on Thursday, keeping an eye as his athletes fielded journalists’ questions in a media meet-and-greet ahead of today’s 50th New York City Marathon.
The silver-haired Jos Hermens, as he’s simply known, is a master tactician and hugely respected athletes’ manager.
The Nijmegen-based Dutchman is largely credited with the tremendous success of world marathon record holder and double Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge, with his management stable – Global Sports Communication – also boasting Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie and Kenyan superstars Faith Chepng’etich and Geoffrey Kamworor.
Wait a minute!
One Kenenisa Bekele is also under the former Dutch distance running legend’s wings as is Abdi Nageeye, the Tokyo Olympics marathon silver medallist.
With Kenya’s world half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie tackling media questions on one corner of the room and Dutchman Nageeye on the other, Hermens seems restless. “Is he in marathon shape?,” he asks me, pointing at Kandie who will be making his full marathon debut at the “Big Apple” today.
Then quickly, he turns to Nageyee and prompts me.
“Ask him some good questions,” he nudges.
Hermens is a first class manager and his knowledge and passion of the sport second to none. Taking advantage of his relaxed morning, I quickly inquire.
“How is Kenenisa, Jos? You think he’ll do well?”
He responds on the affirmative, observing that the Ethiopian legend had recovered well from September’s Berlin Marathon.
Erratic first half pacing threw the spanner in the works in Berlin, Bekele finishing third in two hours, six minutes and 47 second seconds, coming behind countryman Guye Adola (2:05:45) and Kenya’s Bethwel Yegon (2:06:14).
“He wasn’t in great shape going into Berlin, but he’s now in good shape,” Hermens adds of his charge who will be running his first New York City Marathon.
"He’s smart (at racing) and he’s very competitive and there are no pacemakers here so he will be perfect for this course,” Hermens added on Thursday.
With a personal best 2:01:41, just three seconds outside Eliud Kipchoge’s world record, Bekele is certainly, easily, the top draw here, with Nageeye (personal best 2:06:17) offering the supporting cast, alongside Kenya’s Albert Korir (2:08:03) - who was second here in 2019 (2:08:36) behind compatriot Geoffrey Kamworor (2:08:13) - and world half marathon record holder Kandie.
Eritrea’s Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, world champion in Beijing in 2015, has been out of sorts since and it’s impossible to gauge his shape.
He will be on the starting line at Staten Island on Sunday.
Bekele’s fans will hope he won’t be too distracted by the goings on back home where rebel forces have been closing in on the capital Addis Ababa.
Already, he has called for the combined Tigray People’s Liberation Front and Oromo Liberation Army rebels to sit on the negotiation table with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and strike a ceasefire.
Judging from Bekele’s resolve and Hermens’ confidence, it would appear that the New York course record of 2:05:05 set by Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai 10 years ago, will be under serious threat.
"I will do a good result actually. Of course, I will be in a good position. On Sunday (today), I expect a good day and good result. After Berlin, I recovered well,” Bekele said.
Meanwhile, Kandie assured he is ready to tackle the full marathon for the first time, saying he has put in the necessary mileage.
“My training has been in Iten for the last four months,” he told Nation Sport.
“I sustained a knee injury and missed out on the Olympics (10,000 metres) after which I decided to change my training to take on the marathon… that was in June-July.
He said he will attack the marathon distance with respect.
“In the first half, I will run like a normal long run and then in the second half, I will judge how my opponents react, like from the 30km mark, but I’m confident that with the training I’ve done, I will do well.”
But he warned fans that his right knee injury is “not 100 percent healed.”
“I don’t normally feel much pain. Just a little pain, and it disappears…I cannot say it is 100 percent healed, but maybe 80-85 percent,” he pointed out.
In the women’s race, Kenya’s Olympic marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir is targeting to becomes the first athlete to win the Olympic title and New York Marathon in the same year.
“The course is not easy, but I will try my best. I know we have here strong ladies. I'm going to go and try my best to see how I am going to go to run. I know it's not easy," she said.
Kenya’s middle distance specialist Violah Lagat will, like Kandie, be making his marathon debut here.
To honour the 50th running of the TCS New York City Marathon, One World Trade Center Saturday night lit its spire with the Empire State Building illuminating its world-famous tower lights in the official colors, blue and gold.
The first New York City Marathon was run in 1970 with Fire Department of New York fireman Gary Muhrcke coming off his night shift to win the inaugural race in 2:31:38, beating a field of 127 runners that saw just 55 finishers.
He was awarded a wristwatch and recycled trophy for his victory.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the first marathon, on September 13, 2020, he re-ran a lap of the original course in Central Park and was on Friday inducted into the race’s Hall of Fame at Central Park along with, among others, Kenya’s Ibrahim Hussein who was the first black man to win the race in 1987.