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Gebremariam Looking to Surprise in New York

The 2010 NYC Marathon champion is bouncing back from injury.

The 2010 NYC Marathon champion is bouncing back from injury.

For a recent (2010) champion of the TCS New York City Marathon, Ethiopia’s Gebre Gebremariam seemed like the forgotten man at Friday’s pre-race press conference, sitting alone at an interview table while dozens of reporters clustered around some of the favorites with faster, more recent résumés. In the “you’re only as good as your last race” world of professional running, Gebremariam seemed to have been left behind.

His most recent race, a DNF at Boston, certainly did nothing to counteract that impression. “I had a hip injury, very bad,” he said in explaining his Boston performance. “But I am healthy now, and was able to train well through the summer.”

Don’t expect him to be on the New York podium on Sunday, though. With candor uncharacteristic among most elite, Gebremariam assessed his fitness as “only 75 percent” going into the race.

So why face one of the biggest, most competitive fields in marathoning at less than full strength?

“I really love New York,” he answered. “Not just because I won here, but because of the crowds. They line the course the whole way, cheering and clapping the whole time. There is nothing like the energy you get here.”

That energy, and Sunday’s predicted chilly and windy conditions, may help Gebremariam beat the form charts and place higher than one might expect.

“I don’t think it will be a very fast race,” he said, adding that for Geoffrey Mutai to better his course record 2:05:06 will be “impossible.”

A tactical race would also play to Gebremariam’s strengths, given his track PRs of 12:52.80 for 5,000 m and 26:52.33 for 10,000, as well as a World Cross Country Championships long course title in 2009.

If the race plays out the right way, Gebremariam may quickly refresh the memories of those who might have forgotten him and written him off.