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Surprises Stun NYC Half Marathon

Kamais and Yamauchi take their first titles.

Written By:  Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Surprising events midway through today’s NYC Half-Marathon made for a thrilling race here in the streets of New York City.  Two completely different races played out on the men’s and women’s sides, both ultimately delivering satisfying finishes on the West Side Highway under the beautiful morning spring sky.

For the men, the race began in Central Park as a group affair, as no one wanted to push the pace too hard during the early hilly stages of the race.

Kenya's Peter Kamais wins the NYC Half Marathon. Photo:
Kenya's Peter Kamais wins the NYC Half Marathon. Photo:

Passing the mile in a pedestrian 4:49, a lead pack began to develop with Kenya’s Peter Kamais and Moses Kigen Kipkosgei leading the way, and Ethiopians Haile Gebrselassie, Bekana Daba, and Americans Abdi Abdirahman and Mo Trafeh behind.

After completing the 10 km loop of Central Park in 28:51, the leaders began to string out, with Kamais, the second-fastest man ever in a record-standard 10-K, out in front.  Gebrselassie stayed at Kamais’s shoulder for the next mile or so, with Trafeh staying close to the 33 year-old father of four from Eldoret.  Abdirahman had fallen back after stepping on a storm drain, and would eventually drop out.

After turning onto 42nd Street and running under the bright lights of Times Square, Kamais began to pull away.  As he did so, Gebrselassie stopped suddenly a little before the 15 km mark, leaning on one of the steel barricades lining the course.  He appeared to be holding his chest, though Gebrselassie had shown no signs of pain prior to his abrupt halt.  After stopping for a few seconds, he attempted to run again, and it appeared as if he could get back into the thick of the race and possibly catch Kamais.  But, soon after picking it up again, he stopped, this time for good, at a medical tent on the course.

After entering the medical tent, Gebrselassie returned to his hotel, where he told a New York Road Runner staff member said that he was suffering from asthma, flared up by the dust kicked up in the city streets, possibly from a lead vehicle.

“What are you going to do, it happens,” he said through the staff member.

With Gebrselassie out, Kamais surged and never looked back.  As he said in the post race press conference, he did not look back once until he was more than 30 meters ahead of Gebrselassie.  He went on to cross the finish in 59:53, setting a personal best by 42 seconds and recording the second-fastest time at this race.

“I was not expecting to win,” said Kamais.  “From 10 to 12 kilometers, I knew that I would win this race because I felt very good.”

Brit Mara Yamauchi breaks the tape in New York. Photo:
Brit Mara Yamauchi breaks the tape in New York. Photo:

Behind Kamais was fellow Kenyan Kigen Kipkosgei, who out-sprinted Trafeh in the final meters to earn the second spot, 1:00:38 to 1:00:39.  Both men set personal bests.

Trafeh, who moved to California from Morocco when he was 14 years-old and gained USA citizenship in January, 2008, was thrilled with his finish.  For the second weekend in a row, he landed on the podium; last week he won the Gate River Run, in Jacksonville, Fla. which also served as the U.S. 15 km championships.

“I am just thankful that I am here,” the self-coached Trafeh said. “For getting the support needed to compete against the best in the world.”

On the women’s side, the first 10 miles of the race was the Deena Kastor show, as the 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medallist of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., built up a 30-second lead over Great Britain’s Mara Yamauchi and Mexico’s Madai Perez.

“What I wanted out of this race was to run really aggressively, and I feel like I did that, minus losing the gas in the end,” said Kastor who passed through 10 km in 32:30, well under course record pace.  “But I am really happy with the race today, it was the best I had in me.”

In the 19th kilometer, Kastor said Yamauchi went by “swiftly,” as the British Olympian dropped her.  Kastor said she could hear her coming, but she could not respond.

Yamauchi described her thoughts when she realized Kastor was coming back to her as, “I just suddenly woke up, and thought, hang on a minute, maybe she did go out too fast.”

“I just thought she was in awesome shape,” said Yamauchi.  “In the last 5 or 6 km, I thought maybe I could catch her.”  She continued: “It helped to see [Kastor].”

Catch her she did, as Yamauchi went on to break the course record, running 1:09:25.  Kastor finished 17 seconds back in 1:09:43, and Perez in third in a career best 1:09:45.

“So it wasn’t rubbish?” Yamauchi quipped after the race.

Kastor and Yamauchi will face each other again in the Virgin London Marathon on April 25.