2013 New York City Marathon Predictions

All I know for sure about tomorrow’s New York City Marathon is that it is going to be a classic race. The World Marathon Majors championship series is still up for grabs, which injects some serious additional motivation for Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede and London Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda who both toe the starting line on Sunday with $500,000 on the line. If Kebede is in the top three, the money is his, due to his London Marathon victory in April and his fourth place finish at the World Championship in Moscow. If Kiprotich wins Sunday’s race or comes in second with Kebede out of the top three, the Olympic and World Champion will take home the World Marathon Majors’ $500,000 purse. Kebede and Kiprotich’s race within the race should provide some additional – to put it mildly – drama. In pre-race interviews, Kebede has been straightforward in saying that the only person he is racing is Kiprotich. It’s difficult to say who has the advantage. Letsrun’s analysis of the upcoming race comes down strongly on Kebede’s side, citing his spectacular consistency, his motivation after the disappointment of finishing seconds short of the jackpot in 2010, indications that his training has been going very well after his disappointing fourth place finish at Moscow this summer, and the fact that he is familiar with the New York City course, having finished third in 2011. Kebede also comes across as being supremely confident.

In the World Marathon Majors competition I’m betting against Kebede’s experience and confidence and going, instead, with Olympic and World Champion Stephen Kiprotich who has a knack – obviously – for winning high stakes championship races with no pacers. Although he hasn’t previously run New York, the hills and turns and relative difficulty of the course should help to balance out the fact that his personal best is minutes slower than some of the other elites. It also sounds like he has been training well. This might be the race when we find out that Kebede – 15 marathons since 2008 – is on the downside of his career, whereas Kiprotich, unbeatable when it really matters, is on the upswing. Of course, there’s also the chance that in solely focusing on their competition with one another, neither Kebede nor Kiprotich will win the main event — $100,000 for first place. Running journalist and racing commentator Toni Reavis has argued that Kebede and Kiprotich “don’t have a prayer,” and that Geoffrey Mutai “is your winner of the ING New York City Marathon for 2013 right now.” (http://tonireavis.com/2013/11/01/geoffrey-mutai-winner-new-york-city-marathon-2013/#more-8745) Mutai is as much of a sure thing, Reavis claims, as Alberto Salazar was in 1981. Reavis argues that Kebede and Kiprotich are out of the running because they will be concentrating too much on one another and won’t be willing to match Mutai if he goes out very fast. Mutai is also very motivated by the recent successes of his training partners Wilson Kipsang – the new world record holder – and Dennis Kimetto, who just bested the Chicago course record. He is, to put it mildly, very fit. Don’t forget that he also won the 2011 New York City Marathon in a crazy course record 2:05:05. Reavis has said he usually doesn’t make predictions, but you can essentially take this one to the bank. I don’t know, but I get the feeling that this might be the marathon in which Mutai finds out that you really do need to respect the distance.

Aside from Mutai, Kebede, and Kiprotich, are there any other possible winners? One of the exciting things about the marathon is, of course, its unpredictability. Many of the additional contenders are sentimental favorites. It would be great for the sport if they won, but it’s going to be tough. Wesley Korir, the surprise 2011 Boston Marathon victor has been splitting his time between serving in the Kenyan Parliament and training for the marathon. Korir is a charismatic and very likeable athlete who is great for the sport. It would be fantastic if he won. Next, we have Martin Lel, who won at New York in 2003 and 2007 (and who actually has a 100% success rate on the course) and has successfully overcome recent injury issues to make another run at it. His last marathon was a second place finish in 2:06:51 at the London Marathon – not too shabby and definitely a major contender if Kebede, Kiprotich, or Mutai falter. The guy that I really want to win is Meb Keflezighi. Underestimated during the last several years, Meb won New York in 2009, the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2012 and finished fourth in the London Olympics. His PB doesn’t compare with the top guys, but his experience in races without pacesetters should not be underestimated. Should the top elites beat up on each other too much, you can count on Meb to pick up the pieces. The very likeable Meb winning NYC on live national television would also be a serious boost to the sport of distance running in the United States.

Barring any last-minute injuries, the women’s race at this year’s New York City Marathon is easy to predict. Kenyan elites Edna Kipligat and Priscah Jeptoo are both vying for the World Marathon Majors prize purse of $500,000 and will also come away with $100,000 for winning Sunday’s marathon. Priscah Jeptoo wins the $500,000 if she prevails in tomorrow’s marathon, while Edna Kiplagat needs to come in first or second (second only works if Jeptoo doesn’t win). Head to head Kipligat and Jeptoo have each bettered the other twice, and while Edna has a slightly better personal best, Jeptoo’s last race was a sensational 65:45 half marathon in September at the Bupa Great North Run. She is fit. I would be surprised if the race doesn’t come down to Kipligat and Jeptoo trading surges during the last several miles. If Kiplagat and Jeptoo are both having off days, look for Kim Smith, running for New Zealand, but based in Providence, Rhode Island to finally show her true potential (2:22) in the marathon. Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia, who won the New York City Marathon in 2011 probably, feels a bit overlooked in the media whirlwind that accompanies New York. It’s not often that a defending champion is a dark horse, but Dado qualifies. If the favorites falter, she’ll win her second consecutive New York City Marathon. If I was forced to make a choice, I would bet on Priscah Jeptoo to win on Sunday, pick up $600,000, and continue her high quality racing. If there’s one thing I am confident of, it is that the first New York City Marathon after the 2012 cancellation is going to go down in running history as a classic.

Next weekend I’m running my first Stockade-athon 15K – oldest major 15k in the United States. Since the Adirondack Cross Country Championships I have been running long slow distance, emphasis on the slow. I think I have finally managed to convince myself that I have been running my long runs and recovery runs too quickly. This has been a problem since I started running in the early 1980s. Slowing down has really helped with being able to increase mileage. I think it might be too early for the results to show next weekend, but I definitely feel like I am on the right track.

8 comments on “2013 New York City Marathon Predictions

  1. Frank K. says:

    Thanks. This is a great playbook to have while we watch the race today. After a 10k this morning, 15 of my club members and I are gathering at a restaurant to eat brunch and watch the race unfold.

  2. bridgett says:

    And Tatiana McFadden is going to win the women’s wheelchair race…she’s unstoppable.

    • If (more like when) Tatiana McFadden wins, she will accomplish a marathon majors grand slam — Boston, London, Chicago, and New York — that has never before been accomplished by a woman’s wheelchair racer. I’m currently watching pre-marathon coverage on ABC 7’s live on-line stream and I am impressed by their reporting. Never having run the New York City Marathon, I now have a really good idea about where the course runs and how it looks and what is involved in putting on the race.

  3. OK! — They have switched to ESPN2 and Hannah Storm on the ABC7 on-line feed. I am a happy camper. Really thought I was going to have to wait for ABC’s highlight show from 4:00-6:00 PM this evening. John Anderson just started doing the preview of the elite women runners — succinct and accurate. I am starting to believe that ESPN will do the New York City Marathon justice as a professional sporting event. There will, of course, be some glitches. They just shifted to an establishing shot and I could hear Hannah Storm saying, “No, no,” as they went to commercial.

  4. Drew says:

    Question: on your long runs, how slow are you going compared to your 15k pace? 15k + 1 minute?

    • I am starting to become a convert to the idea that long runs need to be a lot slower. I’ll see how all of this works during the next several months. I went through 15K in my last half marathon at 6:52 minute-per-mile pace (Yes, the next four miles were rather disappointing…) I have been trying to run my long runs and recovery runs in the 9:30-10:00 pace range, although I find sometimes that I speed up at the end because I have other things to do. What this has allowed me to do is to run longer, more consistently. In the past, if I had run 13-15 miles at 8:30-9:00 minute pace, the next day I would be hobbling around, sore, and very likely to take the day off. Now, I can get up the next day and feel fine. I have been trying to do this for a while, but I was really convinced by a short bio of one of the area’s top runners that was published this month in the HMRRC’s Pacesetter magazine. This guy is usually in the top three of all the area races and he claims that his big breakthrough came when his coach started him running his long runs at 10:00 per-mile pace. True, he does twice-a-week tempo runs at 5:25 pace, but I’ll be interested to see if I can get faster by running slower. This, of course, doesn’t mean one should not be doing any speed work or hills, or intense, gut-busting workouts, it merely means that recovery stuff and long runs shouldn’t be super intense — they are for building endurance and capillaries and training your body to snap into its most efficient form. One of my main problems that I am also trying to address is the fact that I have tended in the past to run everything at a similar intensity, with very little variation. This was a sightly longer answer to your question — I am adding two and half to three minutes per mile to my 15K race pace.

      • Drew says:

        Thanks for the detailed reply. I have seen this before…runners tend to migrate their training to the middle intensity rather than to the extremes. I will be interested in how this works for you. I have been running long runs at 1 to 1.5 minutes slower than the 15k pace and have been wondering if I need to slow it down.

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