It was a Kenyan double act at the 2014 New York City Half Marathon after Sally Kipyego sets a new course record (1:08:31) and Geoffrey Mutai clocked 1:00:50 ahead of Mo Farah (1:01:08) to win the women's and men's races respectively.
Pre-race interest centered on the first meeting between Great Britain’s Mo Farah, 30, the reigning Olympic and World 5000m and 10,000m champion, and Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai, 32, the fastest-ever all-conditions marathoner and winner of the last two New York City Marathons.
Mutai acknowledged Farah’s ability, but said he was more concerned with his own performance. “For me, it’s my own 13-mile race, and I focus on it from the beginning,” he said.
After a slow start through the hills of Central Park, Mutai started to push the pace a few miles into the race and never looked back.
Farah never threatened Mutai after he tripped and fell at 5.5 miles. After Farah tumbled to the Central Park asphalt, that contest became hopelessly lopsided. Mutai pulled ahead, dropped his countryman Stephen Sambu, and won by 17 seconds in 1:00:50, well off Haile Gebrselassie’s 59:25 event record from 2007.
Remarkably, Farah, who was expected to battle Mutai for the US$20,000 in prize money, recovered well, running alone for the race’s second half and finally catching Sambu in the final mile; he used his track speed in the last stretch and edged Sambu for second, 1:01:07 to 1:01:08.
“It would have been nice to win the race, but Mutai is a strong athlete,” Farah said afterward. “So I guess you just got to move on.”
Sally Kipyego’s race was much closer for much longer. For more than eight miles, she deferred to half-marathon veterans like Croatia’s Lisa Stublić, third last year, who pushed the pace early.
With them were American 5000m record-holder Molly Huddle, from Rhode Island, also running her first half-marathon but confident after a world-best road 12K last November, and Bronx-resident Ethiopian Buzunesh Deba, second in the last two New York City Marathons.
When Huddle and Kipyego made a break in the ninth mile, only Deba responded. Kipyego applied more pressure, and Deba was left to battle with Huddle, the track specialist.
Even with victory assured, Kipyego didn’t let up; her strong finish took four seconds off Ethiopian Firehiwot Dado’s 2011 event record to win in 1:08:31. “I just wanted to be careful,” said Kipyego later. “I didn’t want the wheels falling off after 10 miles.”
In the sprint for second place, Deba outlasted Huddle to take second place yet again in a huge personal best of 1:08:59; Huddle made the podium with a fine 1:09:04.
- Sally Kipyego (Kenya) 1:08:31
- Buzunesh Deba (Ethiopia) 1:08:59
- Molly Huddle (USA) 1:09:04
- Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya) 1:00:50
- Farah (Great Britain) 1:01:07
- Stephen Sambu (Kenya) 1:01:08