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Kirui, Dado take NYC Half 2012

Peter Kirui - NYC Half 2012

Peter Kirui - NYC Half 2012

NEW YORK – (March 18, 2012) – For the seventh running of the NYC Half, the New York Road Runners brought in almost 90 professional athletes, ranking it as the most competitive half-marathon of the season. In the end, they could have cut that number down to four, as the event turned into a two-man and two-woman race right from the gun.

As the horn sounded at the new start in Central Park, just south of the finish line of the ING New York City Marathon, Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga, the 2009 Boston Marathon champ, took off as if he was being chased by the event record field of 15,336 runners who raised $4.8 million for charity behind him. Posting opening miles of 4:23 and 4:27, Merga quickly opened a gap of 50 meters on the rest of the field.

“I wanted the pace to be very fast because I was in good shape when I was training back home,” said Merga, who will race the Daegu Marathon in two weeks.

Peter Kirui, who paced Patrick Makau to his 2:03:38 marathon world record in Berlin last year, realized that Merga was not just setting an insanely fast early tempo, but was trying to steal the race with a wire-to-wire run, and bridged up to the leader in the second mile, leaving Feyisa Lilesa 50 meters back in third and the rest of the field another 150 in arrears.

“We were running 4:32, 4:28, so what they were running up front you kind of wondered,” said 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials champion Meb Keflezighi, who was tucked in that group and would finish 13th as the top American. “Those guys were by themselves early, and in a half-marathon you can get away with it.”

The revamped course eliminated some two kilometers of the hilly Central Park roads and the leading duo zipped through 5K splits of 13:45 and 14:18. Then, as they exited onto 7th Avenue and headed through the garish neon of Times Square, the early pace and a persistent headwind began to slow them on the flatter portion of the course. Merga, a good six inches shorter than Kirui, tried to draft behind his Kenyan competitor, who zig-zagged across the road several times in an attempt to drop him.

In the end, Kirui, 24, who was sixth at last year’s World Championships 10,000m, used his track speed to pull away over the last 800 meters, breaking the tape in the shadow of the South Street Seaport in 59 minutes, 39 seconds, the second-fastest time run in the event, with Merga following nine seconds back.

A similar scenario played out in the women’s race, with New Zealand’s Kim Smith going out hard, splitting 15:39 and 32:01 for the first two 5Ks. Her only competition was Firehiwot Dado, who won over twice the distance in New York last November. In a virtual carbon copy of the men’s race, the smaller Ethiopian let Smith break the wind down the West Side Highway, then pulled away on the incline coming out of the Battery Park Underpass with 800 to go.

“She’s a strong runner, and led most of the way,” said Dado, 28, who crossed the line in 1:08:35, breaking Caroline Rotich’s 2011 event record by 17 seconds and earning $20,000. Smith also dipped under the old mark, finishing eight seconds back.

“She kind of took off a little bit up that little rise in the tunnel, and I just was feeling pretty tired at that point, and she got away,” said Smith, an Olympian. “I just tried to tell myself she must be hurting as much as me, but obviously she wasn’t.”

Kara Goucher, in her first race since placing third at January’s marathon Trials, equaled that placing here in 1:09:12, almost the same time she ran here last year for the same place.

“Going for the win was a bit out of my league today,” she said. “I was in a group, and between four and five miles I moved away, which was aggressive for me because I usually wait a lot longer. I was basically running solo the rest of the way, which I never do, so I’m actually excited about it.”

Goucher and 2012 Olympic Marathon teammate Desiree Davila, who placed ninth in 1:10:44, sandwiched Janet Cherebon-Bawcom, fifth in 1:09:55, to put three Americans in the top 10. Goucher announced that she’s moving to Mammoth Lakes, CA, where Keflezighi trains with his Mammoth Track Club for what she termed a “four-month dedication to the Olympics. I’ve decided to try this marathon thing all out this time.”

7th NYC Half
New York, NY, Sunday, March 18, 2012

1) Peter Kirui (KEN), 59:39, $20,000
2) Deriba Merga (ETH), 59:48, $10,000
3) Feyisa Lilesa (ETH), 1:00:45, $5550
4) Wesley Korir (KEN), 1:01:19, $3500
5) Sam Chelanga (KEN), 1:01:19, $2500
6) Kevin Chelimo (KEN), 1:01:21, $1500
7) Chris Thompson (GBR), 1:01:23, $1000
8) Scott Overall (GBR), 1:01:25, $750
9) Marilson Gomes dos Santos (BRA), 1:01:26, $600
10) Michael Shelley (AUS), 1:01:27, $400
11) Mengsti Tabor Nebsi (ETH), 1:01:31, $300
12) Adil Annani (MAR), 1:01:31, $250
13) Meb Keflezighi (USA / CA), 1:01:41, $200
14) Yuta Shitara (JPN), 1:01:48, $100
15) Dathan Ritzenhein (USA / OR), 1:01:52, $100

1) Firehiwot Dado (ETH), 1:08:35*, $20,000
2) Kim Smith (NZL), 1:08:43, $10,000
3) Kara Goucher (USA / OR), 1:09:12, $5500
4) Hilda Kibet (NED), 1:09:42, $3500
5) Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (USA / GA), 1:09:55, $2500
6) Madai Perez (MEX), 1:10:05, $1500
7) Lisa Weightman (AUS), 1:10:10, $1000
8) Caroline Rotich (KEN), 1:10:17, $750
9) Desiree Davila (USA / MI), 1:10:44, $600
10) Bekelech Bedada (ETH), 1:10:54, $400
11) Diane Nukuri-Johnson (BDI), 1:10:55, $300
12) Aziza Aliyu (ETH), 1:11:15, $250
13) Malika Mejdoub (MAR), 1:11:33, $200
14) Lindsey Scherf (USA / NC), 1:11:45, $100
15) Karolina Jarzynska (POL), 1:11:58, $100
*event record (previous record, 1:08:52, Caroline Rotich (KEN), 2011)


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