This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
Mutai: He’s back! Jeptoo: Stunning second half!
I’m going to try something new here. When I get the opportunity to watch a major event, I’m going to do my best to offer a relatively short recap. This isn’t going to be a pages long recap with all the splits of all the elites or any extreme thing like that, just my gut reactions following the race on what I saw happening during the race. I’ll start with the women today.
Early in the race, Buzunesh Deba asserted herself and only training partner and fellow Ethiopian Tigist Tufa Demisse went with. Interestingly, Deba did all the work. I never saw a shot where Demisse was anywhere but behind Deba. My initial reaction was that this was a replay of the 2011 race, when Mary Keitany ran a ridiculously fast pace and then faded. Deba would blow up in the second half and one or more of the very strong runners from the chase pack would blow by her. Then I started hearing the splits. In 2011, Keitany was running 2:15 pace and, even before 10K, I was saying she was going too fast and would not make it even while others were on Twitter discussing her gutsy and dominant effort. By the Queensboro Bridge during mile 16, while some were still talking about her dominance, I could see the wheels start falling off. This time, Deba was locked into 2:25 pace. Even with a predominant headwind, this was not a blistering, suicidal pace she was setting.
Deba hit the halfway point at 1:12:38. 2:25:16 pace, hardly blistering or suicidal for some of the world’s best women who were in this race. I was shocked that it was just her with Demisse there. Were the other runners letting her get too far ahead? The chase pack came through at about 1:16:00. 2:32 pace? Seriously? Now, if Deba could hold pace which didn’t seem impossible, someone would need to drop a 1:09 second half to have a chance. This seemed difficult at best.
Through the next two miles, nothing really changed. Deba built her lead up to over 3:30 and, by the time they hit the Queensboro Bridge, the chase pack would need to gain about 20 seconds PER MILE over the next 11 miles to catch her. This seemed like an insurmountable lead. Then it happened.
Pricah Jeptoo made a break from the chase pack. She took off hard and there was no doubt what she was doing. She wasn’t securing third place with that move, she was running to win. Shortly after, you could see Deba was working hard. The lead began shrinking but I still wasn’t convinced Jeptoo could pull it off. Then a few miles went on and Jeptoo was making up serious ground. We had a race again. Deba still had a chance to run away with it but she’d need to put the hammer down and I wasn’t sure she could. By 20 miles, it seemed certain Jeptoo would catch Deba. The only question remaining was whether Jeptoo would extend so much effort in catching Deba that she’d have trouble finishing her off. Or would Deba have extended so much energy in leading for 20-plus miles that she wouldn’t have anything left to respond? Things got interesting again.
By 22 or 23 miles, it seemed clear. Jeptoo would catch Deba somewhere around 24 miles and I was pretty certain power right by for the win. Deba’s running partner fell away and Jeptoo eventually made the pass somewhere past 24 miles. Deba led the race for over 24 miles but would come up short. Jeptoo ran an amazing second half and cruised in to victory.
Splits for Jeptoo: 1:16:00/1:09:07 for a 2:25:07 finish
Splits for Deba: 1:12:38/1:13:18 for a 2:25:56 finish
Deba did not set a suicidal pace. A second half that was only 40 seconds slower than her first half shows she got her pacing down pretty well if her target was an evenly paced race. Jeptoo, though, dropped an amazing second half after running a very relaxed first half. I honestly didn’t think anyone would drop a 1:09 second half. If someone would have told me at the halfway point that Deba would run a 1:13:18 second half, I’d say she has a very good shot at winning, as that would have meant someone would have had to go under 1:10 in the second half to catch her. All the credit to Jeptoo for an amazing finish.
As an aside, I don’t know if anyone here noticed but, when ESPN displayed the results, they had a Kenyan flag next to Deba’s name. Deba is Ethiopian. I’m guessing I’m one of only a handful of people who noticed that right away. I tend to notice little things like that. Still, oops.
Honestly, I don’t have as much to say about this race as I do about the women’s race. Part of that is because the ESPN coverage seemed to be showing a lot more of the women and some of it is that the first 20 miles went off pretty uneventful and there was honestly only one big event in the last 10K that decided who would win. A large pack with all the main players remained intact for about 21 miles. The fairly large lead pack cruised through the first half at a fairly conservative split of about 1:05 (Geoffrey Mutai’s first half split was 1:05:06, 2:10:12 pace). Like the lead women, not a blistering pace. Maybe the wind was more consequential than I realized out there. The major players in the pack all remained until I believe about 21 miles with Geoffrey Mutai broke the race open. Stanley Biwott went with him but you could pretty much tell it was all Mutai at that point. This was the Mutai from two years ago, hanging with the lead pack until he got to a point where he knew he could drop the hammer and hold the pace to the finish line. Then he proved he was the class of the field with such a stunning display of strength that there was no doubt who would win. The rest of the race was his victory lap. Biwott dropped off as expected and ended up fading to 5th place. Tsegaye Kebede gave chase but was never really in it after Mutai’s break and could barely stay within a minute of Mutai.
Mutai ended up winning comfortably in 2:08:24, a 1:03:18 second half.
So the story of the New York City Marathon in the past two runnings follows a similar pattern. If you’re an elite woman, don’t make an early break if you want to win. Instead, make a decisive move at the Queensboro Bridge. The real racing for the eventual winner starts with about 11 miles to go. If you’re in the men’s race, somewhere past the 20 mile mark, Mutai is going to make a move that will leave everyone else running for second.