By: Jim Gerweck, Running USA wire
Five national records were set in the women's race, Americans readying for Boston next month record strong performances
NEW YORK -- When the New York Road Runners, after four years of dealing with heat, humidity and the occasional thunderstorm, moved the date of the NYC Half from late summer to March, they did so in the hope of finding cooler temperatures more conducive to fast times.
This year, that hope was overdelivered, as runners were greeted with sub-freezing temperatures as some 14,500 of them gathered in the pre-dawn in Central Park before the start of the Sunday, March 17 race.
Proving that even the most elite of runners aren't immune to such chilling conditions, a large pack of some two dozen men stuck together through the first 10K of the course, covering the first two 5K segments of the rolling park roads in 15:03 and 29:40. "It was definitely hard to get warm the first part of the race," said Kenya's Wilson Kipsang, the 2012 Olympic marathon bronze medalist and the pre-race favorite. "When I saw how slow we were at 10k I hoped we could push a bit more the second half."
Kipsang got his wish as the leaders exited the park for the flatter city streets through Times Square and over to the West Side Highway, where a crosswind off the Hudson River continued to chill the leaders. American Dathan Ritzenhein, who later admitted he hadn't been able to sleep the night before -- "It wasn't nerves, I just couldn't get to sleep," he said -- was the first to make a serious move, dropping the pace between seven and eight miles.
Kipsang, one of the few lead men running without a hat, soon covered that and countered with one of his own, passing 15K in 43:53, soon leaving Ritzenhein five meters arrears with a small chase pack an equal distance behind.
Kipsang, appearing almost effortless in what had to be a confidence-building tuneup for his Virgin London Marathon title defense next month, continued to pull away, crossing the finish line on Water and Wall Streets in 1:01:02. Ritzenhein, meanwhile, had been caught in the Battery Park Underpass by Italian Daniele Meucci, who eventually took second by four seconds in a personal best 1:01:06.
Behind them, American Jason Hartmann notched a huge 70-second PR to place ninth in 1:01:52, while two other Americans who had been the focus of pre-race speculation finished further back.
Bernard Lagat, better known for his World Championship and Olympic medals in the 1500 and 5,000 on the track, finished 12th in his half-marathon debut in 1:02:23. "I was feeling good through the first half of the race, and was happy it was not too fast," he said. "But when the guys up front started to push things around nine miles I started to feel tired. Still, the training for this is going to help me for 5,000 on the track this summer."
Lagat's training partner, four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, was three places back in 1:03:20. "It's an OK time," he said. "I'm in the middle of training for Boston, so you never know what will happen in a race during your buildup."
If the men's race proved to be a gradual war of attrition the women's contest featured much more back and forth action. New Zealand's Kim Smith, bidding to improve on her second place from last year, was typically aggressive from the gun, opening with a 5:11 mile with only 2011 champ Caroline Rotich and Colombia's Yolanda Caballero for company. Smith, bothered by the cold which precipitated a quadriceps cramp that would eventually cause her to drop out before halfway, began to fade, leaving Rotich alone in front.
"I knew it's not over until it's over," she said, and indeed the stretch down the West Side Highway soon turned from a victory procession to a battle as Diane Nukuri-Johnson of Burundi and Connecticut-born Lisa Stublic, who now represents Croatia, joined her at the 10th mile, taking turns in the lead before Rotich negotiated the descent and rise of the tunnel better than the other two to become only the second two-time winner in the eight-year history of the race in 1:09:09. Nukuri-Johnson and Stublic took 2-3, notching national records of 1:09:12 and 1:09:18 in the process.
"I was really stunned," said Stublic, who competed for Columbia during college and was thus intimately familiar with the Central Park roads. "Coming in I was hoping to be in the top 10, so top three is incredible. My coach had said I was in shape to run 1:09:30, but I wasn't so sure." Stublic will run the Zurich Marathon on April 7, then represent Croatia in the World Championships this summer in either the marathon or 10,000.
Stephanie Rothstein Bruce, also training for Boston, was the top American in ninth at 1:10:54, a 1:25 PR. Adriana Nelson, Olympian Janet Bawcom, and Serena Burla were the next Americans, finishing 11-12-13. Five national records were set in the women's race, perhaps disproving the "too cold to run fast" contention.
Still, for the runners, and especially the chilled spectators and volunteers who came out for the race, a few degrees warmer would certainly be appreciated in the future.
2013 NYC Half
New York City, NY, Sunday, March 17, 2013
1. Wilson Kipsang, KEN, 1:01:02, $20,000
2. Daniele Meucci, ITA, 1:01:06, $10,000
3. Dathan Ritzenhein, USA, 1:01:10, $5,500
4. Leonard Korir, KEN, 1:01:19, $3,500
5. Juan Luis Barrios, MEX, 1:01:21, $2,500
6. Sam Chelanga, KEN, 1:01:26, $1,500
7. Stephen Sambu, KEN, 1:01:34, $1,000
8. Julius Arile, KEN, 1:01:38, $750
9 Jason Hartmann, USA, 1:01:51, $600
10. Kenta Murayama, JPN, 1:02:02, $400
11. Tesfaye Girma, ETH, 1:02:06, $300
12. Bernard Lagat, USA, 1:02:33, $250
13. Kevin Chelimo, KEN, 1:02:34, $200
14. Hafid Chani, MAR, 1:02:35, $100
15. Abdi Abdirahman, USA, 1:03:20, $100
1. Carolina Rotich, KEN, 1:09:09, $20,000
2. Diane Nukuri-Johnson, BDI, 1:09:12, $10,000
3. Lisa Stublic, CRO,, 1:09:18, $5,500
4. Sabrina Mockenhaupt, GER, 1:09:42, $3,500
5. Lyudmila Kovalenko, UKR, 1:09:43, $2,500
6. Madai Perez, MEX, 1:10:27, $1,500
7. Yolanda Caballero, COL, 1:10:30, $1,000
8. Tomomi Tanaka,JPN, 1:10:31, $750
9. Stephanie Rothstein Bruce, USA, 1:10:53, $600
10. Sara Moreira, POR,1:11:03, $400
11. Adriana Nelson, USA, 1:11:09, $300
12. Janet Bawcon, USA, 1:11:13, $250
13. Serena Burla, USA, 1:11:24, $200
14. Aziza Aliyu, ETH, 1:11:49, $100
15. Mary Davis, NZL, 1:12:06, $100
For full results and more race info, visit NYRR.org.