Debutantes and coach Alberto Salazar ruled the road at the NYC Half-Marathon this morning. Three of Salazar’s athletes topped the podium: Mo Farah of Great Britain won the men’s race in his half-marathon debut, Galen Rupp of the U.S. finished third in his debut as well, and Kara Goucher of the U.S. took third in the women’s competition. Salazar coaches all three athletes in Portland, Oregon.
NYC Half Men’s Race
Mo Farah of Great Britain, Salazar’s newest protégé, ran away with the title in his half-marathon debut. Farah has European Championship titles in the 3000, 5000 and 10,000 meters.
“It was nice to see that I’ve got speed and endurance,” Farah said about his win at the longer distance. “I’m in the best shape of my life right now.”
In a spectacular finish, Farah, 27, outsprinted Ethiopia’s Gebre Gebremariam, 26, the reigning ING New York City Marathon champion, to win the race in 1:00:23. Farah’s training partner American Galen Rupp, also coached by Salazar, finished third in his half-marathon debut.
“I knew Gebremariam has a great finish,” Farah said about outsprinting the ING New York City Marathon champion for the title. “It wasn’t easy. I was saying to Galen [Rupp], ‘There’s only three of us. Come on let’s go!’”
For his part, Rupp said he was happy with third in his major road-racing debut.
“To be able to come out and run strong in the first one is really good,” he said. “I was nervous before. This is about as nervous as I get before a race. You never know running a new distance, especially something that’s farther, how you’re going to handle it.”
Rupp, 24, took a tumble early in the race when he collided with another runner, landing on his right hip. “I don’t think it really affected me too much,” he said. “You‘ve got to calm yourself down, and I tried to tell myself, ‘Relax, relax, relax.’”
Rupp, a graduate of University of Oregon, is the only runner to ever win all five NCAA distance titles in one year: the Cross Country Championship, the indoor 3000 and 5000 meters, and the outdoor 5000 and 10,000 meters. So how did his road-running debut in New York City stack up against the track?
“It’s a lot more interesting than running laps around the track,” he said laughing. “I enjoyed it. I definitely noticed Times Square. That was really cool.”
Though Rupp and Farah train together, the runners insisted they didn’t work together during the race.
“Once we’re competing against each other it’s every man for himself,” Rupp said. “We’re great friends off the track. We’ve got a lot of trust in each other. But we were racing against each other.”
Other Americans finishing in the top 25 were: Meb Keflezighi, 15th; Jason Lehmkuhle, 16th; Abdi Abdirahman, 19th; Ryan Hall, 21st; Jeremy Criscione, 24th; Stephan Shay, 25th.
NYC Half Women’s Race
In the women’s race, Caroline Rotich of Kenya won in a new course record time of 1:08:52. Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat, the 2010 ING New York City Marathon champion, finished second, and Kara Goucher of the U.S. finished third.
Rotich, 26, not only shattered the course record but her personal best as well. She said she concentrated on staying tough through Central Park in order to remain a frontrunner. The first eight miles of the course circled New York City’s Central Park before heading south through Times Square to the finish along the Hudson River in southern Manhattan.
“I have to push it really hard there,” she said about New York’s famed park. “I was just cruising after Central Park.”
Rotich went to high school in Sendai, Japan, the city closest to the epicenter of the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that struck on March 11, 2011. She said talking about the devastation there saddened her too much.
Salazar’s Midas touch was felt in the women’s race as well. The three-time New York City Marathon champion also coaches Goucher, 32, as part of his Oregon Project in Portland.
Since she stunned the world in her half-marathon debut by defeating marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe, Goucher has been America’s most promising female distance runner. But she is still looking for a major road race win after placing third in the 2008 ING New York City Marathon, third in the 2009 Boston Marathon, and now third in the 2011 NYC Half.
“I’m ready to win one, that’s for sure. Third is great and everything but I’d like to stand on top,” Goucher said laughing. “I’m tired of finishing third. I’m tired of it.”
Goucher is looking forward to her next race, the Boston Marathon on April 18. It will be her first marathon since taking time off from racing to give birth to her son, Colton, in September.
“Boston is still the goal,” Goucher said. “I’m actually feeling like I can pull this thing off.”
Other Americans finishing in the top 25 were: Shewarge Alene Amare, 4th; Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, 11th; Reilly Kiernan, 17th; Jeanette Faber, 18th; Sheri Piers, 19th; Betsy Burke, 22nd; Lindsey Scherf, 23rd; Kelly Chin, 24th; Caitlin Smith 25th.
Karla Bruning is writer and running nerd. She has completed four marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning. To listen to an interview with Karla, check out The Marathon Show, available for streaming or download on BlogTalkRadio and iTunes.