Righto, it’s the TCS York City Marathon 2018 right around the corner which means it’s time for me to have a mooch around the internet, read and listen to other people’s roundups and come up with my own little bundle of wonderings on the subject of the Womens’ Elite Field.
Firstly, here’s the offical bits and bobs:
The race starts at 9.20ET which is 13.20GMT and there’s a list of how to watch in your location HERE
But who am I backing? Have a read of this lot..
Mary Keitany, KEN (36)
Much is said about how New York Marathon is not about who is fastest on paper. It's a much more tactical course. That could feel like it takes away from Shalane's win last year over Mary Keitany who is considerably faster than her, but I would say that kind of win is a tougher job to do. You can't just dial it in and trust the training when a race is tactical - you're racing with your mind as much as your legs. That said, Keitany is hardly one to play it safe and run an even pace, as we saw in London earlier this year when she went out at a blistering pace despite the warm conditions. She committed early on to chasing Paula Radcliffe's mixed-field world record (she already bagged the women-only one in 2017) and it backfired but I love her gutsy style. She seems to be a go-hard-or-go-home athlete. Sometimes that blows up in your face but on the occasions the it does, well, you bag a world record. Mary has previously won NY in 2016 as well as coming 2nd in 2014 and 2017, is married to runner Charles Koech and has two kids aged 10 and 5.
Vivian Cheruiyot, KEN (35)
Cheruiyot was the tortoise that caught the hare this year at London Marathon, where she bided her time and took advantage of Keitany's gutsy but foolhardy pace in the early stages to come away with the win in a PB of 2:18:31. That has to put her in contention for the most logical winner - she has recent for AND a solid history of racing as well. It'd be tough to call anyone over her in a more straight forward race or if there weren't a world record holding crazy lady in the field..
Mamitu Daska, ETH (35)
Two time silver medalist at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and winner of the Dubai and Houston Marathon I suspect she'll be looking to nudge closer to the 2:20 mark and shave a good two minutes off her PB. So far this year she's only officially race a 10k and 12k race and not to a PB either so I don't think she'll trouble things much. Perhaps a tactical or windy race could play to her favour?
Rahma Tusa, ETH
Tusa set her PB of 2:23:46 in Rome earlier this year, winning there for the third year in a row. At 25 she's one of the youngsters of the elite field and has shaved several minutes off her time every year for the last 4 years, so you can expect her to be looking for a 2:20 mark as well.
Lisa Wightman, AUS (39)
Weightman has represented her country 3 times at the olympics and will be looking to head to Tokyo in 2020. She set her PB last year at London marathon and ran in the commonwealth games on the gold coast earlier this year where she came second.
The Americans : Shalane (37), Des (35), Molly (34), Steph, Allie (31) to name just a few
For those of us who love the sport, the fact that the top five women can be identified just by their first names shows just how strong the US marathoning is at the moment.
So, Shalane: yes her fastest marathon was back in 2014 and she's only run *that* Boston this year in 2:46:31 (though at least she made it to the end) but she showed last year that age gives you a mental strength that can help as much as the training sometimes. With the launch of her latest cookbook earlier this year (it's very good - Run fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow) there's a chance that life and other distractions could knock that rock solid mind-set but it seems like she thrives of this kind of stuff. Argh, I dunno - with nothing to go on really I feel like I wouldn't 100% back her to win but then perhaps that's an advantage as the other runners won't know where she's at?
Talking of rock-sold mental games, there's Des Linden. Like Shalane she’s got her side hustle too, co-owning Linden + True coffee. It feels a little, ungenerous I guess, that all of the previews I've seen have pretty much written Des off a podium spot for this race in a shrug of 'well she won Boston because she's a grinder and she was able to grind out a win in those horrible conditions'. Yes, her motto of 'keep showing pup' points us to that kind of comment and yes the conditions played to her strengths but that ignores her galling 2" second place finish previously and they fact that she's gutsy enough to (amicably) leave her previous coaching setup straight after finally winning a World Major. In recent interviews she has talked about her new coach (Walt Drench who coached her for three years at Arizona State) is making some changes. She admitted that whilst she may be an excellent human metronome, able to churn out enviably equal splits, that won't help her when those with a different racing style make surges towards the end or just generally play with the pace. So, Linden has been hitting the track and running reps as short at 300s to get that turnover going and to find the speed to respond. And she sounds supremely confident in every interview I've heard her in. I can't wait to see what metronome + speed equals in Linden-land.
And so we move onto Molly, poor molly who was a bit of a sorry mess at the end of Boston. At 34 she's a little younger than Flanagan and has a strong history in shorter distances as she is the American record-holder in the half-marathon, 5K and 10,000m, made both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. I know she's been bigged up as untapped potential for the marathon but my less logical head thinks that Allie Kieffer could finish ahead of her just from the fact that she'll be flying high from last year's break out 5th place performance and, after a stress fracture at the start of the year, a really solid buildup this autumn including winning the Toronto Waterfront Half marathon as part of a workout. I'll be honest, Steph Bruce (another one in the food and drink game - co-owning Picky Bars) is the one of the top 5 Americans that I know least about. With a PB of 2:29:35 set back in 2011 I wasn't expect to think much about her but in August Flo track reported that Steph was having her best year ever as she won the Peach Tree 10k, gaining her first national title so maybe she's the one whose shorter-race speed will convert into a gutsy performance, albeit not likely to be podium/ top American. Apologies that I don't have time to cover the rest of the American field, though of course it's worth mentioning Sarah Sellers (27) aka 'the one who no on knew who she was' at Boston this year where she came second without even realising! Sarah is looking to get an Olympic Trials ‘A’ qualifying time of 2:37:00.
I thought Camille Herron of ultra running fame was due to run as well but she appears to have dropped off the start list. However, I'll give a quick nod to Two Oceans champion and 2nd place Comrades finisher Gerda Steyn. Given that comrades is a road ultra it's the closest thing to a marathon in that over-distance world and Gerda is having one heck of a year!
And there we have it. It’s clear who I’m backing to win, isn’t it? No? Oh ok then. Well, my head say Keitany - she’s just so flipping fast that if everything goes ok no one can catch her but my heart…. oh my heart wants it to be Des. I know she always says she’s the under dog and we brits love an underdog but I just think that if this speed work she’s be adding in since Boston has paid off then maybe that PLUS her dogged-stickability… just maybe? GO DES!!! (Actually it’s probably going to be steady-eddy Cheruiyot who will just do her thing and get it done and fast… yeah I’m totally hedging my bets.
See you on the other side!