Gebrselassie Wins NYC Half Marathon

NEW YORK

Haile
Gebrselassie already showed he can make it anywhere; he can add New
York to his list. Running in the Big Apple for the first time, the
34-year-old Ethiopian won the New York City Half Marathon in 59
minutes, 24 seconds Sunday – the second-fastest time in the United
States and his eighth win in eight half marathons.

“I was
dreaming just to run in New York City. The dream has come true this
morning,” said Gebrselassie, probably the world’s greatest distance
runner. “Wow, I’m so happy!”

Abdi Abdirahman of the United States
was second, more than a minute behind. Two-time Boston Marathon
champion Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya was third in the second running of
the race.

Hilda Kibet of Kenya won the women’s race in 1:10:32,
outsprinting defending champion Catherine Ndereba by 1.15 seconds. Nina
Rillstone of New Zealand, a surprise leader until the final
quarter-mile when the two Kenyans passed her, was 2.60 back in third.

Gebrselassie,
a two-time Olympic gold medalist, emerged from Central Park after the
7-mile mark, along with Cheruiyot Abdirahman. Gebrselassie and
Abdirahman dropped Cheruiyot when the Kenyan went for water, and before
the American knew it, he was in Gebrselassie’s wake, too.

“I
thought I was going to recover my surge and then just maintain the pace
but it wasn’t that way,” Abdirahman said. “I didn’t give up, no way. We
know Haile’s the greatest, but at the same time, this is sports.”

Gebrselassie didn’t see it quite the same way.

“Right after the park, I just said ‘OK, this is my race,'” he said.

All
that was left was a Sunday morning jog. He took a moment to gawk at
Times Square, like any tourist would, as he breezed through, then he
trotted down the West Side of Manhattan to Battery Park, occasionally
looking back to see if anyone was gaining on him.

Of course, no
one was, even though Abdirahman’s time of 1:00:29 was a personal best.
Cheruiyot was taken to a hospital as a precaution after he finished in
1:00:58. In October, the Kenyan slipped while crossing the finish line
of the Chicago Marathon and spent two days in the hospital with a
concussion.

The women’s race wasn’t decided until Kibet turned it
on at the finish. The Kenyan, who said she will probably compete for
the Netherlands in the 2008 Olympics, discovered her finishing kick
this year in a race when she had to beat her sister over the final 100
meters or so.

“You know when it comes to sprinting, when you’re
just a few meters from someone, then you feel very strong,” Kibet said.
“You’re just fighting to win.”

Ndereba was confused by marshals
pointing to different routes at the finish for men and women, and
didn’t see a sign indicating how close the runners were until 200
meters remained. It wasn’t enough to catch Kibet, who also beat Ndereba
by more than 30 seconds in a 10-kilometer race in July.

“I didn’t
know who to go with,” Ndereba said. “I’m not disappointed. I never get
disappointed for this kind of thing. … I count it as something to
work on.”

The temperature was a comfortable 70 degrees after a
week of oppressive heat and humidity, helping Gebrselassie set the
course record.

Gebrselassie, who holds world records in the 10K
and 20K, won gold in the 10,000 meters in Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in
2000. His time Sunday (a half-marathon is slightly more than 21
kilometers) was second-best in the U.S. only to his own 58:55 in Tempe,
Ariz., last year. It was the 16th-fastest half marathon.

In the
days before the race, Gebrselassie soaked up the bustle of the city. On
Sunday morning, he ran through mostly deserted streets.

“Yesterday, I was in Times Square. I was there,” he said. “It was very busy. Today, nobody. Amazing.”

Does this mean he’ll run the New York City Marathon?

“Not
this year,” Gebrselassie said. “I’m thinking 2008 or 2009. I’m thinking
I’ll run the New York Marathon before I stop running, surely.”

 

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