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Kipsang, Keitany try to defend NYC Marathon titles

01 November 2015, 16:47

New York — Wilson Kipsang is a four-time major marathon champion and former world-record holder.

What he can't guarantee is whether he'll be an Olympian.

Kipsang and fellow Kenyan Mary Keitany look to defend their titles Sunday at the New York City Marathon in what could also be an audition for the team that goes to next summer's Rio Games. Their home country, with many more elite marathoners than the three slots allotted, briefly planned to hold trials before scrapping that idea.

Exactly how Athletics Kenya will pick its representatives remains unclear. The process did not pan out four years ago, when the world's top distance running nation failed to win gold in the men's or women's marathon.

Kipsang was the bronze medalist in 2012, but he would've forgone the chance to go for gold in 2016 had Kenya proceeded to hold trials in February, running a lucrative spring marathon instead. He'd prefer for the team to be picked in February based on runners' overall abilities so the selectees can start readying themselves mentally to peak in August.

"You know how to run the next race and try to prepare," Kipsang said.

But the choices won't be made until after the spring marathon season, and he worries those races will carry outsize important. Kipsang noted that he finished fifth — a major disappointment by his standards — in the London Marathon in April 2013 only to set the world record the following September.

"It's not an indication if you run well in February that you're going to run well in August," he said. "Marathon is more about preparation and training."

Other top Kenyans running Sunday include Stanley Biwott, the runner-up to Kipsang at the 2014 London Marathon, and reigning Boston Marathon women's champ Caroline Rotich.

"Right now I don't know yet how it's going to be picked, but it's part of what I want to be in my life," Rotich said of the Olympic team. "I'd love to represent (Kenya) and be in the Olympics. It's one of those things where I'm going to get out there and do my best."

The U.S. uses the model of holding Olympic trials in February, so most of the top Americans are skipping New York. One exception is 40-year-old Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 NYC Marathon champ. Keflezighi — whose resume also includes a 2004 Olympic silver medal and the 2014 Boston Marathon title — won the 2012 trials after running New York when the turnaround was even shorter.

As usual, the Ethiopians will challenge the Kenyans. Lelisa Desisa won his second Boston Marathon title in April, after Kipsang pulled away from him in Central Park last year in New York. Yemane Tsegay is looking to break through following a runner-up finish in Boston to Desisa and a silver medal at the world championships just 10 weeks ago.

Reigning London Marathon champion Tigist Tufa is part of a deep field on the women's side. Tufa is also coming off an appearance at worlds, where she placed sixth.

Kipsang dropped out of the world championships race with about five miles to go, wilting in the Beijing heat. He now prefers to think of it as "just like a normal long run in training" as part of his preparation for New York.

He made his NYC Marathon debut last year, hoping to test himself on the hilly course without a pacesetter, and proved up to the challenge of a tactical race. On a windy day, he finished in 2 hours, 10 minutes, 59 seconds — the slowest winning time in New York since 1995, and more than 7 1/2 minutes off his former world record.

Sunday is again expected to be windy, though not as bad as last year. And Kipsang now has the advantage of his familiarity with the course.

"When you've run a race, when it's in your memory, it's very easy to run a second time," Kipsang said. "Every section, you remember: 'This is how it is. This type of hill is not very far; it's not high. We still have many hills remaining.' You know to save your energy and not try to speed up so much. If you know this is the last one, maybe you try to break from there."

The 45th running of the NYC Marathon will take more than 50,000 runners through the five boroughs. For just the third time, the race will have a grand marshal. Spike Lee will serve in that role, riding along the 26.2-mile course in a 1969 Chrysler 300 convertible. Lee put together a short video entitled "Da New Yawk Joint," an ode to the city that will open the television broadcast.

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- AP


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