New York City Marathon 2001 - Men's Race
Tesfaye Jifar sets new record in first marathon win
Sixteen of the starters in Sunday's race were known to have the strength to run a sub-2:10 marathon, but no one stood out as a clear favorite in this year's NYC Marathon. The depth of the field and absence of last year's winner meant that this would be a wide open race. The only thing certain was that the winner would not be an American and would likely come from Africa, and most likely Kenya...
From the beginning, the splits were fast: five of seven of the first mile splits were sub-4:50, fast enough to easily set the course record or perhaps the world record, but New York is not a fast course. Despite the speed going out, the lead pack remained large - sixteen (including 12 Kenyans!), led by the pacesetters Godfrey Kiprotich and Joseph Kariuki who are clearly doing their job.
Through miles 8,9,10,11,12 the pack stays together with the pace averaging right around 4:50. Different competitors move to the front, Guerra, Japhet, Kosgei and others - all looking strong as the runners remain on record pace.
Coming to 13 miles, Kiprotich, one of the rabbits drops out, but the pack remains 15 runners, with Silvio Guerra and Jon Brown the only non-Africans in the lead pack.
Into mile 17, the pack with no rabbits has shrunken to about nine runners and begins to spread out, with Japhet Kosgei, Rodgers Rop, Tesfaye Jifar and Joseph Chebet beginning to make their move to break away from the rest.
Into mile 18, the lead pack has broken apart and the lead group of four has moved fifteen seconds ahead of the second group consisting of Hendrick Ramaala, John Kagwe, Kenneth Cheruiyot, Silvio Guerra and Philip Tarus. The lead group posts a 4:33 split and remains on pace to set a new course record - it's very fast.
Into mile 19, Kosgei begins a surge as Rop and Jifar move with him, but Joseph Chebet (the 1999 champion) gets dropped. Kosgei tries another surge, but Rop - in his debut marathon - and Jifar move with him. The split into mile 19 is 4:31...
At mile 20, the lead group of three is more than a minute ahead of the followers. The winner will come from this group and they all look strong.
Through mile 22, the group of three remains together, but at 22, Kosgei surges. Jifar remains with Kosgei, but Rop gets dropped. Jifar looks at Kosgei and tries to break away. He looks like he will be successful and gains five yards on Kosgei, but Kosgei increases the pace to pass Jifar - making the statement that he can not be dropped. But, the surges hurt Kosgei and he begins to fall back.
Jifar pushes the pace, to break the will of Kosgei. Into mile 23, Jifar has gained nine seconds on Kosgei who is now four seconds ahead of Rop. Based on the movement, this will be the order of finish.
Through the finish, Jifar, continues strong, while Kosgei and Rop continue to fall back (Rop and Kosgei, both unchallenged and obviously hurting and post 6:04 and 6:12 miles splits for the final slightly uphill mile).
At the finish, Jifar cruises in with a new course record: 2:07:43 - and, after he crosses the finish line he drops to his knees and kisses the ground. Japhet Kosgei finishes second in 2:09:20, Rodgers Rop holds on for third in 2:09:52 and Silvio Guerra finishes a strong fourth in 2:10:37 running strong through the finish. Surprisingly, this is Tesfaye Jifar's first marathon win - and an impressive one at that.
In the post-race interviews, Jifar says that his strategy was to run with another runner as long as he could and to drop the others at the last possible moment. While surging with and against Kosgei, his thoughts were not on the course record but on whether he would finish first or second - he had to break away from Kosgei when he did.
Kosgei, after the race seemed very happy with his performance saying that he was running very comfortably and is still learning about his body. In London this- we'll see what he is capable of.
Rodgers Rop ran a very strong debut marathon - he is a new runner to be watched!