New York City Marathon 2003 - Men's Race
The men's field in the 2003 NYC Marathon was exceptionally deep and it was clear that there would be a good race for the finish. Favorites before the start including the top three from last year's race: Rodgers Rop, Christopher Cheboiboch and Laban Kipkemboi. Also in contention would be Julio Rey of Spain who owned the best times coming into this race. Those would be the list of favorites, but others could win this race including the top two finishers at the 2002 Venice Marathon: David Makori and Martin Lel, the world Half-Marathon Champion Martin Lel the 2003 World Half-Marathon champion.
The men go off on time and the pack is huge. The weather is a bit warm and unlike the women who started 25 minutes earlier and are running on course-record pace, the men are running a more conservative race.
At mile 4, tragedy strikes for Julio Rey, the silver medalist at the World Marathon Championships and one of the fastest men in the field. Rey got tangled with another runner at the water station at the 4th mile and twisted his ankle and is unable to continue. After the race, Rey said that he was in excellent shape and believed that he could have won this year's marathon.
Through mile 8, more than 30 men, including all of the favorites (except Rey) remain together. The pace is 1:10 behind record pace - obviously a conservative pace for the elite men.
Coming through the halfway point, Rodgers Rop puts in a small surge to spread out the lead pack, but the front group still consists of 16 runners and others are close behind. At mile 14 the men are more than two minutes behind course record pace.
Moving onto 1st avenue (mile 16 1:18:23), 19 runners remain in the front pack - this may be a record. The men are very conservative and are now 2:40 behind course record pace.
Mile 17 (1:25:17). Rodgers Rop has been leading the pack and setting the pace. The front pack is still large, but it is beginning to break up a bit. Elly Rono is running towards the front, as is Martin Lel, Laban Kipkemboi and Christopher Cheboiboch. This group which contains the top three from 2002 will contain the winner.
Moving into Mile 20 (1:39:38) and the Willis Avenue Bridge, Rodgers Rop makes another move and is followed step for step by Martin Lel. Elly Rono, Christopher Cheboiboch and Laban Kipkemboi are just behind.
Mile 21 (1:44:34). Rodgers Rop and Martin Lel are controlling the race, but Christopher Cheboiboch is right there as well. Elly Rono is beginning to struggle a little bit and beginning to fall off the pace.
Over the next bridge back to Manhattan, Rodgers makes another surge and Lel comes with him. This is now a two person race as Christopher Cheboiboch can not keep up. By mile 23 (1:54:19), Rop and Lel are fifteen seconds ahead of Cheboiboch who is now ten seconds ahead of Elly Rono.
2:03:25 into the race, somewhere between 24 and 25 miles, Martin Lel takes the lead and shows that he is stronger. Rop falls behind in line and is not yet out of the race.
Running up Central Park South, Rodgers Rop moves to the far side of the street and is obviously in trouble. Probably sensing this, Lel begins a move with just more than a half mile to go. Rop falls behind and looks to be slowing down, content to receive second place.
Martin Lel finishes in 2:10:30, winning his first major marathon. Rodgers Rop loses 40 seconds to Lel in the last half mile, finishin in second place in 2:11:11. Christopher Cheboiboch gained some time, but finished third in 2:11:23. Elly Rono holds on for fourth place in 2:11:31, followed by Alberico Di Cecco whose 2:11:40 fifth place finish should help him to make the Italian Olympic Team.
After the race, Martin Lel expressed the difficulty of running with so many in the pack early on, but was very happy with his win, especially as he knows the strength of his training partner Rop.
Prize money, including time bonuses, for the men was: Martin Lel $108,000 (+ a smart car), Rodgers Rop won $50,000 and Christopher Cheboiboch earned $38,000.
Blow by blow coverage of the NYC Marathon 2003 races:
NYC Marathon 2003: Men's Race
NYC Marathon 2003: Women's Race
NYC Marathon 2003: The Wheelchair Race
Also, Complete Results of the NYC Marathon