Veteran Kenyan runners Paul Tergat and Catherine Ndereba will run Sunday’s 39th edition of the New York City marathon under immense pressure to attain different targets.
Tergat, a former world marathon record holder, is ending his 18-month sabbatical and must reaffirm his prowess as one of the best marathon runners against a stronger elite field that has the last three years’ winners.
Ndereba, on the other hand, has her job cut out — a win for her and a bad day for Ethiopians runner Gate Wami will see her become the first Kenyan woman to pocket the World Marathon Majors’ Sh40 million ($500,000) jackpot.
Ndereba, however, will have to look past Wami in her quest for silverware as she renews her rivalry with defending champion and world marathon record holder Briton Paula Radcliffe of Britain.
Ndereba and Wami are in contention for the Majors prize, along with Irina Mikitenko of Germany. Wami and Mikitenko each have 65 points amassed over the two-year period, while Ndereba has 41.
Tergat ended his recess last month when he competed in the Portugal half marathon race in Lisbon finishing second in 1:01.33. Compatriot Martin Lel injured his leg during the race and has since pulled out of today’s race.
But he will be watching the action from the roadside as he awaits tomorrow’s ceremony, where he will receive the men’s cheque for Sh40 million for the WMM.
Tergat’s victory three years ago was the closest finish that New York marathon has seen, and has been named as the fourth best great moment in history of the race and would be remembered as part of the things to mark the 50th anniversary of the marathon.
In 2005, South Africa’s Hendrick Ramaala lost by three-tenths of a second to Tergat and both men are in the field again.
Tergat, a former world record holder at 10,000m, half marathon and marathon, is also a five-time world cross country champion, double world half marathon champion, and double Olympic silver medalist at 10,000m.
For a man who started his running late in life at 21, it is wonder, after such an intense career, that he needed a break.
“Throughout my career I had taken no break at all,” he said. “Now I feel very fresh.”
A trio of former champions — Tergat, Ramaala and Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil — along with women defending champion Paula Radcliffe (Britain), Ndereba and Ethiopia’s Gete Wami have been fronted by the race director Mary Wittenberg as the elite field.
While Tergat captured the 2005 crown by outsprinting Ramaala, the 2004 winner, it was Gomes, 31, who stunned the elite field in 2006 to win and become the first South American winner.
Also announced are former champions Tegla Loroupe (1994, 1995), 2002 champion Joyce Chepchumba, and 2000 winner Ludmila Petrova aged 40 and Lyubov Morgunova, winner at Rotterdam both from Russia.
The 2006 Boston Marathon champion, Rita Jeptoo and the second-place finisher from last year, Abderrahim Goumri of Morocco, will also join the stacked field.
Five young little-known Kenyans are also seeking to make a surprise, having set sub-2:08 personal best times. Any one of them can win.
They are Abel Kirui, (2:06:51) set in Berlin last year, Daniel Rono (2:06:58) posted in Rotterdam, Isaac Macharia 2:07:16, Hosea Rotich (2:07:24) and Wilfred Kigen.