IN NEW YORK CITY
New York is very much the centre of Kenyan interest this week.
With Kenya Airways having launched non-stop flights from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the city’s John F. Kennedy Airport on Sunday, action now shifts from New York’s runways to roads for this Sunday’s TSC New York City Marathon.
There will be several interesting tales in the “Big Apple”, including that of decorated ageless Kenyan-American Bernard Lagat’s marathon debut.
The five-time Olympian will be up against several former countrymen, led by the race’s defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor, a multiple world half marathon and cross country champion and protégé of world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge.
Now 43, Lagat enjoys the enviable distinction of having featured at every Olympic Games since Sydney 2000, then running as a Kenyan before taking up the stars and stripes in 2004, having brought 1,500 metres silver and bronze medals to Nairobi from Sydney in 2000 and Athens four years later.
He struck world championships gold for USA in 2007 over the 1,500m and 5,000m, the first triumph for the Americans over the shorter distance since 1908.
Lagat will be cheered on by locals and his Kenyan family - including his sister, a US-based middle distance runner Viola Lagat - and hopes his longevity on the track will hold him in good stead on Sunday when he makes his foray into the 42-kilometre distance.
And he has good memories of New York City competitions too.
“I first competed in New York City in 2001 at the Millrose Games, and fell in love with the city on that trip,” he told organisers here.
“I’ve been back again and again, and now have eight Wanamaker Mile titles, five podium finishes at the Fifth Avenue Mile, and I set the US 5,000-metre indoor record there.
“A few years ago, I was able to watch the TSC New York City Marathon from one of the lead vehicles, and I knew that when I ran a marathon someday, I wanted it to be New York. I’m excited to return for this new challenge.”
Besides Kamworor, who beat compatriot Wilson Kipsang to the tape last year, 2017 London Marathon winner Daniel Wanjiru is also in the mix.
LEL SET TO BE HONOURED
The busy race week will also feature Friday’s induction into the New York Road Runners (NYRR) Hall of Fame for several athletes and officials, including Kenya’s Martin Lel.
Lel will receive the Abebe Bikila Award alongside five others, while American Don Kardong will be handed the George Hirsch Journalism Award for his “excellence in the reporting, writing and broadcasting of the sport of running.”
Lel won here twice in 2003 and 2007, and was also a three-peat champion at the London Marathon in 2005, 2007 and 2008 before he was slowed down by injury.
Organised by the NYRR, the TSC New York City Marathon is the world’s largest marathon, attracting over 50,000 runners including 9,000 charity runners from about 140 countries.
The iconic race traverses the city’s five boroughs of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan, and is the year’s final race of the Abbott-sponsored World Marathon Majors series after races in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin and Chicago.
Kenya’s three-time champion here Mary Keitany and Olympic track champion Vivian Cheruiyot, who has made a successful transition into the marathon, lead the women’s field along with Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska.
Also of interest on Sunday will be amputee Marko Cheseto’s first appearance at a major championship since a life changing incident in which he had both his feet amputated above the knee after suffering frost bite.
“I’m taking it easy and I hope to run two hours and 50 minutes of 2:45 for a start. It’s good to start slow because then you can always improve on your times,” Cheseto told Nation Sport from his new base in Orlando, Florida where he moved from Anchorage, Alaska, almost a month ago.