South Florida runners are bracing for chilly and windy conditions at the New York City Marathon on Sunday morning, but the weather could also prove invigorating for locals who logged long training runs in the brutal heat and humidity of the past three months.
“I think the cold will give us extra energy,” Bryan Sharkey, Miami’s top marathoner, said of the forecast projecting 40-degree weather with 30-mph gusts that will create headwinds and crosswinds for runners. “Hopefully, we can pack in and work together when the wind hits.”
Much is at stake for the elite runners who will lead a field of 50,000 past two million spectators through New York’s five boroughs, starting in Staten Island and finishing in Central Park.
Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai is trying to become the first man since Alberto Salazar to win three in a row in the Big Apple. He will be battling training partner Wilson Kipsang, who is pursuing the World Marathon Majors title and its $500,000 grand prize.
On the women’s side, there are four sub-2:20 runners, including Kenya’s Mary Keitany, running her first marathon since having a baby. Former New York winners Edna Kiplagat, Jelena Prokopcuka and Firehiwot Dado, and 2013 runner-up Buzunesh Deba are contenders.
“The Mutai-Kipsang race will be fascinating,” ESPN commentator John Anderson said. “For the women, I’d like to see who will go out at a disastrous pace and either win it with a two-mile lead or be tracked down near the finish.”
Among the Americans, Meb Keflezighi, 39, who won Boston in April, will hear loud cheers as an underdog threat. Desiree Linden finished 10th in Boston, Kara Goucher is back for her first marathon in 18 months and Deena Kastor, 41, is coming off her 69:37 master’s record in the half marathon.
Since Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto sliced 26 seconds off Kipsang’s world record with his time of 2:02:57 in Berlin, there has been talk of when the record might fall again. That’s unlikely to happen on New York’s hilly, technical course. But New York Road Runners president Mary Wittenberg floated the idea of a special race on a fast course with pacemakers to challenge the two-hour barrier.
“We’ve always felt records don’t matter, but the two-hour mark is different,” Wittenberg said. “We may stage a two-hour attempt.”
Conditions would have to be ideal for runners to keep a 4:35 pace, ESPN commentator Hannah Storm said.
“I doubt it would happen in this generation,” she said.
Last year, 1,043 Floridians finished the race. Lisa Edge of Palmetto Bay hopes to be among this year’s finishers.
“After the Miami Marathon I got the fever and entered the lottery and got lucky,” said Edge, an accountant who trains with the FDC group in Coconut Grove. “Everyone says this is the marathon of all marathons.”
Sharkey’s first link with the race was as a baby in 1987, when he watched his grandparents run from his father’s shoulders. The 2013 Palm Beach Marathon winner is aiming to go under 2:35. He will start in the orange corral with the sub-elite runners.
“I’m in the best shape of my life,” said the former Gulliver Academy and Princeton University runner, who trained with his father, Keith, riding a bike alongside him. Sharkey, of Edgewater, a Carnival Cruise Lines financial analyst, averaged 105 miles per week. “To see how I stack up against the best in the world is exciting.”
Celebrities and athletes moonlighting from other sports include actress Teri Hatcher; chef Joe Bastianich; Wife Swap participant Adriana Henao, girlfriend of race car driver Helio Castroneves; tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki; and Winter Olympics Nordic combined gold medalist Billy Demong. The NBA relay will feature commissioner Adam Silver, Dikembe Mutombo, Bernard King, Chris Mullin, Darryl Dawkins, Katie Smith and Teresa Edwards.