For reasons I'll never know, I couldn't get the live feed from Universal sports on my computer yesterday morning, had to hot-foot it over to my girlfriend's place to see the broadcast on her digital-tuner-ready TV, and therefore missed the first couple of miles of the women's race, but I was able to catch the bulk of it.
First, it must be said: Paula Racliffe is simply amazing. Short of her two Olympic marathon appearances, she just wins and wins and wins. Even when she was running alone out in front the last few miles, the victory well in hand, she continued to push the pace, pressing ever forward, and finished in 2:23:56. Her determination is always evident in the persistent bob of her head - up and slightly to her right, down and slightly to her left, in a constant, diagonal circle linked to her footfalls. The harder she pushes herself the more evident that head motion is. Paula is incredible to watch, leading, once again, practically from start to finish, with every other competitor content to latch on behind hoping she will pull them through, or that they can hang onto her long enough to have a shot at her in the final stretches.
Kara Goucher was equally impressive, setting not only a record for fastest U.S. female debut marathon, but also a U.S. female course record for the NYCM, bettering the time set by Deena Kastor in both categories back in 2001. Her third place finish made her the first American to earn a spot on the podium at the NYCM since 1994. (No American has won the event since Alberto Salazar did it in 1982, and no American woman has won since 1977.)
Goucher was first in line behind Paula for all of the first 19 miles. Then, on the late stages of 1st Avenue, Paula turned on the jets and Kara got broken. She slipped, temporarily, to 6th as the lead pack began to stretch out, but held on, talked herself back into it, and started to move back up. Paula had the victory all but wrapped up by that point, but Kara moved up, took over 3rd place, and was in the hunt for 2nd as the race came to a conclusion.
40-year-old Ludmila Petrova, a previous winner of the NYCM (2000), stayed with Paula the longest, and, though she faded in the last two miles, still managed to hold off Kara, and finished 2nd in a time of 2:25:43, a new female master's world record. All three women must have been immensely pleased with their day at the office.
The men's race had drama of it's own, coming down to two men in the final 10K, Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil, the 2006 NYCM champ, and Abderrahim Goumri, an impressive runner with a string of heartbreaking 2nd place finishes. Goumri's frequent tormentor, Martin Lel, could not run this year's NYCM due to an injury and Goumri was left as the favorite. But dos Santos hung with him and didn't give up. Even though, Goumri opened up a 10 second gap on dos Santos between the 35 and 40K marks, dos Santos rebounded with 1.5 miles to go, pushed forward, and with half a mile to the finish, just as the men re-entered Central Park after passing through Columbus Circle, he caught, passed and promptly dropped Goumri, finishing strong and winning his second NYCM in 2:08:43, with a negative split of nearly 6 minutes. Goumri logged yet another second place and was visibly dejected as he crossed the finish line 24 seconds later. Four American men finished in the top 10, at 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th place (and also 11th). It's been since 1982 that so many U.S. men finished in the top ten spots.
I had a good many mental flashbacks to when I ran the course myself last year, and many of the sights on TV were instantly recognizable to me. It totally made me envious of all the runners I saw on TV. If only it wasn't such an expensive trip to make and the logistics of the thing weren't so difficult, I would absolutely find a way to be there every single year. Maybe I'll have to go back more often than once every 10 years. It's a great, great race.