Calling it “the world’s premier road race,” ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Anderson indicated in a media teleconference on Friday that returning the ING New York City Marathon to live national television is a major step for the event.
“It stamps it in the public’s mind as [they] watch it that it is a world-class sporting event,” said Anderson, who will do the play-by-play of the race. “To do it live, the energy that brings to the event, the gravitas it brings to the race, is immeasurable.”
If you’re a pro athlete, he said, this is the race you want to win. He described it as “a career maker.”
Anderson and SportsCenter co-anchor Hannah Storm will be joined by analysts Carrie Tollefson and Tim Hutchings and reporter Lewis Johnson on the national broadcast, “Marathon Morning Across America,” from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on ESPN2. Juli Benson, Ed Eyestone, and David Willey and ABC7’s sports anchors Rob Powers and Laura Behnke will report from the course. ABC7 will broadcast live in the tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and ABC will offer a highlight show nationally from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. All times are EDT.
This will be the return of the ING New York City Marathon to live TV for the first time since 1993.
Director Bruce Treut said the ESPN production will employ a crew of about 350, with 35 cameras, including additional cameras on the wheelchair races and on First Avenue. The production will also include technology to allow viewers to better identify pro athletes in the pack.
Anderson competed in the high jump as a member of the University of Missouri track and field team, and he remains an avid fan of the sport. He ran the ING New York City Marathon in 2010 on behalf of the Pat Tillman Foundation, finishing in 4:44:42. He called his experience “one of great oxygen debt and soreness, which is to be expected of someone who is middle-aged and not a marathoner.”
“John, I can’t believe you ran that, because in a car it feels like a long distance,” said Storm, who joined the call fresh from a tour of the course. “I got a huge appreciation for just the sheer magnitude of the event.”
The varied neighborhoods and the many twists and turns of the course, Storm said, “really makes the [race] a journey unlike anything else. It has such a personality, such a character that changes as you keep running. It’s something that propels you.”
Both broadcasters expressed their eagerness to convey the excitement inherent in the pro race, which does not use pacesetters.
“From miles 16 to 20, that nice long stretch along First Avenue, [it will be] like a boxing match; your body blows are happening there,” said Storm. “You’re going to see surges and who goes and who doesn’t. You may get your knockout punch later, but I find that a really fascinating stretch there.”
Not having pacesetters, said Anderson, “expands the field of who can win from three guys to 12, 15, or 20. You see where that helps a guy like Meb [Keflezighi, the 2009 ING New York City Marathon winner]; you look at his times throughout his career and there’s not a 2:05 and yet he manages to race really well. That becomes a truly fascinating story. A year ago in the women’s race, where Mary Keitany just said ‘All right, here we go’ from Mile 2 and then to watch her being reeled in and the drama of ‘Is she going to make it and are you going to get her’ is terrific stuff.”
Photos courtesy of ESPN
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg