Runners from more than 85 countries, many wearing the costumes of their native lands, will officially kick off race weekend in the Parade of Nations at tonight’s Marathon Opening Ceremonies Presented by United Airlines. Festivities begin at 5:25 p.m. in Central Park, leading to the finish line.
The parade, a lively and colorful demonstration that NYC is “where the world comes to run,” will also feature pro athletes competing in Sunday’s ING New York City Marathon and the debut of a special delegation from NYC.
The list of pro athletes expected to march includes Amy Hastings of the United States, Valeria Straneo of Italy, Yuki Kawauchi of Japan, 2012 Olympic gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda, and returning ING New York City Marathon winners Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya and Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia (2011), and Edna Kiplagat of Kenya (2010), and Meb Keflezighi of the United States (2009).
Among the more-poignant flag bearers will be Barbara Lehmann-Moser of Switzerland, who is dedicated her march to her late sister, 1997 New York City Marathon winner Franziska Rochat-Moser. Rochat-Moser died in an avalanche in the Swiss Alps in 2002. She was 35.
Expected to lead Italy’s delegation is two-time winner Orlando Pizzolato (1984, 1985), but the flag bearers for most countries will be runners from the pack, among the hundreds of Sunday’s marathoners from around the world who applied for the privilege.
They will include:
The NYC delegation will include runners from the Foot Locker Five Borough Challenge, Team for Kids, local club teams, and the NYPD color guard, which will carry a flag honoring the victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. It will be led by pro athlete Buzunesh Deba, an Ethiopian native and longtime Bronx resident who will try on Sunday to become the first NYC resident to win the marathon in 39 years. The United States delegation will feature “streakers” carrying signs indicating the number of times they’ve run the ING New York City Marathon, led by 37-time finisher Dave Obelkevich, 70, of Manhattan.
E Cheer New York, Drum Café, and the Cocoon Central Dance Team, which has created a performance especially for the occasion, will also entertain spectators. Wrapping up the evening’s festivities will be the Marathon Fireworks Presented by Poland Spring.
For spectator details, click here.
More international flavor
When Martin Lel of Kenya makes it to the starting line of the ING New York City Marathon, he tends to have a good race: He’s planned to run here six times, has competed twice, in 2003 and 2007, and has won both times … Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai, the defending champion and course record-holder (2:05:06), trains in Kapng'etuny, a village so remote that no roads lead there, just ribbons through the forest where the trees have been cleared away. Mutai has been training with Dennis Kimetto, who won the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October in a course-record 2:03:45; between Kimetto and Wilson Kipsang’s world record (2:03:23) at the BMW Berlin Marathon, Mutai said he has been inspired to go after his ING New York City Marathon course record as well … Jelena Prokopcuka, who learned English with the help of the Harry Potter series, is a two-time winner of the ING New York City Marathon, in 2005 and 2006. Last year, she was the final athlete to arrive in NYC, only to learn that the race was canceled while she waited in line at immigration at JFK International Airport … Daniele Meucci, 28, who is making his marathon debut, is no stranger to Central Park: He won the 2012 UAE Healthy Kidney 10K in 28:28, earning $25,000 for the effort. It was the second stop on a hugely successful U.S. trip, which first saw Meucci earn a spot at 10,000 meters on Italy’s Olympic team with a 27:32.86 effort at the Stanford Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational. He is trained as a robotics engineer …. For a look at Valeria Straneo’s new life as an Italian sports star after a surprise silver medal at the IAAF World Championships this summer, click here … France’s Christelle Dauney, 38, finished third here in 2009 in 2:29:16, and is coming off an excellent September half-marathon at the Great North Run in England, where she ran 1:09:49 … Making his ING New York City Marathon debut is Bob Tahri of France, who has taken an unconventional approach to training for it by dropping down to the 1500 meters this year, reaching the IAAF World Championships semi-final and notching a new personal best of 3:32.73 … Yuki Kawauchi is not only one of the most popular marathoners in Japan, he may be one of the most popular people. To learn more, click here …. Masato Imai, who is making his ING New York City Marathon debut, is known as “God of the Mountains” for his performances at the Hokone Ekiden, a revered relay race in Japan … Masazumi Soejima, who is the defending wheelchair champion here, was the first Japanese champion of the ING New York City Marathon in any division. He also won the Boston Marathon in 2011.
Jason Hartmann, the top American finisher in the Boston Marathon for the past two years, has been coaching Colorado high school star Elise Cranny. He recently lost one of his favorite training partners when his dog, Max, passed away … Mattie Suver, who is having a great year, has a restaurant names after her. To learn “5 Things” about her, click here … A full-time accountant, Alisha Williams had planned to run in NYC last year, but after the cancellation she switched to the California International Marathon—and won it. For more, click here …. Ryan Vail tends to fly under the radar, but many believe that Sunday will be the day the 27-year-old American makes his mark. He’s been training 150 miles a week. To learn “5 Things” about him, click here … 2009 ING New York City Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi this year became co-owner of a chain of running stores. For more on recent changes in Meb’s life, and his plans for a future that just might continue to the 2016 Olympics, click here … At the 2012 Boston Marathon, Josh Cassidy broke the all-conditions marathon wheelchair world record with a surprise 1:18:25 victory. He then went on to win the Bank of America Chicago Marathon later that year. He is a professional illustrator, and is here for the seventh time … Wheelchair superstar Tatyana McFadden is going for the “Grand Slam” here after winning marathons so far this year in Boston, London, and Chicago—a trio of victories that is already a first. She has also spent time working with victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. To learn more about how she got this far, click here for a story in today’s USA Today.
McEnroe Has a New Racket
The six men from around the country chosen for the Dove Men+Care Deodorant Real Men Marathon Team have an added incentive to run well in Sunday’s ING New York City Marathon—at the end, they’ll face John McEnroe at the finish line.
McEnroe, the tennis legend and broadcaster, is the team’s anti-irritation coach. (Check out this video for an example of his inspiration.) The team’s running coach is John Honerkamp, a coach with New York Road Runners. From the latter, they will get solid tips on the physical side of running; from the former, they will learn how to stay focused and calm through adversity.
Each Friday during their training, the team members have received email coaching from their two mentors, and they have all engaged in a live video chat. On race morning, the team will get an early morning pep call from McEnroe while they wait for the race to start.
On race morning, McEnroe will sign autographs at the Duane Reade at 1889 Broadway at 63rd Street from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., where people can don a race bib and have their pictures taken in front of a green screen “crossing the finish line.”
If they dare.
“On the Run” at 8:00 p.m.
Tonight’s episode will feature U.S. pros Alisha Williams, who is a full-time accountant, and Jason Hartmann, the top American finisher in the Boston Marathon for the past two years, as well as interviews with ING New York City Marathon defending champion Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya, 2009 winner Meb Keflezighi, and David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene.
Tim Hutchings, Carrie Tollefson, and Karla Bruning host the show, which will be live here at 8:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, and 4:00 p.m. on Monday. It is also available on demand.
“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