As Sunday morning eased into afternoon and the field of professional athletes began to close the books on the NYC Half 2012, their thoughts turned to the next chapter. For some, that's a marathon either this spring or at the Olympic Games—or both.
For Peter Kirui, winner of the men's race in 59:39, that means the ABN AMRO Rotterdam Marathon on April 15. When it comes to marathons, it will be the first time the 24-year-old Kenyan plans to finish what he starts.
Best-known as the pacemaker for Patrick Makau's world record 2:03:38 at the BMW Berlin Marathon in September 2011, Kirui came back a month later to pace Wilson Kipsang to the second-fastest legal time in history, 2:03:42 in Frankfurt. In that race, he stopped—as usual—at 30K. But this time, it was just a pause. He felt good, so he decided to carry on and finished sixth, in 2:06:30.
Asked at the NYC Half post-race press conference how fast he would need to run in Rotterdam to be named to Kenya's Olympic marathon team, he said: "In Rotterdam I expect to run maybe 2:05, 2:04, and I know in Kenya we have strong people for marathon. If I run 2:03, maybe I will be among those who represent my country in the Olympics, but I'm focusing now to compete in 10,000 [meters]. "
He will be facing fellow Kenyans Moses Mosop and Sammy Kitwara in what organizers are billing as a world-record attempt.
The following day, April 16, women's NYC Half winner Firehiwot Dado (1:08:35) will toe the line for the Boston Marathon. Dado, the champion of the 2011 ING New York City Marathon, will seek to become the first woman since Margaret Okayo in 2001 and 2002 to win New York and Boston back to back.
The 28-year-old with the dazzling smile is aware that even more history is at stake.
"If the results are good, and I hope with God's help they will be good, then I hope I'll be able to run at the London Olympics," she said. "I hope Boston will be decisive, and I expect to be able to run well there."
Among the women Dado expects to face in Boston are defending champion Caroline Kilel and 2011's third-place finisher, Sharon Cherop, both of Kenya; and Buzunesh Deba, the New York-based Ethiopian who pushed Dado to victory in finishing second last fall at the ING New York City Marathon.
Runner-up Kim Smith's next marathon will almost certainly be at the Olympic Games. As she explained after yesterday's race, "They haven't named the first round of selections for New Zealand yet, but as I'm the only woman with a qualifying time I should get to go."
Smith, who lives in Providence, RI, came into the NYC Half with a six-race winning streak at the distance, dating back to 2010. Despite her major success at 13.1 miles, she has yet to transfer her confidence at that distance to the marathon.
"I am hoping it kicks in there," she said of London 2012.
Among the other top finishers in the NYC Half, the men's runner-up, Deriba Merga of Ethiopia (59:48), is headed to the Daegu International Marathon in Seoul, South Korea, on April 8; Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil (ninth, 1:01:26) is running the Virgin London Marathon on April 22; Wesley Korir of Kenya (fourth, 1:01:19) is making his Boston debut; Lisa Weightman of Australia (seventh, 1:10:10) has her sights on the Olympic Games, and Caroline Rotich (eighth, 1:10:17) is returning to Boston, where she finished fourth last year.
Yesterday's top Americans—Meb Keflezighi, Dathan Ritzenhein, Kara Goucher, Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, and Desiree Davila—are all coming off the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January, where Keflezighi, Goucher, and Davila made the team for London.
Davila's immediate racing plans include the BAA 5K, which finishes at the Boston Marathon finish line the day before the marquee race. Last year, Davila dueled down Boylston Street seeking a Boston Marathon victory before finishing as runner-up by just two seconds. On April 29, she will run the 10,000 meters at the Stanford Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, CA.
Goucher is considering either the 10,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials or the U.S. Half-Marathon Championships the week before, on June 16.
“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