In a live noon broadcast from Columbus Circle on a sunny spring afternoon, 2012 Olympians Ryan Hall and Kim Smith were introduced on Wednesday as the first two marathon stars set to compete in the ING New York City Marathon on November 4.
“This is the start of it all,” said Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of New York Road Runners, in kicking off the marathon season, 193 days before the race, on ING New York City Marathon Opening Day Presented by ASICS. “We expect the 2012 ING New York City Marathon to be the best ever.”
Hosted by ABC7 lead sports anchor Rob Powers and 2004 Olympian Carrie Tollefson, the festive broadcast featured special guests Amani Toomer, the former New York Giants wide receiver who ran the marathon in 2010; tennis star James Blake, whose foundation hopes to raise at least $25,000 in the race through its charity partnership with NYRR; actress Amy Yasbeck, representing the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health; and Zeddie Watkins Little, dubbed the “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy,” who will run in November for the Ritter foundation.
A photo of the handsome Little, taken while he was running in the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC, this spring, was titled “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy” and went viral, landing the New York resident on Good Morning, America.
Asked by Tollefson if he would still be as photogenic at the end of the marathon as he was in the midst of the earlier 10K, Little replied, “I cannot make any promises.”
Runners can find out whether they were accepted in the drawing by checking their runner profile. More than 140,000 applications were received from runners for 47,500 spots in the race.
Hall, whose time of 2:04:58 in the 2011 Boston Marathon is the fastest ever run by an American, will be running the ING New York City Marathon for the second time, after finishing fourth in 2009. In January, the 29-year-old Hall made his second Olympic marathon team when he finished as runner-up in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston; in 2007, he won the Trials in New York City and went on to finish 10th in Beijing. Also in 2007, Hall broke the American record for the half-marathon when he ran 59:43 at the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon, becoming the only American to run the distance in under an hour.
“We just love New York,” said Hall, referring to himself and his wife, Sara, who won the inaugural NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K last year.
As for running New York less than three months after the Olympics, Hall said after the broadcast that he isn’t concerned. “I’ve done that before,” he said, “between Chicago  and the Trials. That experience will help me a lot. I rushed things too much after Chicago, and I think the Games and New York are closer together. Having been through it once helps me know what to do, and I’ll probably take more time after the Games to recover.”
Smith, 30, a native of Auckland who now lives and trains in Providence, RI, will be competing in the ING New York City Marathon for the fourth time, with fifth-place finishes in 2010 and 2011. She finished second in the recent NYC Half in 1:08:43, and last year ran the fastest-ever half-marathon on U.S. soil when she won the 2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon in 1:07:11. Smith holds 12 New Zealand national records at distances from the mile to the marathon, and owns a marathon personal best of 2:25:21.
“Who wouldn’t want to come run in New York?” Smith said on the broadcast. “It definitely is one of the most exciting places in the world to run, especially the marathon.”
Later, Smith elaborated. “I know the course pretty well, and I’ve run so many New York Road Runners races I feel a bit like I’m part of the furniture,” she said. “The excitement and hype of 50,000 people running is amazing. It’s a fun race. It’s going to be tough to turn around from the Olympics, but I’ll take a short break after the Games. I’m getting married on September 1, so it’s going to be a busy few months.”
Also announced, by Toomer, was a new road race, the NY Giants Run of Champions 5K Presented by Walgreens and Duane Reade, to be held on Sunday, June 24. The event, at MetLife Stadium, will also feature kids’ races and activities. For more information, visit www.nyrr.org.
Among the highlights of the broadcast were drawings in which 10 members of an audience of several hundred were awarded bib numbers allowing them to run the 2012 ING New York City Marathon. One stunned recipient from Brooklyn, who gave his name as David, made his way to the stage to accept his prize and was asked if he was excited.
“In six months I’ll be excited,” he said. “Right now, I’m shocked.”