Five top Kenyan athletes—all among the favorites to win Sunday’s ING New York City Marathon—were at the airport in Nairobi on Tuesday night when they were told there was a problem.
Because their connecting flight from London to New York City had already been canceled in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, they were not allowed to board their plane.
This was a situation they weren’t going to outrun. Time for an end-around.
Moses Mosop, Wilson Kipsang, Stanley Biwott, Sharon Cherop, and Edna Kiplagat somehow discovered that if they could secure continuing tickets to another destination, they would be allowed on the plane. With the help of Mosop’s manager, Valentijn Trouw, in the Netherlands, they scurried to secure tickets on a flight from London to Boston.
There, at 2:50 p.m. on Wednesday, a New York Road Runners car and driver awaited them for the four-hour journey to New York. They arrived at 9:00 p.m.
Quick thinking, creative solutions, and a whole lot of patience have turned out to be a key part of every pro athlete’s taper for the final World Marathon Majors event of the season.
Valeria Straneo of Italy flew from Milan to London, spent a night there, and then flew to Toronto, where she has spent at least one more night while awaiting a flight. Kayoko Fukushi of Japan at first had her flight rebooked for Sunday—the day of the race; she is now expected to arrive on Thursday after being re-booked to San Francisco and cooling her heels for two nights in Palo Alto. Janet Bawcom, a top U.S. athlete training in Flagstaff, AZ, tweeted on Tuesday: “Cancelled, rebooked, cancelled, rebooked, almost cancelled, almost rebooked. Whew! And that only gets us to Philly!!!” Molly Pritz just up and drove from Detroit on Sunday to beat the whole storm.
And then there was Buzunesh Deba, an Ethiopian living in the Bronx who needed 2.5 hours on Wednesday morning to travel by car 140 blocks to the Hilton Hotel and Towers. The runner-up in the 2011 ING New York City Marathon, she could have run in half the time.
But none of the athletes was complaining. Far from it.
“I know this time has had so much difficulties here,” said Cherop at a press event on Thursday. “I am sorry for the people of New York for their difficulties.”
Photo of Wilson Kipsang, by PhotoRun/NYRR
“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