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NEW YORK (01-Nov) -- If Geoffrey Mutai's training partners' recent performances are any indication, we can expect something special on Sunday at the 43rd ING New York City Marathon here. Mutai's compatriot Wilson Kipsang set a world record of 2:03:23 at the BMW Berlin Marathon last September, while Dennis Kimetto ran a course record of 2:03:45 at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon last month.
"Everyone was having good shape. We are training the same and training together," Mutai told reporters here today. "Kimetto, when he set the personal best, I was feeling it was me. For me, now I am feeling comfortable."
Mutai, 32, has been training in Kapng'etuny, Kenya, with hopes of successfully defending his title here. In 2011, Mutai separated from the pack at 20 miles and ran a blistering clip through the latter stages, shattering Tesfaye Jifar's 10-year-old course record in 2:05:06. Mutai became the first person to win both the Boston and New York City Marathons in the same year since Rodgers Rop in 2002. At Boston in 2011 he ran the fastest marathon in all conditions, an improbable 2:03:02.
Here and now, Mutai feels ready. Having increased his speed work in preparation for this weekend, Mutai believes he can compete with the stellar field assembled by the New York Road Runners. Olympic and World Championships Marathon gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich and 2013 Virgin London Marathon champion Tsegaye Kebede are both entered.
"I am feeling comfortable more than the other years," he said. "For me, I have already prepared myself and the strong will win."
With many eyes on Mutai, the father of two girls said he can't let the pressure to defend his title get to him. Only five men in race history have earned two race titles in a row, the most recent being Kenya's John Kagwe in 1997 and 1998.
"Pressure is always [going to] be there. I am looking forward only and focusing on my race," he said.
As past history has shown, Mutai's extremely successful when racing undulating courses such as New York in Boston. With many hills and bridges, the course plays into Mutai's favor.
"I have tried running flat races, but I see that when I run up and down hills in a race I feel like I am enjoying it more than flat courses," he said. "I like up and down hills because my place I have been training in is like that."
Despite the challenging hills, Mutai says faster times on the five borough course are likely.
"I see it possible to run even up to 2:04 on this course," he said. Can we expect Mutai to better his 2011 course record run this weekend?
"If everything goes well, I think so," Mutai said.
Mutai added that going into the race, he has no specific race plan. Rather, he decides his strategy as the race unfolds.
"The plan is coming automatically the day of the race," he said. "It's different because a race like this we don't have pace makers, so I cannot say I want to run like this because we don't have pacemakers. Everything is coming automatically during the race."
After training an average of 180 to 200 kilometers a week (between 112 and 124 miles), Mutai seems poised for Sunday.
"I have seen that I sharpened myself in short distances and improved," he said. "I believe in myself."
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