Meb Wins New York Marathon for USA

November 9, 2010: NEW YORK An encouraging year for U.S. middle distance and distance runners continued Sunday with six American men in the top-10 at the New York City Marathon, led by Meb Keflezighi's victory. The win was the first by a U.S. man in New York since Alberto Salazar won three in a row from 1980-82. The last time there were six in the top 10 was 1979 when Bill Rodgers and Kirk Pfeffer went 1-2.

Meb.jpgRyan Hall was fourth (2:10:36), Jorge Torres seventh (2:13:00) in his 26.2-mile debut, Nick Arciniaga eighth (2:13:46), Abdi Abdirahman ninth (2:14:00) and Jason Lehmkuhle 10th (2:14:39).

"I think this is just the start of delivering on the day," said NYC Marathon director Mary Wittenberg of the U.S. men. "They've been knocking on the door. This has been a long time coming."

Since the glory days of Bill Rodgers, who won Boston and New York four times each during the '70s and '80s, and Frank Shorter, who won Olympic gold and silver in 1972 and '76, the U.S. has struggled. The low point may have been 2000, when the USA had just one entrant apiece instead of the maximum three in the men's and women's Olympic marathons.

The distance community, with Wittenberg and the New York Road Runners Club taking a lead role, got busy raising money and trying to support runners. In 2004 Keflezighi took silver and Deena Kastor bronze in the Olympics. "The only country with two medals," Keflezighi said.

This year the U.S. also had success at shorter distances. Both Dathan Ritzenhein and Matt Tegenkamp broke 13 minutes for 5,000 meters. Ritzenhein was sixth at the world championships in the 10,000 and third at the World Half-Marathon Championships. Collegians such as Galen Rupp of Oregon and German Fernandez of Oklahoma State had impressive performances from the mile through the 10,000.

The women were also successful with Shannon Rowbury earning a bronze medal in the 1,500 at the world championships. Anna Willard and Jenny Barringer broke 4 minutes in the 1,500.

"I think there is a new era of distance runners coming behind us who may or may not look up to us, but they're definitely going to try to challenge us," Torres said. "So I think it's going to be pretty exciting the next couple of years. I think American distance running is where it should be and it's going to get even better."

Hall unhappy: Hall, who won the Olympic trials in 2007 and was third in Boston in April, called his fourth place "disappointing." He entered the race with a personal best of 2:06:17, set on a fast course in London far different than the hillier NYC course.

"I felt like I was in better shape than that," said Hall. "I kind of went in and out of feeling good and not feeling good. And I think I made some tactical mistakes just sitting too far back."

Hall, part of a large lead pack early, hung with the leaders until 18 miles. He was exasperated after finding out he averaged five minutes per mile, which he had already been doing over 18-mile courses in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., at 7,000 feet in the midst of 130-mile weeks.

"It's good to have a humbling experience every once in a while," he said. "I always run my best races after a humbling experience. I'll get over this. In a couple days, I'll turn my head toward the spring and start looking forward to that."

Tulu top woman: At 37 Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia is still adding to one of the most impressive resumes in women's distance running history. Tulu won the women's race in 2:28:52, marking her return to the big time after having two children.

"To have come back after all of that and to accomplish this tells me what it is possible to do at any age," said Tulu, adding she planned to enter London next spring.

She won the Olympic 10,000 in 1992 and 2000, the 2000 world cross country title and the London Marathon in 2001, giving her major titles on the track, road and cross country.

"I didn't really expect to win here, but I did know that I could be a good competitor and planned to fight until the very end," Tulu said.

She needed to fight to the end. She pulled away in the final mile from Russia's Ludmila Petrova, 41, the 2000 champion who finished second (2:29:00) for the second consecutive year.

The pre-race favorite was Britain's Paula Radcliffe, who had won 8 of her 10 marathons, was 3-for-3 in New York and is the world record holder. But Radcliffe, who has battled injuries and illness in recent years since her 2:15:25 in 2003, had a hamstring problem that led to tendinitis behind her left knee. She was told the tendon wouldn't tear but it could inhibit her running.

Past 11 miles she began struggling with the problem. By 23 miles Radcliffe fell off the four-woman lead pack.

"I knew it was a risk because if the injury came back, then, obviously, I was going to run like I did," Radcliffe said about starting the race. "It was probably a risk that I wouldn't have taken had I had a good year's racing.

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