Saturday morning in New York City, mostly in Central Park 131 qualifiers lined up to battle for the right to represent the USA in Beijing next year. In short it was not a Cinderella story as the favorites established their dominance, although not from early in the race. There was one notable change to the format this year---runners were accepted on a number of different qualifying times from 5000 m up the marathon distance. This added quite a bit of depth although there were many runners making their debut or making only their second attempt at this distance.
Noel takes a back seat
Tropical depression Noel was threatening to put a real damper on the weather, but in the end the runners had to face only a bit of wind and nothing too hectic. Temps were in the low 40's at the start as Michael Wardian from Virginia became the first "TV Runner" and took an early 100+ m lead. In Wardian's defense, though, the pace was pretty pedestrian at the start as the pack was on pace for only about a 2:20 finish. Most of the runners were likely elated at the early pace as it gave them a chance to stay with the favorites. However after approximately nine miles things started to change.
The first move - What was Sell thinking?
Around nine miles someone surged, and suddenly Abdi Abdiraham, Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall, Fasil Bizuneh, and Dathan Ritzenheim had a gap. Brian Sell of Team Hanson, who lead for 20 miles in the pre-Athens trials, did not respond. This was surprising as it was not a massive acceleration, and instead the five seemed to float away slowly. Nevertheless, Sell and the others let them go while many pundits and fans must have been thinking what a bad tactic that was. Dan Brown responded late and bridged the gap after a few minutes. He was followed by two counter-attacks, first by Josh Cox and then by Khalid Khannouchi, both of which failed.
In the end Sell's patience payed off as he took third eventually (2:11:40) behind Ritzenheim (2:11:07) and Ryan Hall. Hall's 2:09:09 was a US Olympic Trials record although was not surprising as he ran 2:08:24 in his debut in London this year. Hall also has a 59:43 half-marathon best, also an American record.
The final results looked like this:
1) Ryan Hall (2:09:02) (Trials record)
2) Dathan Ritzenheim (2:11:07)
3) Brian Sell (2:11:40)
4) Khalid Khannouchi (2:12:34)
Should Dathan Ritzenheim qualify for the 10000 m event, he has indicated that he might forgo his spot on the marathon team as he is more interested in the 10,000 m. This would allow Khannouchi the opportunity to compete for the USA in the marathon, which is something to which he has aspired since the pre-Sydney trials, but has been hampered by injury.
Sad news from the race - death of Ryan Shay
In the meantime, the breaking news from the trials is the sudden death of Ryan Shay, who apparently collapsed around the five-mile mark. We are working hard to find out details, and you can be sure that we will have a full analysis of the physiology behind this tragic event.
See our other posts on sudden death during exercise:
Death at the Chicago Marathon
Autopsy report from Chicago Marathon
Analysis of a hospitalized runner
No evidence of dehydration in Chicago Marathon death