So much for training seriously for a major marathon.
Abdelkhader El Mouaziz of Morocco didn't do that and still wound up running mostly by himself along usually crowded streets to win the New York City Marathon on a cold and windy Sunday.
His winning margin of 2 minutes, 21 seconds, was overwhelming in a race that often produces close finishes. At one point, he had a whopping 6@1/2-block lead on First Avenue. No one else was in sight along the 18- to 19-mile stretch of the race.
El Mouaziz, who dedicated the victory to the king of Morocco, was so anxious to run Sunday that he broke away early, opened a huge lead, then struggled home in 2:10:09, becoming the first Moroccan champion and ending Kenya's three-year victory reign.
"I wanted to run my own race," he said. "I went alone after the pacemakers were slow.
"I knew it would be tough for them to make up that difference."
The women's race also produced a new winner. Ludmila Petrova became the first Russian champion, winning in 2:25:45, a career best by more than three minutes.
|Crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at the start of the race..|
Kenya's Japhet Kosgei, undefeated in four previous marathons, finished second at 2:12:30. He was followed by two more Kenyans Shem Kororia (2:12:33) and Elijah Korir (2:13:00)
El Mouaziz defied the tradition of training for months for a major marathon. Instead, he relied on his recovery work and the preparation he did for Sydney.
The 31-year-old Moroccan first moved among the world's elite marathoners by finishing second in the 1998 London Marathon in 2:08:07. He came back the following year and won London at 2:07:57, only two seconds off the course record, a mark he would have beaten if he had not slowed near the finish and waved to the crowd.
He ran London a third time in April and was the runner-up again in 2:07:33, his personal best.
This was his third New York City Marathon. He finished fourth in 1997 at 2:10:04 and seventh last year at 2:10:28.
This time, El Mouaziz stayed with the pacesetters through the first 10 miles. Then, when they slowed, El Mouaziz and 1996 Olympic champion Josia Thugwane took command. The two-man race quickly turned into a one-man show.
At the halfway point 13.1 miles El Mouaziz was leading in 1:03:07, ahed of the course record of 2:08:01 set by Tanzania's Juma Ikangaa in 1989, and far in front of Thugwane. It was one of the earliest breaks in the race's history.
El Mouaziz extended his lead to nearly 1:30 through 19 miles before his pace slowed. He ran each of the next two miles in 5:10, his slowest in the race.
El Mouaziz continued to struggle, with miles of 5:19 between 22 and 23; 5:30 between 23 and 24; and 5:26 between 24 and 25. But no one made a serious challenge.
Surprisingly, El Mouaziz's big move came with the wind blowing in his face.
"The wind and the hills gave me a boost rather than hurt," he said.
As for Thugwane, he wound up sixth at 2:15:25. Kenya's John Kagwe, the 1997 and 1998 champion who is still recuperating from an accident in May when his car flipped over three times and off a bridge, finished 10th at 2:17:02.
Another two-time champion, 1994-95 winner German Silva of Mexico, placed 14th at 2:20:41.
El Mouaziz and Petrova each receive $65,000 for winning, plus a car and a scooter. El Mouaziz also earned a $10,000 time bonus and Petrova got $25,000.
For the first time, the top five finishers in the women's race ran 2:27:00 or under.
Petrova, among the leaders throughout, surged into the lead at 23 miles and withstood a late burtst by Italy's Franca Fiacconi, the 1998 winner.
"I did a half-marathon in 1:09 (1:08:37 at New Haven, Conn., in September) and I was excited by that time," the 32-year-old Petrova said. "After that race, I was confident.
"I knew I was up against a tough field. I was concerned with the other champions and the world-record holder."
Fiacconi was second at 2:26:03, followed by three Kenyans Margaret Okayo (2:26:36), Hellen Kimutai (2:26:42) and Florence Barsosio (2:27:00).
Kenya's Tegla Loroupe, the world record-holder at 2:20:43 and two-time New York winner, never seriously challenged and finished sixth at 2:29:35.
Defending champion Adriana Fernandez of Mexico placed 13th at 2:35:20
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