Gebre Gebremariam wins the New York City Marathon in his first marathon
Nov. 07 2010
Gebre Gebremariam once studied marathon world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie in school, in a class that also featured another Ethiopian marathon legend, Abeba Bikila.
He earned an A.
Gebremariam started running himself at age 18 in Ethiopia, and he has won at every distance and on every kind course since until he made his marathon debut Sunday in relative obscurity in the New York City Marathon.
Gebrselassie, 37, was the most hyped runner on this day other than perhaps Edison Peña, the Chilean miner. But the hype deflated when Gebrselassie dropped out on the Queensboro Bridge in the 16th mile with tendinitis in his right knee.
When he became a footnote in history, Gebremariam went on to claim it.
Running effortlessly and alone in the final two miles, Gebremariam, 26, cruised to a victory in 2 hours 8 minutes 14 seconds. His only competition late in the race, Emmanuel Mutai of Kenya, had dropped back in the 25th mile in Central Park with pain in his leg. Gebremariam looked back several times, then stormed ahead to the tape.
“I can’t believe it,” he said moments after winning. “I am so happy. It’s my first marathon, and I wasn’t sure I could win, but now I’m sure.”
He became the first man to win in his marathon debut since Rod Dixon in 1983, and the first runner to win a debut in New York since Tegla Loroupe in 1994.
When he raised his arms to break the tape, Gebremariam had fulfilled a promise to his wife, Werknesh Kidane. She was supposed to make her marathon debut as well, but pulled out with a calf injury this week. She stayed home in Ethiopia with their two sons.
“She told me to win for her,” Gebremariam said.
He won by more than a minute over Mutai, who finished in 2:09:18. Moses Kigen Kipksogei of Kenya finished third in 2:10:39.
Meb Keflezighi lost his bid to become the first American man since Alberto Salazar to repeat as champion. But he refused to make this a victory lap from 2009, running with grit to finish sixth in 2:11:38. Dathan Ritzenhein was the other top 10 finisher from the United States, coming in eighth in 2:12:33.