NEW YORK, October 28 – At an age when he probably should be competing in the veterans’ race, 39 year old Paul Tergat says he should not be discounted as a contender to win Sunday’s New York Marathon.
Asked whether he was as confident as he had been before his memorable 2005 victory in New York, Tergat responded: “Yes, absolutely.”
Tergat’s victory three years ago, in the closest finish that the New York
Marathon has seen, was named yesterday as the No.4 Great Moment in New York Road Runners history.
In 2005, South Africa’s Hendrick Ramaala lost by three-tenths of a second to the Kenyan and both men are in the field again. Tergat, a former world record holder for the 10,000m, half marathon and marathon, is also a five-time world cross country champion, double world half marathon champion, and double Olympic silver medalist at 10,000m.
With three of the most dominant male athletes missing in this year’s New York marathon, the race will be one of the most open in recent times.
Last year’s winner Martin Lel is out due to injury, Olympic champion Samuel Kamau Wanjiru is also not present while World record holder Haile Gebrselassie is certainly not a fan having never even run in the Big Apple race.
Tergat will thus lead a list of elite athletes. and it will be interesting to see how he fares after an 18 month break due to work committments.
Tergat said: “I am really excited to be back in New York. I have not
competed for the last 18 months. I want to assure you that I’m back. What
do I have in store at 39? We will see what comes on Sunday."
“New York is a unique race – its not like any other marathon. There are so
many turns and, towards the end, there are a lot of hills.”
He says that the one and a half year break has done him a world of good.
“Throughout my career I had taken no break at all. I needed a break so that when I came back I was more focused and that is why I am looking forward to a serious marathon now. But I am happy now that I am back and I am looking forward – really looking forward – to competing on Sunday.”
“I didn’t compete in the Olympics not because I didn’t want to go but I had
just started my training at that time. I took some time off training
completely, not training at all.”
During his break, sometimes Tergat would go two weeks without running at all, sometimes he would run just twice a week and never more than five
kilometers.l Inevitably, he put on weight. “I always compete at 59 to 6kg
but I went up 5kg. Now I’m back to 59kg,” he said.
“I don’t feel anything has changed significantly because of my age. The
training is the same. The routes that I always take – the measured courses – I find that I’m doing them even better than before.”
Tergat returned to training five months ago and, in his only serious race, he finished second in the RTP Portugal Half Marathon in 1:01.33.
While describing Tergat as “a legend in our midst”, race director Mary
Wittenberg said of Ramaala: “We always want him in this race. Ramaala
epitomizes New York City and this event. He’s rough, he’s gritty, he gets
in there, he races and that’s the kind of personality we like in New York.
Other than Ramaala, Tergat will come face to face with Marilson Gomes who surprised the Kenyan and other pre race favourites when he won in 2006. Other top athletes in the race include Morocco’s Abderrahim Goumri who was second here last year and in London as well.