5 November 2012

Kenya/Ethiopia: Rich Harvest

London Marathon champion Mary Keitany has been crowned The World Marathon Majors women's winner following the cancellation the New York Marathon. Keitany becomes the first Kenyan woman to win the Majors, pocketing a cool $500,000 (Sh.42.5m) jackpot.

Heading into the New York race, Keitany and fellow Kenyan Edna Kiplagat were the front runners, but the former can now breath a sigh of relief after becoming the beneficiary of the cancellation after avoiding the rigours of battling it out with Kiplagat. Being the world champion, Kiplagat was expected to prove a real hurdle for Keitany..

Keitany amassed 65 points accumulated from victories at the 2011 and 2012 Virgin London Marathons, and a third place finish at the 2011 New York City Marathon. She joins Berlin Marathon champion and the fastest man on earth over the 42km distance Geoffrey Mutai.

Mutai had already secured the Series title ahead of the New York race with 75 points tallied in winning the 2011 Boston Marathon, the 2011 ING New York City Marathon, and the 2012 BMW Berlin Marathon.

Only two non-Kenyan runners were in the top five race for the jackpo hunt. Keitany and Kiplagat (50) points led Sharon Cherop (45 points) and Priscah Jeptoo (40 points) in the women's race, with only Russian Liliya Shobukhova (45 points), making it to the top five. Ethiopia's Tesgaye Kebede was the only 'outsider' in the men's category with 46 points. Other Kenyans joining Mutai in the top five were Wesley Korir (41 points), world champion Abel Kirui (40 points) and Moses Mosop (40 points).

Meanwhile, organizers, police and even athletes called Friday's cancelation of the New York Marathon the correct decision in the wake of the devastation caused by killer superstorm Sandy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg axed what would have been the 43rd annual race after complaints over the timing and the notion of staging the event on Sunday while many people in the area remain without electricity or shelter.

"The best thing for New York and the best thing for the marathon for the future is unfortunately to move on. This isn't the year or the time to run it," said Mary Wittenberg, president of the organizing group, the New York Road Runners.

"It's crushing and it's really difficult. It's one of the toughest decisions we ever made, but we really believe it's the right thing for New York." Patrick Lynch, president of the largest city police union, called the decision "a wise choice".

Dwyane Wade, a star guard for the NBA's Miami Heat, had said earlier that he thought it was a bad idea to stage the marathon so soon after the storm had caused flooding, major property damage and nearly 100 deaths in the New York area, more than 40 in the city alone.

Much of the damage was located on Staten Island, where runners would have made the traditional start to the 26.2-mile (42.2km) event on Sunday as it wound its way through all five boroughs of New York.

Wade and the rest of the NBA championship side visited the New York Knicks on Friday at famed Madison Square Garden for the first major sports event in the city since the storm struck.

Wade donated his $210,000 game check for the night to storm relief efforts. The marathon typically brings the city $340 million but much of that would have been lost, organizers said, because as many as 10,000 of the field of nearly 45,000 runners would not have come this year because of the damage.

Kenyans Wilson Kipsang, third at the London Olympics, and Moses Mosop, last year's Chicago Marathon champion, would have been men's favorites along with 2010 New York Marathon winner Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia.

Reigning world champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya, London Olympic marathon winner Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia and Olympic bronze medalist Tatyana Arkhipova of Russia were the top contenders on the women's side. Organizers plan to review their stance of not refunding entry fees in favor of ensuring entry to next year's race.

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