Ernst van Dyk put a terrible time in Tokyo behind him as he raced to a historic fourth consecutive win at the New York City half-marathon at the weekend, writes MARK ETHERIDGE.
Van Dyk was in Japan three weeks ago but a stomach virus meant he wasn't in tip-top shape and had to settle for third spot at the Tokyo Marathon.
But New York saw a revamped Van Dyk lining up and he ended up cruising to a comfortable and historic fourth consecutive victory.
All of which augurs well as he continues to target an 11th Boston Marathon victory next month.
This year's race presented a new challenge to the field with organisers, the New York Road Runners club, opting for a new course.
'After the disaster in Tokyo, I was looking forward to a good effort from myself to really test my form. Conditions in NY are always very challenging this time of year and this year was no exception,' Van Dyk told Team SA.
'I had a good buildup with a very easy week training-wise to ensure I was completely recovered. This year, the NYRR changed the course completely and there was a lot of uncertainty about how tough it would be with some serious climbing.'
New course aside, the weather conditions were also something to contend with. 'We started warm-up at 6:30am and by 7:00 the temperature had dropped to -3 degrees Celsius and the wind had picked up quite a bit, adding a severe chill factor.'
Making things more difficult was the fact that it was a tough headwind for much of the race. 'We took off and there is a slight decline for the first three kilometres. I went hard because I needed some distance between myself and the good climbers before we hit Manhattan Bridge, which was going to be a steep unknown.'
Van Dyk managed to establish a decent lead over America's Josh George (who celebrated his 34th birthday on Sunday) and youngster Daniel Romanchuk, 19.
'Josh and Daniel caught up to me as we were about to crest the hill. I hit the downhill hard again and established a bit of a lead. From there it was rolling hills but the wind was relentless. I just focused on my own rhythm and tried to keep the pressure up.
'My lead stayed consistent with Josh closing up a few seconds on me on the longer, steeper climbs but then I would be able to surge on the slight downhills again.
'Through Times Square I could see him about 30sec behind me as we entered Central Park. I'm comfortable in the park and it was the first time in the race I could feel my hands!' said Van Dyk.
'With one kilometre to go, I knew I had it and was able to relax and enjoy the moment as I was about to make history taking my fourth consecutive victory. Now, over the next four weeks, I'll centre my training around the Boston Marathon and put everything towards that elusive 11th victory in April.'
Van Dyk's winning time was 53min 12sec, 21sec clear of George with Romanchuk third in 55:04.