Elites face off in NYC Half Marathon

Records in jeopardy, notable debuts happening in lead-up to London and Boston

Updated: March 14, 2014, 12:38 PM ET
By Chris Lotsbom | Competitor.com

Mo FarahAlexander Nemenov/Getty ImagesMo Farah has track world championships and is gearing up for success at longer distances.
NEW YORK -- Sunday's New York City Half Marathon in Manhattan features 15 Olympians, three Olympic and World Championship medalists, as well as 11 national record holders.

Among the list of entrants are 10 men who have dipped under 1:02 for the half marathon and seven women who have broken 1:10. In advance of the race -- which begins in Central Park, takes runners through Times Square and finishes in lower Manhattan -- we take a look at seven storylines to watch.

Farah Versus Mutai

Two of the most dominant distance runners in recent years will face off for the first time at the half-marathon distance, both returning to a city where they've had success. Mo Farah, 30, won the 2011 NYC Half in 1:00:23, a race that was his debut at 21.1K. Geoffrey Mutai, 32, set a New York City Marathon course record of 2:05:06 in 2011, and then returned to the Big Apple last year to win again in 2:08:24.

Farah, the double Olympic champion at 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters, and Mutai, the fastest marathoner in all conditions, could very well take down Haile Gebrselassie's event record of 59:24, which has stood since 2007. Both are gearing up for next month's London Marathon, where they'll battle once again in what will be Farah's first full marathon.

Notable Debuts

Olympians Matt Tegenkamp, Molly Huddle and Sally Kipyego will all be making their half-marathon debuts in New York. Tegenkamp, 32, has already completed the full marathon distance (2:12:28 at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon last year), but has never raced a half-marathon competition. This will be his first race of 2014.

Huddle is coming off a low-key, 15:13.86 world-leading 5000-meter  performance indoors on March 2, and has stated that she's very excited to try the marathon distance.

Kipyego, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist at 10,000 meters, has run 30:26.37 on the track for 10,000 meters. The last time Kipyego was in New York City she finished fourth behind Huddle, Emily Infeld and Shalane Flanagan at the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K, her first race since returning from multiple heel injuries that kept her on the sideline for most of 2013. Kipyego's debut race in 2014 was a win, the two-mile at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in a then-world leading time of 9:21.04.

Boston-Bound Americans

Meb Keflezighi, Jason Hartmann, Brett Gotcher and Jeffrey Eggleston are all racing the NYC Half five weeks before the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21. Keflezighi, 38, has already notched a season best of 1:01:23 while winning the U.S. Half Marathon Championships at the Aramco Half Marathon in January.

Hartmann, who has finished fourth overall at two consecutive Boston Marathons, has a unique situation this weekend. On the same day that he'll race 13.1 miles through Manhattan, the New Balance Nationals will take place at the Armory uptown. There, Elise Cranny, one of the best high school runners in America, who is coached by Hartmann, will compete in the 800 meters.

Gotcher has a half-marathon best of 1:02:09, while Eggleston's personal record is 1:03:00.

Gemma Steel -- American Road Dominance

Last summer, Great Britain's Gemma Steel left her mark on the American road racing scene, picking up podium finishes at the Oakley New York Mini 10K (third in 32:59), TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K (second, 31:36) and New Balance Falmouth Road Race (second, 37:06 for 7 miles). Those achievements on the road catapulted her into the cross country season, where she won the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country Meet and English National Cross Country Championships.

Now the 28-year-old children's book illustrator is back stateside, racing the NYC Half in advance of London, where she'll make her marathon debut. The independent Association of Road Racing Statisticians ranks Steel as Britain's No. 1 distance runner.

Rematch Of 2013?

At the 2013 NYC Half, a pair of international athletes made headlines thanks to gutsy performances that earned them national records and personal bests. Burundi's Diane Nukuri-Johnson edged Croatia's Lisa Stublic for second place -- 1:09:12 to 1:09:18 -- both surprising many with their podium finishes. That was a precursor to strong spring marathons for both, as Nukuri-Johnson would finish eighth at the 2013 Boston Marathon (2:29:54) and Stublic would win the 2013 Zürich Marathon in 2:25:44. Will they battle again in 2014?

Return Of Desiree (Davila) Linden

Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project athlete and 2012 Olympian Desiree Linden will lace up her racing flats for the first time this year. Like so many of her fellow competitors, Linden is racing in preparation for the Boston Marathon, where she finished second at in 2011 in the fastest time ever (2:22:30) by an American woman in Boston. Linden's last half marathon was a 1:10:51 performance at the Sanyo Women's Road Race in Japan last December. Her performance here could be an indicator of what's to come in Boston.

New Record-Eligible Course

With a new course for 2014, the NYC Half will be world- and American-record eligible. Marks could fall, especially considering the personal bests of Farah (60:10) and Mutai (58:58). Mutai has broken 60 minutes six times since 2009. The fastest entrant in the women's field is Kenya's Caroline Kilel, with a 1:08:16 performance in 2009 at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.

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