NEW YORK — Watching the New York City Marathon on TV at home in Ethiopia last year, Werknesh Kidane felt a country's joy and sorrow.
Her husband, Gebre Gebremariam, had just won in his debut at the distance, anointing him as the next great Ethiopian star. But the greatest of all had been halted by injury, and afterward Haile Gebrselassie announced his short-lived retirement.
"In Ethiopia, New York Marathon is very, very big," Kidane, an elite distance runner herself, said Friday through a translator. "… People were regretting that Haile lost and people were happy because Gebre won."
Gebremariam will have to share the spotlight again when he defends his title today. Kidane will run in the women's field. She also was supposed to run in New York last year but pulled out because of a calf injury.
Her husband won in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 14 seconds, the sixth-best time in NYC Marathon history, 31 seconds off the course record. That seems like a plodding pace now, just a year later.
In April, Kenya's Emmanuel Mutai, the runnerup behind Gebremariam in New York, shattered the course record at the London Marathon with a 2:04:40. A day later, countryman Geoffrey Mutai (no relation) ran the fastest 26.2 miles in history (2:03:02) in Boston. It didn't count as a world record because the course is considered too straight and too downhill. Gebremariam was third in a personal-best 2:04:53.
Then in September, another Kenyan, Patrick Makau, officially broke Gebrselassie's world record in Berlin with a 2:03:38.
Both Mutais will be challenging Gebremariam in New York. And Geoffrey Mutai believes this course is easier than Boston.
With a forecast of little wind and highs around 56 degrees for today, the 10-year-old course record of 2:07:43 could fall.
"If the weather is favorable for us, I think the results of that day will be different from the last few years," Emmanuel Mutai said.
On the women's side, Edna Kiplagat of Kenya won't defend her title after hurting her knee while winning the title at the world championships. But London Marathon champ Mary Keitany and Boston winner Caroline Kilel will run.
Most of the top Americans are skipping New York because the U.S. Olympic trials are Jan. 14 in Houston.