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Posted: November 6, 2007

Athletics: Radcliffe, Wami steal show in New York

(New York, November 5, 2007) --The city that doesn’t sleep prides itself as the global capital of many things, including its marathon. New Yorkers have always embraced this race, crowding the streets and cheering on the runners from the opening climb at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island to the finish line in Central Park.

There was an added buzz this year, with the staging of the Men’s U.S. Olympic Trials, the culmination of the World Majors Marathon Series and what organizers were billing as the greatest women’s showdown in the 38-year history of the race. Oh yes, also racing were Lance Armstrong and Katie Holmes, which meant Tom Cruise and baby Suri would be at the finish line.

In the end, it was the women’s race that stole the show, with world record holder Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain surging to victory in 2:23:09 over three-time Olympian, Gete Wami (pronounced “GAY-tah WAH-me”) of Ethopia. Radcliffe’s time was one second faster than when she won the race here in 2004.

You couldn’t have found two more contrasting figures than Radcliffe and Wami.

The 5’8” blonde Radcliffe runs with arms pumping and head bobbing, her face in contorted expression, while the diminutive (5’ 1/2”) Wami, seems to float through the air with each effortless stride

They ran together for well over two hours, with Wami shadowing Radcliffe’s every move. Just nine months after giving birth to her daughter, Isla, the Briton put in several surges but was unable to shake the Ethiopian, who had won the Berlin marathon five weeks earlier.

With two miles to go, it looked like the smart money was on Wami, who appeared to be biding her time until the finishing kick. It was a familiar scenario; the two have raced together for over 15 years, with Wami almost always overtaking Radcliffe in the final stretch in major track races after Radcliffe led most of the way.

Said one reporter: “It looks like Wami has got herself the most expensive rabbit out there.”

Yet when Wami made the move with less than one mile to go, Radcliffe responded decisively and put in a final surge that Wami was unable to answer.

“I’ve had years of her out-sprinting me and I wasn’t going to let it happen again,” said Radcliffe. "I just kept repeating to myself 'I love you Isla' to keep my rhythm going at the end.”

Wami finished in 2:23:32, with the consolation of winning an additional $500,000 bonus for the World Marathon Majors Series Title. Latvia’s Jelena Prokopcuka, who was hoping to match Grete Waitz for three consecutive New York marathon wins, finished third in 2:26:13.

In the men’s event, Martin Lel of Kenya pulled away from Moroccan Abderrahim Goumri in the last few hundred metres to win in 2:09:04.

Paula Radcliffe surges to win the 2007 New York City Marathon - Photo: Steve Bower

© Copyright 2007 Lynne Bermel

Lynne Bermel, a former world-ranked pro Ironman competitor, is a senior marketing & PR consultant living in Ottawa.. She is also a freelance writer and TV sports show host. You can reach her at: lynnebermel@rogers.com.

You can access previous columns by Lynne at: LB_Columns


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