NEW YORK – Of the five world marathon majors, the first four have seen men's course records set in a torrid year of running.
The fifth will be Sunday's New York City Marathon, with everybody from the top men to race director Mary Wittenberg confident a new mark can be set in Central Park.
Tesfaye Jifar's course record of 2:07:43 is a decade old, and with nine sub-2:06 marathons already having been run this year, course records have been an endangered species. Expect defending champ Gebre Gebremariam and a host of talented Kenyans to blast down Fifth Avenue at Mile 17 and take aim at this one.
"Last year, I planned only to finish, but this year, everybody expects me to win. I know the course, too ... This is a little different for me," Gebremariam said. "Everybody expects more from Gebremariam this year because he's the winner last year. I did my training well, and I'm in good health, so we'll see."
Gebremariam, who won last year in 2:08:14 and just ran third in Boston in 2:04:53, will vie with Tsegaye Kebede, two-time world champ Jaouad Gharib, top American Meb Keflezighi and both Emmanuel Mutai and Geoffrey Mutai, no relation.
"I have watched the New York Marathon all the time. My target was to run this race all my life," Geoffrey Mutai said.
He blistered a wind-aided 2:03:02 in Boston, while New York runner-up Emmanuel ran a 2:04:40 in London.
Patrick Makau set a world record 2:03:38 in Berlin, while Moses Mosop ran a 2:05:37 in Chicago. But unlike Boston -- ineligible for a world record -- there are no pace-setters here. This is a tough course that features competition at its purest.
Keflezighi, who won two years ago, said, "You'll see a fast time on Sunday ... I think it's going to be very exciting, and people should see some good running."
The home favorite was targeting a strong performance after a successful buildup.
"I hope to be the one," Keflezighi said. "I'm healthy. My training is going well, and if [the Kenyans] run 2:05, I can't do anything about it, but hopefully they'll drag me to get a [personal record]."
He added, "I'm just hoping to be in the mix. If I can be in the mix and get to Central Park, who knows? If they run fast, they may drag me to a personal best. If I can run my best time here, they're going to run their best time because it will be a fast time."