Friday, August 5, 2011

Upping the Ante in Central Park Race

Friday, August 5, 2011
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Micah Kogo of Kenya will be out to set the course record in Saturday's UAE Healthy Kidney 10-kilometer race in Central Park.

Looking to boost the city's profile as a running mecca, the New York Road Runners organization is dangling a bigger-than-normal carrot in front of the participants in this weekend's 10-kilometer race in Central Park.

Hungry for bigger crowds, the organization—which holds weekly races but is best known for handling the New York City Marathon—recruited the world's two fastest 10K road runners, Kenyan professionals Micah Kogo and Leonard Patrick Komon, to take part.

The pair will headline the group of 8,000-plus participants and vie for up to $45,000 in winnings. That, as Komon will tell you, is no small incentive. "It's much bigger than the races I've done before," he said of the purse during a Thursday afternoon sitdown. "My only objective is to run good. But if I win, it would be so nice to explore this beautiful city with that money."

Komon, who holds the world's 10-kilometer road record (26 minutes, 44 seconds), had never been to New York.

Specifically, the first-place finisher of Saturday's Seventh Annual UAE Healthy Kidney 10K run is guaranteed $25,000 for winning the race, making it the highest grand prize of any such race. The award is a steep boost from 2010, when the award was worth $7,500.

Additionally, if the winner breaks the course record of 27:42—which seems probable, since both Kogo, a 2008 Olympic medalist in Beijing, and Komon have run much faster times— he'll take home an additional $20,000.

Both the boost in prize money and the move to invite the world's best for a 10K race signals a shift for the organization, as it continues to brand itself, nationally and beyond, as more than the iconic race people identify it with.

"The Marathon will always be our crown jewel and shining beacon, but there's a real magic to these other events, too," said Mary Wittenberg, head of the New York Road Runners.

She said the organization wanted to place an "added emphasis on having the fastest guys" this year, and that the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington, D.C., which sponsors the run, was in complete agreement.

"No one at all is cringing when they're running faster races [and winning the purse for breaking the record]," said Wittenberg, adding that the UAE pays for the bonus when runners set a new course record. "They've been as excited as we have when people do it."

Indeed, organizers seem to want the course record, which has been re-set in each of the past two runs, to fall again this year.

Aside from inviting the two favorites, Saturday's run will feature at least three other participants—including fellow Kenyan Joseph Ebuya, who won the 2010 World Cross Country Championship—who have 10K times that are faster than the Central Park record.

Both Kogo and Komon, who have split the 10 races they've run against each other, believe one of them will come out victorious. Neither would make a prediction beyond that, other than to say that their tight friendship would be on a hiatus for at least Saturday morning.

Write to Chris Herring at

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