Desisa chases New York double, Keitany eyes fifth crown

New York (AFP) –


Defending champion Lelisa Desisa will attempt an unprecedented double on Sunday when he bids to retain his New York Marathon crown just four weeks after winning gold at the World Championships in Doha.

After prevailing in gruelling conditions in Qatar last month, where the race began just before midnight to avoid the worst of punishing heat and humidity, Desisa faces the chill of a New York autumn on Sunday as he tries to defend his title.

No runner has ever won World Championship gold followed by a victory in New York, the last of the year's major annual road-running marathons.

The 29-year-old from Ethiopia is determined to mount a serious defense of his New York crown, but admitted to reporters this week he is uncertain of whether his weary body will hold up.

"I will try my best," he said. "After Doha I tried to make recovery training. Marathon is not easy my fried.

"I am happy. Not feeling any pain...I don’t know what will happen for this race, but I will try."

Desisa can expect to face a stern challenge from Geoffrey Kamworor, who is going for his second New York title in three years.

The 26-year-old Kenyan arrived in New York in prime form, having broken the half marathon world record last month in Copenhagen.

Two other Ethiopians, Tamirat Tola and Shura Kitata, who have both ran marathon times of 2hr 4min, are also in the field.

In the women's race meanwhile, defending champion Mary Keitany will once again attempt to stamp her class on an event she has made her own in recent years.

The 37-year-old Kenyan has won four of the last five New York marathons, cruising to victory last year by a mammoth margin of 3min 14sec.

Meanwhile, the build-up to this year's race has seen questions raised over shoes that several top athletes are expected to wear, Nike's groundbreaking "Vaporfly" shoe.

Eliud Kipchoge wore an unreleased version of the shoe when becoming the first man to run a marathon under two hours at a special event in Vienna last month.

Critics have claimed the design of the shoe, which Nike says improves running ease and speed, gives wearers an unfair, mechanical advantage.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body for track and field, has investigated the shoes but not issued a ban.

New York marathon organisers meanwhile say competitors are free to wear the shoes.

"We are in touch with all the athletes who will be competing in the marathon this year and they are all looking forward to competing in whichever shoes they choose to run in," Chris Weiller, of New York Road Runners said in a statement.