The feature story of the women’s race at this Sunday’s NYC Half boils down to this: Will Kim Smith avoid another near-miss and nab the biggest win of her career? The 31-year-old from New Zealand was a standout at Providence College and still trains in Rhode Island. She’s put together an impressive career — especially at this distance, with wins in 9 out of the 13 half marathons she has entered. One of those wins, a 1:07:11 at the 2011 Philly Half, is the fastest half marathon ever run in the United States.
But perhaps unfairly, she may be better known for her losses. At last year’s NYC Half, Smith led nearly the entire race, taking on a headwind for several miles, until Firewhot Dado took over with about a quarter-mile left for the win. An even more painful loss occurred at the Boston Marathon in 2011, when Smith gapped the entire women’s field early and held nearly a full-minute lead at halfway before being hobbled with severe pain in her calves a few miles later. She memorably struggled onwards, but her lead quickly disintegrated and she was unable to finish the race. She has twice finished fifth in the ING New York City Marathon.
This Sunday, she’s the favorite, but by no means a lock. Dado is not entered this year, but here are a few of other possible challengers:
- Valeria Straneo of Italy has the second best PR in the field, with a 1:07:46
- Sabrina Mockenhaupt of Germany has a 1:08:45 best.
- Caroline Rotich of Kenya won the 2011 NYC Half, finished third to Dado and Smith last year, and has a 1:08:52 PR.
Some longer shots include frequent NYC Half and NYC Marathon competitor Madai Perez of Mexico, and Portugal’s Sara Moreira, who specializes in the 3000 and 5000 but who has run a 1:10:08 in the half. There’s a solid crew of Americans including Janet Bawcom, Adriana Nelson, Serena Burla, Molly Pritz, Maegan Krifchin, Lindsey Scherf and Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce, any of whom could crack the podium if they have a big day.
Our picks: 1) Smith, 2) Rotich, 3) Straneo. In contrast to our predictions for the men’s race, this time we agree on the top 3. We feel that Smith’s time has finally come in New York, although she needs to keep her cool and let others do the work early on. There’s no glory in leading the pack for 90% of the race, and as long as the pace is honest she should be able to kick with anyone in this field.