NEW YORK — Geoffrey Mutai likes his chances in any championship-style marathon.
The Kenyan has turned in two eye-popping performances in seven months in races without pace-setters after he shattered the course record in the New York City Marathon on Sunday. He figures to be the favorite next summer in the London Games – if he can make the Olympic team in a country so deep in the sport.
Mutai's performance was no surprise after he ran the fastest marathon ever earlier this year. Firehiwot Dado wasn't a favorite coming into the women's race and victory seemed impossible with even a few miles left. But the Ethiopian made a stunning comeback for her first major marathon title.
Mutai finished in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 6 seconds, crushing the previous mark of 2:07:43 set by Tesfaye Jifar of Ethiopia a decade earlier.
In April, Mutai ran the fastest 26.2 miles in history: 2:03:02 in Boston. It didn't count as a world record because the course is considered too straight and too downhill.
"I am happy now because even although it was not recognized, I'm happy to be at that level," Mutai said. "And I know one day, maybe I can come to do something. The course here – it was tough. But the weather was so good. I think I'll try to maintain myself to prove it right."
With little wind on a cool, sunny day, the conditions were perfect for fast times. The second- and third-place finishers also broke the old course record. Fellow Kenyan Emmanuel Mutai (no relation), the London Marathon champ and course-record holder, ran a 2:06:28. Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia was third in 2:07:14.
Defending champ Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia was fourth.
Dado trailed London Marathon champ Mary Keitany by nearly 2 1/2 minutes at the 15-mile mark but passed her with about a mile left. The 27-year-old Dado won in 2:23:15 – almost a minute better than her previous personal best.
"Because she'd been running so fast from the very beginning, I didn't imagine that we'd catch her," Dado said through a translator. "But when we did get closer and we saw her, I was very surprised and I was very happy."
Fellow Ethiopian Buzunesh Deba, who lives in the Bronx and enjoyed vocal support, was second for her first podium finish at a major marathon, 4 seconds back. It was the second-closest women's finish in the race's history.
"I'm so happy when they're cheering me," Deba said. "I know the course – I train it two times a week in Central Park."
Keitany was third, 23 seconds back. The Kenyan pulled away right from the start and was well under course-record pace for much of the race. But she faded badly over the final miles, feeling fatigue in her legs.
The Ethiopians made up 32 seconds on Keitany between the 23- and 24-mile marks. When they caught her, she glanced over at them and briefly burst back ahead. But after Dado made her move, Keitany couldn't keep up, and Deba soon passed her too.
"Maybe if I come next year and my body will react OK, maybe no problem," Keitany said. "I would run the same. I would not change."
The Mutais still don't know whether they'll make the Olympic team or what the selection criteria will be. They may be competing with other Kenyan stars for just one of the country's three spots. Abel Kirui is the two-time defending world champion, and Patrick Makau officially broke the world record in Berlin in September with a 2:03:38 – on a flat course with pace-setters.
"Maybe all of you can see the difference about the races which people are breaking one record," Geoffrey Mutai said. "I don't think if those people can come here and run here, if they can break the world record here."
The 30-year-old Mutai earned $200,000 for winning and setting the course record. He's the first runner to win Boston and New York in the same year since Rodgers Rop in 2002.
Dado took home $170,000. Emmanuel Mutai won a $500,000 bonus as the World Marathon Majors champ.
A record 47,438 runners started the race through the five boroughs. This year's event was dedicated to Grete Waitz, the nine-time champion who died in April of cancer.