Ryan Vail in Victoria, BC for the 2014 GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon. His wife Eva debuted finishing second, and finished second again in 2016.

© Copyright – 2016 – Athletics Illustrated

On Sunday, November 6, Ryan Vail of Portland, Oregon is running the New York City Marathon. He expects to better the 2017 IAAF World Track and Field Championships qualification standard for the distance, which is set at a cruisy 2:19:00.

He is currently the third-fastest active American marathon runner behind Galen Rupp, who ran 2:10:05 this year during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. It was his second effort at the distance. Rupp debuted in February 2016 in the LA Marathon, which doubled as the Olympic Trials. Rupp finished in the time of 2:11:13 becoming just the second American all-time to win the trials in his debut. The other was Meb Keflezighi.

Dathan Ritzenhein is the fastest active American runner for the 42.195-kilometre event (26.219 miles). He has run as fast as 2:07:47 during the 2012 Chicago marathon.

Vail has run a 2:10:57 in London, but he is not worried about his time for NY, he is more concerned about placement, especially amongst his fellow Americans.

“The standards for Worlds and the Olympics aren’t actually particularly fast, so I am confident I can hit them on a tougher course like NYC,” said Vail. “I go to NYC because I like the idea of racing without pacemakers; I don’t have to worry about the clock, just race the guys around me. It reminds me of cross-country, and you don’t get too many opportunities to run that way after college.”

The hay is in the barn, as they say.

Vail, as he has wrote about on his popular blog, has had his share of injuries through his latest training cycle. Asked about his training for this edition of NY – he has run it once before in 2013, where he finished in 2:13:23 and more importantly, first among his fellow countrymen, told Athletics Illustrated, “This training cycle has been much different than previous marathon buildups. I have had a rough streak of three stress fractures in a row, so these last several months have been much more conservative in order to ensure that I get to the starting line.”

Such talk would deter others from bothering to race NY and to wait until one is healthy, but Vail is unflappable.

“The volume has been significantly lower, and I have built in more rest between workout days. With that said, the workouts I have done have been about as fast as I’ve ever been able to run them.”

Asked about his time goal for NY, he offered, “You can’t go into NY with a time goal. It is a tactical race on a tough course with extremely variable weather. My goal is to place in the top-10 overall and be the first American.”

He is not kidding about the weather. It has played havoc on the event in recent years, for example Hurricane Sandy in 2012 forced the cancellation of the marathon, which organizationally would be a complete nightmare to conduct, as NY is now the largest marathon in the world with a high of 50, 304 finishers in 2013.

In the 2014 running, very strong southerly winds blew hard towards the runners who ran into it head-on, on the mostly northerly course. Wilson Kipsang, who has run as fast as 2:03:13 – albeit on the faster Berlin Marathon course – finished nearly eight minutes off of his personal best, crossing the line in 2:10:59, while fellow Kenyan Mary Keitany won in 2:25:07, her best is 2:18:37, a six-and-a-half minute drop in performance.

The race has been won by a who’s who of distance running history including Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai who is a two-time champion. He owns the course record with his running of 2:05:06 in 2011. There was the classic Rod Dixon win in 1983 with his 2:08:59 performance after he stalked Geoff Smith and passed him with just 200 metres remaining, while suffering from a leg cramp. Smith laid prone in the finish chute, while Dixon posed for the famous photo of him, hands raised looking skyward.

Boston Billy Rogers won it four years in a row with a best of 2:10:10. Alberto Salazar took the following three years in a row including the world record at the time of 2:08:13. Kenyan Paul Tergat won in 2005 in the time of 2:09:30. Steve Jones of Great Britain tasted victory in 1988 with his finish time of 2:08:20; all legendary runners. Who will capture the imaginations of running fans this year? Will the story line be a second win by Kipsang? Will Vail turn a few heads on that first Sunday of November?

Vail isn’t just a fast marathon runner; he also enjoys competing in cross-country. He is competitive too, having raced five times in the world championships, four as a senior and as a junior back in 2005. His best finish was a very strong 17th in the 2013 edition that took place in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Twelve of the 16 runners who finished ahead of him were East Africans.

Asked if he will return to the USATF Cross Country Championships he said, “Yes, NY is excellent timing to jump into the US Cross Country Championships in February. They also happen to be in my home state, so I’m looking forward to shooting for my sixth world cross country team.”

Asked about his thoughts on the importance of cross-country running for the development of athletes, since it is an event that has waned for many non-Africans in recent years, he added, “I think cross-country is important to distance runners because it gets back to the basics. Not only is it a type of race we’ve been running since a young age, but it takes out all the other distractions. It doesn’t matter what the course is like, what the conditions are, how fast a particular person has run for 10K on the track, etc. The first person across the line wins, and in cross-country it’s often a surprise.”

Just like in the NY marathon.

The New York City Marathon will happen on November 6. Details are available, here>>

The 2017 USATF Cross Country Championships will take place in Bend, Oregon on the Rivers Edge Golf Course.