Monday’s edition of The Daily Star featured a name perhaps familiar to local residents, found in a news story about an event familiar to people across the country.
Girma Bekele Gebre placed third in the New York City Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 3, coming from the sub-elite category to shock the racing world by beating many of the world’s best runners.
His improbably high finish produced headlines in Newsday and The New York Times, but it was not his first time appearing in The Daily Star. He last appeared in the Oct. 5, 2018, edition after winning the 25th Pit Run.
“I think it says a lot about how the organizers (of the Pit Run) get people up here to run and the work they do. It’s pretty cool,” 2019 Pit Run champion and longtime competitor Michael Hamilton said. “That guy is a world class athlete so it’s cool that he came here and won it. I was watching it and they said he had a PR (personal record), but I didn’t realize it was the same guy.”
Gebre, 26, finished in 2:08:38, just 25 seconds behind winner Geoffrey Kamworor. He had missed the 2019 Pit Run, according to the Times, because he spent the last few months training at altitude in his home country, Ethiopia. When he is in the United States, he typically lives in New York and trains with the West Side Runners Club, which has a history of sending elite athletes to Oneonta for its early October race.
“This time, because I prepared at home at altitude, I was very well prepared, and I expected to run a better time,” Gebre said in a Newsday story.
He also said he was hoping to get an agent. The exposure from reaching the podium, and the resulting $40,000 purse, are potentially momentuous developments for Gebre, whose club declined to enter him in the race’s elite division.
“I don’t have a sponsor,” he said in The Times’ story. “I don’t have an agent. I just compete individually.”
After the 2018 Pit Run, Gebre and teammates from the West Side Runners piled into a mini van to return to New York. That day, Gebre said through a teammate acting as a translator that he enjoyed the event, but was a professional and was also glad to win. He took home $500.
Gebre’s Pit Run victory saw him finish in 31:03, totaling 5:00 per mile. That mark was 1:10 off the course record of 29:53, set in 2013 by Haile Mengesha, also of West Side Runners.
While local residents may have a new rooting interest in international distance events, it’s unclear whether Gebre will return to Oneonta. He said that he did not know when or where he would race again, and plans to return to Ethiopia soon.