Celebrities Steal Thunder of New York Marathon

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Nearman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

NEW YORK - A fellow journalist sarcastically said this to me at Friday's press conference for the New York City Marathon at the trendy Tavern on the Green in Central Park: "The New York Road Runners ought to hire somebody just to be their 'celebrity runner coordinator.'"

At the front of the room was Lance Armstrong, following a cast of stars which included supermodel Kim Alexis, seven-time Olympic medalist Shannon Miller and Tom Cavanagh, the former star of the TV series "Ed."

Also in the room were Catherine Ndereba, Jelena Prokopcuka, Lornah Kiplagat, Stefano Baldini, Tom Nyariki and Ernst Van Dyk.

No doubt, the journalists were interested in Ndereba, two-time New York runner-up and the most dominant women's marathoner of the decade. They also huddled around Baldini, the reigning Olympic marathon champion and a contender here today in his fourth New York marathon.

But the buzz was about Lance, you know, seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor. How fast will he run? What's this LanceCam all about? What is he thinking right now? How is his training going? What will he do if he gets a flat? Scratch that.

To say that the 37th running of the New York City Marathon has become all about Lance may be an exaggeration, but not by much. Ask anybody on the street, even if they aren't involved in some fashion with the marathon, which famous runner is running today and the answer is almost unanimous Lance.

There are billboards with his likeliness. Every paper you pick up has an article about him. The current issue of Runner's World dons Lance's picture on the cover, just below the banner "LANCE VS. THE MARATHON." Message boards on runners' Web sites banter endlessly about him.

And now, you can even log onto the largest sports betting site on the internet PinnacleSports.com and bet for or against Lance in his first and certainly only marathon. It's like putting your money where your mouth is.

Knowing Lance's competitive nature, the oddsmakers list his chances finishing the race as an overwhelming 1/4 favorite. Meanwhile, the odds that Lance will not finish the marathon stand as a 7/2 long shot. They also have created an over/under line on his finishing time 3:10, although Lance did say at Friday's press conference: "If I broke three hours, I'd be content. …