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Ramaala ready for action

Former New York City marathon winner and four-time Olympian Hendrick Ramaala’s prospects for the race in the Big Apple this weekend improved when Kenyan favourite Martin Lel was forced to withdraw with a leg injury.┬á

Lel was expected to be a strong contender for a third New York crown and he had been Ramaala’s tip ÔÇô apart from himself, that is.

However, Ramaala, who finished a lowly 44th in last year’s Beijing Olympic Marathaon, still has an uphill task. The field includes the defending champion and two-time winner Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil, two-time World Championship marathon winner Jaouad Gharib of Morocco, four-time Boston Marathon champion Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya and American Meb Keflezighi.

At 37, Ramaala is one of the oldies among the leading runners in the field in what will be his seventh New York City Marathon. He won the 2004 event and feels that he neds to throw down the gauntlet to the opposition if he is to repeat that success and go out hard from the start. It amounts to a huge gamble. ÔÇ£It is the only way I win the big races. I’ve always struggled, but would prefer that instead of running other people’s races. I am not the kind of guy who likes to wait for other guys to make moves. When I’m in good shape, I initiate the moves. I run according to the way I feel. If I feel good, say at 10k, 15k, or 25k, I’ll make a move.┬á

ÔÇ£After 32k, we are all tired. It’s very hard to make a move at that time. We are all just hanging on. At that point, you are just hoping that the other guys fall back. For me, that is not the way to go. I make moves when I am still strong, which is usually just after halfway. I want to make a move when I am at my strongest, not when the other guy is at his strongest. Guys like Sammy Wanjiru, you can’t break them near the finish. You have to make them work hard early. If you hope they fade at the end, you hope for nothing.┬á

Those guys are very hard to beat.┬á They won’t give up. You can wish or pray, but it’s not going to happen. Those guys come to races well, well prepared ÔÇô guys like Jaouad Gharib. They train so hard; they are ready for any eventualities, ready for anything. You better make your move when you are still strong. You have to get them tired early and run away at the end, so that the last few kilometres are just survival of the fittest. I’ve won races that way,ÔÇØ Ramaala said.