Kenya completed a men’s and women’s double at the 50th New York City Marathon Sunday with Albert Korir and Peres Jepchirchir chalking up impressive victories at Central Park.
Olympic champion Jepchirchir became the first runner to win Olympic and New York Marathon titles in the same year when she fell just outside compatriot Margaret Okayo’s course record (2:22:31 set in 2003) by just eight seconds, winning in two hours, 22 minutes and 39 seconds.
Korir, second here in 2019, punched the air as he breasted the tape to win the elite men’s race in 2:08:22, a 44-second gap on second-placed Moroccan Mohamed El Aaraby, the first Moroccan to finish on the podium since 2009.
The race wasn’t run last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Making her marathon debut, Viola Cheptoo Lagat – who has steadily moved up from the 1,500m - was an impressive second in 2:22:44.
Viola has been vocal against gender-based violence and was the lead voice in the campaign following the recent murder of former world cross country champion Agnes Jebet Tirop.
Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh (2:22:52) and Italy’s Eyob Faniel (2:09:52) took the final podium places in the women’s and men’s races.
“I thank God I finished the season well after winning the Olympic title (in Tokyo). The time to prepare was short after the Olympics, but I prepared well and I’m so happy today,” Jepchirchir said at the finish line interviews.
“The course isn’t bad, but it’s not easy. Towards the finish line, I felt like I’ve never felt before but I thank God that I got the energy from I don’t know where to finish,” she noted, describing the hill towards the Central Park finish line.
Korir was equally elated after improving from second place behind compatriot Geoffrey Kamworor in 2019 to winning.
“I’m happy to win. It wasn’t an easy race but I enjoyed it,” he said.
“You know there are no pacemakers so you have to push. The weather was great and so I tried to push the pace.”
At the midway stage of the men’s race, Geoffrey Mutai’s course record (2:05:05 set in 2011) looked pretty safe with race leaders Eyob Faniel of Italy and Morocco’s Mohamed El Aaraby crossing 21-kilometre mark in 63:57 and headed for a projected finish time of 2:07:54.
Korir, second here in 2019, a year he won the Houston and Ottawa marathons, then threw down the gauntlet at kilometre 32, the 2019 runner-up crossing the 32km mark in 1:37:19.
“Baba Alan” averaged 4:47 per mile and never relented.
The much trumpeted attack on the course record by Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele failed to materialise with the second fastest marathoner ever finishing a disappointing sixth in 2:12:52 after being dropped by the leaders midway the race.
World half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie, making his marathon debut, finished ninth in 2:13:43.
In the women’s race, Olympic champion Jepchirchir, along with Ababel Yeshaneh, 14th at the Tokyo Games, and 2019 Tokyo Marathon champion Ruti Aga, broke away from the pack going into kilometre 30 into The Bronx after American Annie Frisbie had led the pack through 21km in 1:12:43.
With her brother and five-time Olympian Bernard Lagat in the WABC-TV/ABC7 TV commentary booth, Viola then shifted gears to join Jepchirchir and Ababel in the lead, going through kilometre 35 in 1:59:02.
Bernard Lagat, 46, along with American record holder Deena Kastor had joined fellow Olympian Carrie Tollefson as part of the race’s broadcast team of the race aired live on ABC7/WABC-TV in the New York City area and on ESPN2 nationwide.
With the race headed for a three-way sprint, Viola was always bidding to use her 1,500m speed against Jepchirchir and Ababel’s marathon experience.
But the Olympic champion made the decisive move in Central Park with the brilliant Viola in hot pursuit to win in the race’s third fastest time.
In the men’s wheelchair division, Switzerland’s “Silver Bullet” Marcel Hug crowned a most successful season by winning the race in 1:31:24.
Australia’s Madison de Rozario won the women’s wheelchair race in 1:51:01 with USA’s Tatyana McFadden (1:53:59) second and Switzerland’s Manuela Schar (1:54:02) third.
Hug, 35, won four gold medals at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, including a second straight gold in the marathon, his other triumphs coming in the 800, 1,500 and 5,000 metres races.
His victory in New York also earned him the 2021 World Marathon Majors overall title.
“I just went as fast as possible from the beginning,” Hug said.
“It was a really tough season with all these marathons and the Paralympics but it’s fantactic to win all these titles and to be back in New York – it's fantastic.”
Leading results from the 50th New York City Marathon:
1. Albert Korir (Kenya) 2:08:22
2. Mohamed El Aaraby (Morocco) 2:09:06
3. Eyob Faniel (Italy) 2:09:52
4. Elkanah Kibet (USA) 2:11:15
5. Abdi Nageeye (Netherlands) 2:11:39)
6. Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) 2:12:52
7. Ben True (USA) 2:12:53
8. Nathan Martin (USA) 2:12:57
9. Kibiwott Kandie (Kenya) 2:13:43
10. Jared Ward (USA) 2:14:06
1. Peres Jepchirchir (Kenya) 2:22:39
2. Violah Cheptoo Lagat (Kenya) 2:22:44
3. Ababel Yeshaneh (Ethiopia) 2:22:52
4. Molly Siedel (USA) 2:24:42
5. Helalia Yohannes (Namibia) 2:26:09
6. Kellyn Taylor (USA) 2:26:10
7. Annie Frisbie (USA) 2:26:18
8. Laura Thweatt (USA) 2:27:00
9. Grace Kahura (Kenya) 2:30:32
10. Stephanie Bruce (USA) 2:31:05
1. Marcel Hug (Switzerland) 1:31:24
2. David Weir (Great Britain) 1:38:01
3. Daniel Romanchuk (USA) 1:38:22
4. Josh Cassidy (Canada) 1:40:38
5. Ernest Van Dyk (South Africa) 1:41:51
1. Madison de Rozario (Australia) 1:51:01
2. Tatyana McFadden (USA) 1:53:59
3. Manuela Schar (Switzerland) 1:54:02
4. Jenna Fesemyer (USA) 1:59:45
5. Vanessa de Souza (Brazil) 1:59:45