Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei and Geoffrey Kamworor reigned supreme at the TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday (3), an IAAF Gold Label road race.
In a race without pacemakers, which featured a steady early pace in both men’s and women’s races, it was always likely to favour those with the fastest half marathon speed and in that realm, no one in history could rival Kamworor or Jepkosgei.
The half marathon world record-holders stamped their supremacy in the final 5km of their respective races as they charged into Central Park where Jepkosgei hit the line in 2:22:38 and Kamworor in 2:08:13.
It marked a magnificent marathon debut for Jepkosgei, the 25-year-old who set the half marathon world record at 1:04:51 in 2017.
On what was a perfect day for running in the Big Apple, with cool temperatures and bright blue skies, the early pace in the women’s race was steady. Sinead Diver and Desiree Linden were among the few willing to take turns at the front to keep things ticking along and shortly after the 10km mark – reached in 34:08 – Linden surged clear, building a lead of 13 seconds at one stage. However, she was reeled in approaching halfway, with Ethiopia's Ruti Aga leading a group of five past that point in 1:11:39.
Linden and Kiprop dropped off the pace soon after, with a 5:16 mile leaving Keitany, Aga and Jepkosgei at the front. The three ran in unison off the Queensboro Bridge as they made the right-hand turn on to First Avenue. They hit 30km in 1:41:47, 20 miles in 1:49:05, and by then there were two at the front: Keitany and Jepkosgei.
They ran stride-for-stride through 22 miles and that was when the first signs of distress emerged for Keitany, with Jepkosgei pulling out several seconds as she ran down Fifth Avenue towards Central Park. A 5:17 penultimate mile extended her lead to 27 seconds over Keitany and from there the advantage only grew, Jepkosgei charging uphill to the finish to cross the line in 2:22:38, just seven seconds shy of the long-standard course record set in 2003 by Margaret Okayo.
Keitany added to her fine record in New York with a runner-up finish in 2:23:32, while Aga took third with 2:25:51. Kenya’s Nancy Kiprop took fourth with 2:26:21, with Diver fifth in 2:26:23.
“I was very proud to make my debut here in New York,” said Jepkosgei. “I was not nervous about my debut. Through all the steps I didn’t have any pressure and I was running my own ace. At long last I (have) become a winner. I did not know I would win but I was trying my best to finish strong.”
In the men’s race, Ethiopia’s Shura Kitata set his stall out early, clocking a swift 5:02 uphill mile to start the race. A series of surges followed over the miles that followed, but none was decisive and a leading group of 18 athletes passed 10km in 30:32.
The first major casualty came after mile seven, when defending champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia stepped off the course, the race coming just 29 days after he took gold in the marathon at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019. Kitata continued to inject surges and ran 30 to 40 metres ahead of the pack as he approached halfway, which was reached in 1:04:49.
But by then the pack had re-formed, with 14 athletes running together at the front. A strong move followed shortly before 15 miles from Australia’s Brett Robinson, who built a 10-second lead as the runners traversed the Queensboro Bridge. As they approached Manhattan the pack reeled him in, and a dozen athletes ran up First Avenue together with all the major players keeping their powder dry for the final stages.
There were still 12 athletes in the lead pack as 30km was reached in 1:32:25. By 35km that pack was reduced to five: Kamworor, Kitata, Albert Korir, Girma Bekele Gebre and Tamirat Tola.
Tola dropped a 4:36 mile with five miles to run to make Kitata the first casualty in the group, and only with three miles to go did Kamworor first show his hand, his 4:40 mile over the rolling hills of Central Park pulling him six seconds clear with two miles to run. He followed that up with a 4:31 mile and by then the damage was done, Kamworor well on his way to reclaiming the title he first won in 2017.
He hit the finish in 2:08:13, 23 seconds clear of Kenyan compatriot Albert Korir, who in turn was two seconds clear of Gebre. The third-placed finisher provided one of the upsets of the day given the Ethiopian has no agent or shoe sponsor and had lined up at a different start line to the elites after entering the event in the open category. Tola claimed fourth in 2:09:20 with Kitata taking fifth in 2:10:39.
“I was ready for anything,” said Kamroror. “The last few years the race went so fast and I just stuck with the others (this time) and at 24 miles I decided it was time to go. I was feeling strong and I had no problem throughout the race. It was a good one for me.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF
1 Geoffrey Kamworor (KEN) 2:08:13
2 Albert Korir (KEN) 2:08:36
3 Girma Bekele Gebre (ETH) 2:08:38
4 Tamirat Tola (ETH) 2:09:20
5 Shura Kitata (ETH) 2:10:39
1 Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) 2:22:38
2 Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:23:32
3 Ruti Aga (ETH) 2:25:51
4 Nancy Kiprop (KEN) 2:26:21
5 Sinead Diver (AUS) 2:26:23