New York City, New York, November 04—On his fifth try, 28-year-old Lelisa Desisa finally got to the top of the podium in the TCS New York City Marathon. The victory came with no shortage of drama, as he held off fellow Ethiopian Shura Kitata in a sprint finish over the final quartermile. Already a 2-time winner in Boston (’13 & ’15), Desisa had previously finished 2nd in New York in ’14 and was 3rd in ’15 & ’17, split by a DNF in ’16.
Kitata, a 22-year-old who had PRed at 2:04:49 in finishing 2nd in London, had been the race’s early provocateur, gently tugging the field through the opening half. The pace gradually quickened over 5Ks of 15:43, 15:05, 14:59 and 14:52. At the midway point (1:03:55) only 5 remained in contention: Desisa, Kitata and their countryman Tamirat Tola, plus Kenyans Geoffrey Kamworor (the defending champion), and Festus Talam. As the pace continued to drop, the group covered the distance between 25K and 30K in 14:36, and by 20M Talam fell behind. Two miles later Tola had lost contact and soon Kitata drifted back as well.
In miles 24 and 25 Kamworor led Desisa through Central Park and appeared poised to replicate the decisive surge that brought him the title a year ago. But just past the 2-hour mark, Desisa, the silver medalist from the ’13 World Championships, jumped out to the front as both men simultaneously threw off their hats in dramatic fashion.
Out of the park and down Central Park South, Desisa appeared to have the race in hand as Kamworor continued to fade. Suddenly Kitata found a second wind and came charging back into the picture. As they entered the park for the final time, Desisa turned around and did a double take when he realized it was Kitata and not Kamworor gaining ground. For a moment, as they passed the 26-mile marker on an uphill climb to the tape, it looked like Kitata’s closing rush would be enough to overtake the lead, but Desisa responded decisively and crossed the line celebrating in 2:05:59, followed by Kitata (2:06:01) and Kamworor (2:06:26) as the trio clocked the courses Nos. 2-3-4 times ever. The course record remains Geoffrey Mutai’s 2:05:05 from ’11. Before this year only two men had ever broken 2:07 in New York.
Desisa admitted that he was intimidated when he realized that Kitata had worked his way back into contention. “He’s a strong guy, as you saw in the morning,” he said. “And when we train together, he’s a fighter. Because of that, I was afraid.” He scored a $100,000 paycheck for the win, plus an additional $45,000 for breaking 2:06.
A quartet of Americans landed in the top 10: Jared Ward (6th, 2:12:24), Scott Fauble (7th, 2:12:28 PR), Shadrack Biwott (9th, 2:12:52) and Chris Derrick (10th, 2:13:08). Track legend Bernard Lagat, making his marathon debut at age 43, finished 18th in 2:17:20 after going through the first half in 1:06:06. Leg cramps reduced his pace to 5:40-plus over the final miles. “Now I tested it. It’s not bad,” said Lagat, who won his first Olympic 1500 medal way back in ’00. “I ran 2:17 my first one, and now when I go back, I know how to train really well for it and hopefully come over here and then improve as I go forward. They say that once you run one marathon, it’s addictive. I hope I can get that and come back to New York once more.”
NY CITY MARATHON MEN’S RESULTS
World Marathon Major; New York, New York, November 04 (point-to-point)—
1. Lelisa Desisa (Eth) 2:05:59; 2. Shura Kitata (Eth) 2:06:01; 3. Geoffrey Kamworor (Ken) 2:06:26; 4. Tamirat Tola (Eth) 2:08:30; 5. Daniel Wanjiru (Ken) 2:10:21; 6. Jared Ward (US) 2:12:24; 7. Scott Fauble (US) 2:12:28 PR; 8. Festus Talam (Ken) 2:12:40; 9. Shadrack Biwott (US) 2:12:52; 10. Chris Derrick (US) 2:13:08; 11. Juan Luis Barrios (Mex) 2:13:55; 12. Tadesse Yae (Eth) 2:13:57; 13. Tim Ritchie (US) 2:15:22; 14. Ryan Vail (US) 2:15:31; 15. Jonny Mellor (GB) 2:16:09; 16. Harbert Okuti (Uga) 2:16:51 PR; 17. Scott Smith (US) 2:17:12; 18. Bernard Lagat (US) 2:17:20 PR (debut); 19. Girma Bekele (Eth) 2:18:18; 2. Birhanu Dare (Eth) 2:18:20. □