NEW YORK CITY, March 19 — Jacob Kiplimo and Hellen Obiri both waited until after 15K to make decisive moves that locked up wins at the United Airlines NYC Half-Marathon on a frigid and blustery morning. With temperatures hovering at freezing at the start and a stiff headwind that plagued runners nearly the entire way, conditions were less than ideal on a course that featured a series of challenging hills as it made its way from Brooklyn to Manhattan.
Obiri, defending champion Senbere Teferi of Ethiopia, Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal of Norway, Dian van Es of the Netherlands and Jessica Warner-Judd of Great Britain immediately separated themselves from the rest of the pro women’s field, which got a 12-minute head start on the pro men and the masses in Brooklyn. After a cautious first mile, the pace soon dipped below 5:00/mile and by 5K (15:50) Obiri and Teferi had dropped the other trio.
They continued together at 10K, with Obiri always a step ahead and Teferi trailing at her heels. As they worked their way up the FDR Drive in Manhattan, Obiri finally took control in the 8th mile, and at 15K (47:29) she had a 7-second lead. From there she continued to extend her margin, and she crossed the Central Park finishline in 67:21, breaking Teferi’s course record by 14 seconds.
“I said to myself, just be patient at least until after 10K. Because in a half-marathon if you go too early you might not be able to finish well,” said Obiri, who has a pair of WC 5000 titles to go with one in cross country. “I just wanted to wait and after 15K I made my move.”
Obiri, who is coached by Dathan Ritzenhein in Boulder, wasn’t thrilled with the weather, but knew her strength on hills would be a decisive factor. “This shows I’m in very good shape,” she noted.
Teferi (67:55) was nearly 2:00 clear of 3rd-place finisher Grøvdal (69:53), followed by van Els (70:43). Des Linden (72:21) showed her characteristic patience to move up from 10th at 15K to grab 5th at the end, ahead of Dakotah Lindwurm (72:25) and Molly Huddle (72:27).
The prerace men’s hype focused on Ugandan stars Kiplimo, the world record holder (57:31), who was fresh off a world XC title 4 weeks earlier, and Joshua Cheptegei, the 2-time world track 10,000 champ, but they were barely visible on camera in the opening miles.
At the start, Brit Chris Thompson, who turns 42 in April, sprinted out to the front and by 5K (15:00) he lead a pack of 18 by 14 seconds. Eventually the chasers woke up and slowly ate into the lead. At 10K, Thompson (30:10) was only 2 seconds ahead, and within minutes he had been swallowed up.
Edward Cheserek of Kenya and Andy Butchart of Great Britain took turns at the front, with Zouhair Talbi of Morocco, Kennedy Kimutai of Kenya, Kiplimo and Cheptegei close behind. By 15K (44:35), it was down to the Ugandan pair and Talbi, who racked up NAIA titles over the past two years at Oklahoma City University.
Cutting across 42nd Street in the 10th mile, Kiplimo began to open a lead that Cheptegei was unable to cover. At 20K, Kiplimo (58:28) was 28 seconds ahead, and he extended that to 38 seconds by the finish, clocking 61:31.
“After 15K I knew I was going to try to push the pace,” said Kiplimo, who used a similar tactic to win the cross title Down Under, where Cheptegei had taken bronze. “The course was somewhat tough, it was up and down, but it was not too bad. Today was cold and a bit uncomfortable, quite different from Australia, which was similar to home.”
Cheptegei (62:09), the WR holder in the 5000 and 10,000, seemed pleased with his effort. “I’m still learning the half marathon,” he said after only his second time racing the distance.
Talbi (62:18), who is prepping for his 26.2M debut in Boston in April, held 3rd, while American Ben True (62:57), who is also racing on Patriots’ Day, outkicked Cheserek (62:58) and Butchart (62:58) in the final kilometer to take 4th.
“Today, I was always seeing it as a workout, my goal is to run Boston,” True said. “I was very fortunate that it was a very slow race because of the wind and the cold, so I was able to stick around for the whole time.”
Galen Rupp (64:57) had lost contact with the leaders before 10K and struggled home 17th, one place and 25 seconds behind early leader Thompson (64:32).
Obiri and Kiplimo each took home $20,000 for their victories.
Men’s Top 10
1. Jacob Kiplimo (Uga) 61:31 ($20,000); 2. Joshua Cheptegei (Uga) 62:09; 3. Zouhair Talbi (Mor) 62:18; 4. Ben True (US) 62:57; 5. Ed Cheserek (Ken) 62:58; 6. Andrew Butchart (GB) 62:58; 7. Nico Montañez (US) 63:00; 8. Reed Fischer (US) 63:02; 9. Frank Lara (US) 63:07; 10. Teshome Mekonen (US) 63:08.
Women’s Top 10
1. Hellen Obiri (Ken) 67:21 ($20,000); 2. Senbere Teferi (Eth) 67:55; 3. Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal (Nor) 69:53; 4. Dian van Es (Neth) 70:43; 5. Des Linden (US) 72:21; 6. Dakotah Lindwurm (US) 72:25; 7. Molly Huddle (US) 72:27; 8. Natasha Wodak (Can) 72:33; 9. Jeralyn Poe (US) 72:46; 10. Erika Kemp (US) 73:18. ◻︎