NYC Marathon Men — A Near-PR For Korir

Albert Korir was just 19 seconds shy of the lifetime best he set in winning the ’19 Ottawa Marathon. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, November 07 — Up against a field that included this year’s Olympic silver medalist, the half-marathon WR holder and one of the greatest distance runners of all time, Albert Korir came out on top in the 50th running of the TCS New York City Marathon.

The runner-up when this race was last held in ’19, the 27-year-old Kenyan played a patient game for an hour and a half before finally starting to roll, pulling away in the final 10K to win in 2:08:22. It was his first World Marathon Major title after victories in smaller marathons in Ottawa, Houston and Vienna earlier in his career.

Morocco’s Mohamed Reda El Aaraby (2:09:06) and Italy’s Eyob Faniel (2:09:52) had broken away from the field early, but maintained their momentum after being reeled in to grab the other two spots on the podium.

Behind them, American veteran Elkanah Kibet was the surprise 4th-place finisher, just ahead of Olympic runner-up Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands and Ethiopian great Kenenisa Bekele, a 3-time Olympic gold medalist on the track and history’s second-fastest marathoner (2:01:41). Kenyan Kibiwott Kandie, the WR holder in the half with his astonishing 57:32 from last year, was 9th in his debut over 26.2M.

Despite ideal conditions (temperature in the low 40s and minimal wind), the early going was unremarkable, with the pack passing 5K in 15:35 and 10 in 30:43. Shortly afterwards, El Aaraby and Faniel surged ahead, with Bekele briefly covering the move before drifting back to the pack.

The unlikely leaders were coming off the Olympic marathon just 3 months earlier (El Aaraby was 11th and Faniel took 20th in Sapporo) and looked to be well recovered. They split the next 10K in 29:47, then came through halfway in 1:03:57, leading the chase group by 51 seconds.

Kandie, Korir and Kibet broke away from the pack over the Queensboro Bridge heading into Manhattan just before 25K to begin their pursuit of the leaders. Korier and Kandie pushed the next 5K in 14:11 to drop Kibet and finally draw even with El Aaraby and Faniel.

At 20M Korir had surged to the front, 6 seconds up on Kandie (who had been dealing with a knee injury for much of the year), and the race was effectively over. Though he appeared to struggle, Korir maintained his composure and completed his solo effort, missing his PR by just 19 seconds as he leapt across the finish line.

“The pack was getting big, but we tried to push with Kandie,” he said of the decisive move, which ultimately secured him a $100,000 payday. “At a certain point we saw we could close and we closed it. At a certain point Kandie dropped, and I kept going.”

The Kenyan-born Kibet, a naturalized U.S. citizen since ’13 and a first lieutenant in the Army, accomplished his pre-race goal of finishing first among Americans to secure a spot in next year’s World Championships in Eugene. (He’s previously run the marathon at the last two Worlds.)

“I was going to hang with the lead guys and stay with them,” he said of his simple strategy. “The two guys broke away and I tried to close the gap. But I was like, ‘OK, let me let them go.’ After [Korir and Kandie] dropped me I was able to just maintain my pace following them.”

The 38-year-old Auburn grad finished in 2:11:15, trimming 16 seconds off his PR, run in 15 on the much-faster Chicago course. After finishing 16th at the OT, he spent the first year of the pandemic working full time for the Army as a financial management technician at Ft. Carson in Colorado, but rejoined the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) this spring.

Nageeye (2:11:39) crossed the line next, well clear of the 39-year-old Bekele (2:12:52), who was just 6 weeks removed from a 3rd-place-finish at the Berlin Marathon.

Veteran Ben True, making his marathon debut at 35, closed fast and was just a single second back in 7th (moving up from 13th at 35K). Fellow Americans Nathan Martin (8th in 2:12:57) and Jared Ward (10th in 2:14:06) sandwiched Kandie (2:13:43 PR), who struggled over the final miles, including an agonizing 18:36 split between 35K and 40K.

“I didn’t know what to expect coming in,” said True, who finished 4th in the 10,000 at the Olympic Trials in June. “I may have gone a little conservative at the beginning, a little too much. I had a lot of ground to try to make up at the end, but got the first one under the belt. Hopefully I can learn a lot from it and come back.”

1. Albert Korir (Ken) 2:08:22; 2. Mohamed Reda el Aaraby (Mor) 2:09:06 PR; 3. Eyob Ghebrehiwet Faniel (Ita) 2:09:52; 4. Elkanah Kibet (US) 2:11:15 PR; 5. Abdi Nageeye (Neth) 2:11:39; 6. Kenenisa Bekele (Eth) 2:12:52; 7. Ben True (US) 2:12:53 PR (debut); 8. Nathan Martin (US) 2:12:57; 9. Kibiwott Kandie (Ken) 2:13:43 PR; 10. Jared Ward (US) 2:14:06; 11. Patricio Castillo (Mex) 2:14:11; 12. John Raneri (US) 2:15.36; 13. Akira Tomoyasu (Jpn) 2:16:39; 14. Shadrack Biwott (US) 2:16:50; 15. Thijs Nijhuis (Den) 2:17:25; 16. Ryan Archer (US) 2:18:57;… 19. Brian Shrader (US) 2:21:55.