NEW YORK, NEW YORK, November 07 — Just 13 weeks after winning Olympic gold Peres Jepchirchir showed no signs of fatigue from that hot and humid ordeal, using a dominating sprint to claim the TCS New York City Marathon on a cool and crisp sunny morning. The 28-year-old Kenyan pulled away from countrywoman Viola Cheptoo to secure the victory in 2:22:39, missing the course record on the challenging 5-borough route by just 8 seconds.
Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh finished 3rd, while Olympic bronze medalist Molly Seidel capped a stellar year by placing 4th. A quartet of other Americans — Kellyn Taylor (6th), Annie Frisbie (7th), Laura Thweatt (8th) and Stephanie Bruce (10th) — packed in the top 10.
This was the 50th running of the iconic race, which was first held in ’70 (the event was cancelled in ’12 following Hurricane Sandy and again last year due to the pandemic). With temperatures in the low 40s (c5C), a large pack began tentatively over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connecting Staten Island to Brooklyn.
The early stages could have been mistaken for a U.S. championship race with Seidel, Taylor, Thweatt, Sally Kipyego and debutante Frisbie all part of a group of 10 runners at the halfway point (1:12:43). But once the race moved into Manhattan after 25K, the Africans took over. From 30K to 35K, the eventual podium finishers split 16:19 to make a decisive break from the field. Ethiopian Ruti Aga was 4th, followed by Seidel.
Said Seidel, “My goal was just to just hang with the lead pack as long as I could and know that I belong there.”
The leading trio ran in lockstep through the final miles, and Cheptoo, making her 26.2M debut at age 32, relied on the more experienced Jepchirchir for guidance. “I just kept talking to Peres and asking her, could you please help me until at least 35K?” she revealed. “She was really nice enough to just go with me. Then when it came to Central Park South [the 25th mile] she told me to just hold on a little longer… She was encouraging me to keep pushing and end up in a good position.”
That collegiality went by the wayside in the final half mile, when Jepchirchir blasted ahead at Columbus Circle as they reentered Central Park for the final climb to the tape. Cheptoo, a Rio Olympian in the 1500 (and a sister of Bernard Lagat), gamely tried to match the pace, but she couldn’t make a dent in the initial cushion her countrywoman had established.
Jepchirchir’s 2:22:39 is the third-fastest clocking in event history and her 5-second win equaled the fourth-smallest margin of victory in race history. “The weather was good,” she said. “The challenges were the up and down [over the many hills and bridges] and the hard course.” Cheptoo (2:22:44) and Yeshaneh (2:22:52) produced the Nos. 4 & 6 times ever in the race.
In addition to her Olympic gold, Jepchirchir has proven her championship chops by winning a pair of world titles in the half, in ’16 and ’20. After taking a few weeks off after her Sapporo victory, she slowly ramped up training for the year’s final World Marathon Major. “It was a great opportunity for me,” said Jepchirchir, who earned $100,000 for the win. “Preparation was short, but I tried my best to see if I can fix my own preparation.”
Behind the podium finishers, Seidel found herself running alone over the final miles after Aga dropped out. The Notre Dame grad revealed that she broke two ribs a month ago (though she declined to specify exactly how), which she said compromised her training. “Even though I was hurting I was able to go out and make those moves and stick with the leaders as long as I could,” she said.
Her 2:24:42 lowered the PR of 2:25:13 she set in London last year. This was just her fourth try at the distance, but she has already proven she has gotten the hang of it. “I feel like every single marathon has been vastly different,” said Seidel, who finished 2nd at the Olympic Trials in her debut last year. “This is really different from the previous three that I’ve done. It feels like every time I’m learning something new.”
Shalane Flanagan, who won this race in ’17 but has since retired, ran with the masses, part of her “Project Eclipse” tour of the five World Marathon Majors held this fall (plus a virtual race for the still-postponed Tokyo). She finished first among the open women in 2:33:34, which would have placed her 12th among the elites.
1. Peres Jepchirchir (Ken) 2:22:39; 2. Violah Lagat (Ken) 2:22:44 PR (debut); 3. Ababel Yeshaneh (Eth) 2:22:52; 4. Molly Seidel (US) 2:24:42 PR (11, x A); 5. Helalia Johannes (Nam) 2:26:09; 6. Kellyn Taylor (US) 2:26:10; 7. Annie Frisbie (US) 2:26:18 PR (debut); 8. Laura Thweatt (US) 2:27:00; 9. Grace Kahura (Ken) 2:30:32 PR; 10. Stephanie Bruce (US) 2:31:05; 11. Lanni Marchant (Can) 2:32:54; 12. Haruka Yamaguchi (Jpn) 2:34:04; 13. Andrea Soraya Limon (Mex) 2:34:51; 14. Hanna Lindholm (Swe) 2:35:54;… dnf—Sally Kipyego (US).
Open Race: 1. Shalane Flanagan (US) 2:33:32.