NYC Women’s Marathon — Obiri Triumphs In Second Try

Hellen Obiri’s marathon debut at New York ’22 featured “a lot of mistakes.” Now the ’23 Boston winner has conquered the Big Apple. (KEVIN MORRIS)

NEW YORK CITY, November 05 — A year ago, there was a wave of hype surrounding Hellen Obiri’s debut over 26.2-miles at the TCS New York City Marathon. Big things were expected from the Kenyan star, a world champion on the track, indoors and outdoors, and in cross country. Alas, she struggled with fueling and strategy and ultimately finished 6th. One year later, she had clearly learned her lessons, winning a thrilling duel over Letesenbet Gidey to take the title in an unexpectedly slow and measured race.

This year marked the twentieth anniversary of Margaret Okayo’s course record of 2:22:31 from 2003, and given the quality of the field it seemed that mark was vulnerable. Instead, the race became a tactical affair, with the slowest winning time since 2010. But nobody comes to New York to set records, as was evident by the splits for the first 20 miles over the challenging, hilly course.

“In New York we don’t [care] about the time, it’s all about winning the race,” said Obiri of the pedestrian pace.

Eleven women hit 5K in 17:23, with Kellyn Taylor setting the early tempo. The American had a 2-second lead at 10K (34:35), and after her countrywoman Molly Huddle briefly took a turn up front the pack tightened as the pace lagged. At halfway, the group (still 11 strong) clocked an unremarkable 1:14:21.

From there, things only got slower. The 5K splits between 20K and 30K (18:19 and 18:27) pushed the expected winning time over 2:30, a barrier last unbroken in New York in 1990. At one point it appeared that the professional men, who started 25 minutes behind the women and were on a blistering pace, might catch them and create a chaotic finish.

Instead, Taylor finally made the first substantial move, covering the 21st mile in 5:30. That thinned out the contenders slightly, with 8 women remaining in contention: Taylor, Obiri, 10,000 and half-marathon World Record holder Gidey and a group of Kenyans: defending champion Sharon Lokedi, former World Record holder Brigid Kosgei, Viola Cheptoo, Mary Ngugi and Edna Kiplagat.

(Reigning Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir was planning to be in the field and was in town, but scratched the day before the race due to a lower-leg injury she sustained the previous week.)

Cheptoo attempted to gap the field in the 23rd mile with a 5:03 split, but Obiri and Gidey quickly covered the move. Dropped virtually out of contact were Lokedi — who struggled with an injury earlier in the year and had only raced once in ’23 — and Kosgei, who hadn’t finished a marathon in a year and a half.

Taylor couldn’t match the pace and would finish 8th in 2:29:48, the top American. “This year it just seemed to kind of lag, and I just found myself in front quite a bit,” she said of her first marathon since giving birth to a daughter last December. “Then started to fall back a little bit because it seemed like we were just kind of playing a game. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hang with them that last 10K, but I put myself in it.”

Lokedi rallied to rejoin the leaders as the pace continued to drop. Obiri, Gidey and Lokedi covered the 5K segment 35–40K in 15:59. Kosgei passed Cheptoo to move into 4th but could not make up ground on the others.

The leading trio hit Columbus Circle together in the final mile. Obiri turned on the jets as they entered Central Park for the long climb to the finish and quickly put the race away. She looked behind frequently, but each time Gidey was falling a little bit farther back.

Obiri covered the final mile in a scorching 4:52 and hit the tape 6 seconds clear of Gidey in 2:27:23, becoming the first woman to win New York and Boston in the same year since Ingrid Kristiansen in 1989. Though Obiri’s winning time was the slowest since Edna Kiplagat’s 2:28:20 in 2010, her finish was so formidable that her 40K-to-the-finish split, 6:39, was 11 seconds faster than course-record-setting men’s winner Tamirat Tola.

“There was a certain point, like 25K, when I said, ‘Can I try and make a move?’,” Obiri admitted. “I said, ‘No, in a marathon, it’s about patience.’”

Now $100,000 richer, the 33-year-old Obiri confessed that she had her doubts about returning to New York after her disappointing (by her standards) debut. “My debut here was terrible, and [after that] I said I don’t want to come back here next year,” she said. “You know, sometimes you learn from your mistakes, I did a lot of mistakes last year, so I said [this time] I want to try to do my best.”

Gidey (2:27:29) and Lokedi (2:27:33) completed the podium, followed by Kosgei (2:27:45) and Ngugi (2:27:53). Huddle (2:32:02) finished 9th, one spot behind Taylor.


1. Hellen Obiri’ (Ken) 2:27:23 (1:14:23/1:13:00); 2. Letesenbet Gidey’ (Eth) 2:27:29; 3. Sharon Lokedi’ (Ken) 2:27:33;

4. Brigid Kosgei’ (Ken) 2:27:45; 5. Mary Ngugi’ (Ken) 2:27:53; 6. Viola Cheptoo’ (Ken) 2:28:11; 7. Edna Kiplagat’ (Ken) 2:29:40;

8. Kellyn Taylor (HokaNnAz) 2:29:48; 9. Molly Huddle (Saucony) 2:32:02; 10. Fantu Zewude’ (Eth) 2:34:10.