Athletics Athletics

Keitany defends New York Marathon title

Mary Keitany of Kenya crosses the finish line to win New York City Marathon on November 6, 2016
Mary Keitany of Kenya crosses the finish line to win New York City Marathon on November 6, 2016

NEW YORK, United States, Nov 6Kenya’s Mary Keitany became only the third woman in history to win the New York Marathon thrice in a row after defending her title, winning this year’s event in 2:24:26.

Compatriot Stanley Biwott could however not replicate the feat in the men’s race, dropping out within the first 15kms, just like he did during the Rio Olympics in August.

Reigning world marathon champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea won the race on his debut in an official time of 2:07:51, only five seconds off his personal best set in London.

“Winning the New York Marathon is one of my best dreams,” Ghebreslassie said. “I’m really proud of my victory. Nobody from Eritrea has won this marathon before. I’m really proud.”

Eight days shy of his 21st birthday, the prodigy accelerated at the halfway mark and pulled away to become the first men’s champion since 2010 from outside Kenya.

Kenya’s Lucas Rotich was second in 2:08:53 with 39-year-old American Abdi Abdirahman third in 2:11:23 and Japan’s Hiroyuki Yamamoto fourth in his first marathon outside Japan, another 26 seconds adrift.

Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea wins the New York City Marathon on November 6, 2016
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea wins the New York City Marathon on November 6, 2016

In the women’s race, Keitany also pulled away to an overwhelming victory, the 34-year-old mother of two winning in 2:24:26.

“I feel good,” Keitany said. “I’m very excited. Winning three times consecutively means a lot to me.”

Keitany, the second-fastest woman in marathon history behind Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, has the longest New York women’s win streak since Norway’s Grete Waitz took five in a row from 1982-1986.

Kenya’s Sally Kipyego was second in 2:28:01, 12 seconds ahead of American Molly Huddle, third in her marathon debut. Kenya’s Joyce Chepkirui, third in Boston this year, was fourth in 2:29:08.

Each champion over the 26.2-mile distance took home a top prize of Sh10mn ($100,000).

Ghebreslassie’s triumph came after fourth-place finishes at London and the Rio Olympics.

At the halfway mark, Ghebreslassie, Kenya’s Lucas Rotich and Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, last year’s Boston Marathon champion, pulled away.

In the 20th mile, Ghebreslassie surged away from Rotich and Desisa, accelerating ahead to leave behind his last threats.

Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea (C) poses with Lucas Rotich from Kenya and Abdi Abdirahman from the US after the New York City Marathon on November 6, 2016 © AFP / Timothy A. Clary

The Eritrean shared a high five with Rotich, running back down the course to greet him before the finish.

“I wanted to shake hands with him,” said Ghebreslassie.

Abdirahman was thrilled to make the podium after a previous best showing of sixth in New York.

“I was a believer anything could happen,” he said. “I did what I was supposed to do. I did what I could control. I was ready to run.”

– Biwott out early again –

Biwott, last year’s New York champion, was out before the halfway mark in another disappointment. He dropped halfway into the Rio Olympic marathon, saying he was given the wrong water bottle and that caused stomach issues.

With plenty of time to prepare for her Big Apple run after not being selected to compete at Rio, Keitany outclased the field.

In a pack of 14 after five miles, Keitany picked up the pace and by the 10-mile mark had trimmed the lead group to herself, Chepkirui and Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia.

By mile 12, Mergia was falling back and at 15 miles, Keitany had opened a 10-second lead. By mile 16, Chepkirui’s gap was 33 seconds back and growing as Keitany surged to the finish alone.

“I started to run my own race at 15 miles and started to follow my tactics and continue with my race,” she said.