Keitany runs away with third-consecutive victory
Two years ago, Kenya’s Mary Keitany had to sprint for a three-second victory. Last year, she pulled away at Mile 20 to win by 1:07. At the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon, Keitany kept up the trend: Surging ahead just past Mile 14, the two-time defending champion set out on a solo run to the finish on event-record pace before settling in to win in 2:24:26.
Runner-up Sally Kipyego of Kenya, avenging a DNF in her marathon debut in New York last year, finished in 2:28:01, while two-time U.S. Olympian and NYRR Team for Kids Ambassador Molly Huddle, running her first-ever marathon, won a long battle for third in 2:28:13.
With her victory, Keitany became the first able-bodied runner since Grete Waitz to win in New York City three years in a row. Waitz won five straight from 1982 to 1986. Keitany’s 3:34 margin of victory was the greatest in the women’s race since Waitz defeated Patti Catalano by 3:52 in 1980.
“It means a lot to me,” said Keitany, whose eight-year-old son, Jared, and three-year-old daughter, Samantha, watched their mother race. “I'm very excited that I got it again, three times. I know that it's not easy, but I got it.”
Huddle, 32, was making her marathon debut less than three months after setting an American record for 10,000 meters at the Rio 2016 Olympics. A two-time United Airlines NYC Half champion, Huddle said she was pleased with her podium finish and “thrilled to get through the race smoothly. I didn’t feel like I hit a solid wall, per se, so I’m happy with that.”
Ghebreslassie becomes youngest men’s winner in history
At a pre-race press conference, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea assured all who gathered that his impressive fourth-place finish in the Olympic marathon less than three months ago wouldn’t have an adverse effect on his TCS New York City Marathon debut.
The 20-year-old proved good on his word, easing away from Lucas Rotich of Kenya and Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia to become the youngest men’s winner in the history of the race, breaking the tape in 2:07:51. Ghebreslassie will also go down in history as recording the third-fastest winning time in history, as well as being the first Eritrean winner since the race began in 1970.
“If you lose confidence, you lose everything,” the 2015 IAAF World Champion said of his belief coming into the race that he could win despite the effort of running his third marathon of the year. Already in 2016, he had a near-medal performance in Rio and a fourth-place finish in the Virgin Money London Marathon.
Rotich would hang on for second, more than a minute back in 2:08:53, while 39-year-old American Abdi Abdirahman–nearly twice the age of Ghebreslassie—finished third in 2:11:23, his fastest finish in six appearances here dating back to 2004.
“Age is just a number to me,” said the four-time U.S. Olympian, who became the oldest man ever to finish in the top three in New York City. “Actually, I kind of look at it as an advantage because I knew the course, and I've run it, and I've been around a long time. I was telling these guys I was in the Olympics in 2000, and they were looking at me, really?”
McFadden triumphs again
NYRR Team for Kids Ambassador and 17-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden recorded her fourth consecutive women’s wheelchair victory and fifth overall at the New York City Marathon in the first year of wheelchair racing’s inclusion in the Abbott World Marathon Majors.
She has now won the London, Boston, Chicago, and New York City Marathons each of the last four years.
Throw in six medals at the Paralympics this summer, and it was no surprise that the 27-year-old’s quick answer to a post-race query about her upcoming calendar was that “a vacation is definitely next.”
After working in a four-athlete pace line for many of the early miles, McFadden used her favorite hill at Mile 16—the Queensboro Bridge—to pull away from the field on her way to a win, clocking in at 1:47:43. Manuela Schär of Switzerland (1:49:28) was the runner-up for the third straight year.
McFadden acknowledged she was nervous going into the race, facing much the same field as she had in Rio, where she settled for silver in the marathon in a photo-finish to Zou Lihong of China.
“I knew that I had a lot of work cut out for me,” she said.
Zou did not finish in her TCS New York City Marathon debut, dropping out just before the halfway mark.
Hug edges Fearnley in another sprint finish
After dueling for 26.2 miles, Marcel Hug of Switzerland held off Australia’s Kurt Fearnley to win by a whisker. Both men were given the same time—1:35:49—with Hug winning by a mere six hundredths of a second.
It was Hug’s sixth consecutive victory in a major marathon this year, which is believed to be an unprecedented feat for a men’s wheelchair racer. In 2016, he has won the Boston, London, Rio Paralympic, Chicago, Berlin, and New York City marathons. He won four of those, including New York City, by one second or less.
American Josh George took third, with defending champion, South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk, placing fourth.
Known as the “Swiss Silver Bullet” for the combination of his speed and his chrome-plated racing helmet, Hug knew that the uphills of the New York course would favor Fearnley, the superior climber.
“He nearly killed me during the uphills,” said Hug. “But I tried to follow (him) on the uphill and also I shared the lead with him because it was a big wind. So I think we both thought that we'd make it in a finish sprint, as we did in the last few marathons. But I was not sure to win in the sprint because I was really tired, and Kurt was really strong today.”
By Barbara Huebner