One of the largest half marathons in the United States takes place this weekend, and with a record-setting number of 22,500 registered participants and an entirely new course, the United Airlines New York City Half Marathon is sure to make waves. When the gun goes off at the starting line near Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on Sunday morning, Vivian Cheruiyot and Emily Sisson will be among those leading the race in the professional fields, as will several wheelchair division champions from past New York Road Runners races, including five-time TCS New York City Marathon winner Tatyana McFadden, 2017 New York City Marathon winner Manuela Schär and two-time New York City Marathon winner Amanda McGrory.
There haven’t been major changes made to the New York City Half Marathon route since it was adjusted in 2014 to accommodate wheelchair athletes. In addition to bringing runners along on a city tour of sorts past landmarks like Grand Army Plaza, the United Nations and Times Square before ending in Central Park, the new course–which features more downhill components than it did in years past–hints at a possible advantage for seven-time Paralympic medalist McGrory. “The former course was tough,” McGrory told Women’s Running earlier this week. “The big hills through Central Park were killer. The New York City Half has always been a challenge for me, but I’m excited to check out the new course.” Despite the promise of added downhill sections, the course will still pose difficulties for those competing. “Bridges are always a challenge,” McGrory said in reference to the Manhattan Bridge, which participants will cross to reach lower Manhattan from Brooklyn. “I’m interested to see how that’s going to go.”
McGrory has already competed once this year in the Tokyo Marathon in late February, and though she didn’t secure a podium finish like she did with her first-place finish in Tokyo in 2017, she’s feeling much more confident heading into Sunday’s race. “We do most of our winter training in Illinois indoors,” explained McGrory, who trains at the University of Illinois alongside McFadden. “Even though we’re working with resistance and getting miles in, it’s not the same as hitting the road. I think that evens the playing field a little, and I’m hoping it’ll make for a closer finish for the wheelchair division.”
With McFadden, Schär and professional athletes from three other countries in the wheelchair division’s pro field on Sunday, this year’s race is shaping up to be one of its most competitive to date. “It seems that pretty much every race I do these days has [McFadden and Schär]. They’re both incredibly strong competitors” McGrory said. “Having a teammate out there will be very helpful.”
The 2018 United Airlines New York City Half Marathon will begin at 7:30 a.m. EST on Sunday, March 18. Those interested can watch the race live on ESPN3 via WatchESPN and the ESPN app starting at 7 a.m. Part of that broadcast will include live footage from the wheelchair division’s pro field, as McGrory is to have a camera attached to her racing chair for the duration of the race.