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Despite training through two broken ribs, Molly Seidel had another top American showing at her fourth career marathon on Sunday, finishing the 2021 New York City Marathon fourth in 2:24:42, making her the fastest American woman ever on the course.
The previous U.S. women’s record was set in 2008, by Kara Goucher, who placed third that year in 2:25:53.
“I actually didn’t know until I crossed the line that [the record] was what had happened,” Seidel said. “I’m just so incredibly honored. There are just so many good women who have run on this course. It’s really a testament to the women who were in this race that I was able to just hang on to that group. Obviously I fell off from the main pack, but just kept pushing, trying to stay on that pace and run what I could run…really pleasantly surprised to come away with that.”
Seidel, 27, who was the bronze medalist at the Olympic marathon in August and runner-up in her debut at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials, finished behind winner Peres Jepchirchir (2:22:39), the Kenyan who won gold in Tokyo; Viola Jeptoo (2:22:44), also from Kenya; and Ababel Yeshaneh (2:22:52), of Ethiopia. Seidel had stuck with the lead pack for well more than half the race, losing contact around mile 20 when Jepchirchir surged ahead.
“Even though I was hurting, I was able to be able to go out and make those moves and try to stick with the leaders as long as I could,” Seidel said. “That’s the approach that we generally take in these races. You gotta go see what you can do, kind of have that attitude that if you don’t try, you’ll never know.”
After the race, Seidel gave a little more detail on the difficulties she had to overcome to compete in New York this year. On top of a the short turnaround and challenging mental and physical recovery after the Olympics, she disclosed that she also suffered two broken ribs in recent weeks, though she wouldn’t say how she injured them.
“It definitely hindered training for a little bit, but it was manageable for the race,” Seidel said. “Every buildup has challenges and this was an interesting one.”
Although no members of the U.S. women’s professional field made the New York City Marathon podium this year, the contingent had a solid showing placing five in the top 10. Kellyn Taylor was sixth in 2:26:10; Annie Frisbie was seventh in 2:26:18; Laura Thweatt was eighth in 2:27:00; and Stephanie Bruce was 10th in 2:31:05.
Frisbie, 24, was debuting at the distance on Sunday and boldly ran at the front much of the first half. She is a member of Minnesota Distance Elite—a Wisconsin native who competed for Iowa State.
“I can’t remember what mile it was, but me, Molly, and Kellyn were all in a line and it just felt really amazing to be right next to them—especially Molly, you know, bronze medalist, and then the other American women with their amazing accolades,” Frisbie said. “And so to be up there with them, it felt like a total honor. I just tried to follow them. I knew that they were smart racers. So I just told myself, when I found myself in the lead, if they made a move, I might try to cover it or just kind of follow what they were doing; just keep them in the corner of my eye because I knew they were smart racers.”
Taylor, who also took her turn in the lead throughout the first 13.1 miles, said her finish was a better reflection of her training than she thought it would be.
“I mean, expectations are always really high. We always go into any race majors wanting to finish as high as we can place, to get on the podium,” she said. “So I guess, no, we didn’t do that. But I would say it ended up better than maybe my segment would have predicted that it would have been.”
Stephanie Bruce, who trains with Taylor on the Northern Arizona Elite team based in Flagstaff, Arizona, said her plan going into the marathon was to not cover every surge coming from the lead pack, preferring even pacing. Nonetheless, she felt like her race didn’t live up to her expectations.
“You know, the marathon has been a little mystery to me and my career. It kind of feels like things always fall into place, but then I seem to fall apart in the last 10K of most all of them,” she said. “So I either have to figure out is there something I’m doing wrong or am I just not that good at the marathon? And it’s very possible that it’s the latter, but you know, it’s one of those where you’re right on the line of dreaming big and putting in all the hard work and then living in optimistic reality and figuring out where you lie.”
Due to the pandemic-related rescheduling, New York City Marathon rounded out a full fall calendar of World Marathon Major events. It was the fifth 26.2-mile race since September, thinning out the professional fields over Berlin, London, Chicago, Boston, and New York. For the women, New York attracted the most competitive slate with two-thirds of the Olympic podium racing.
It was also a return to big events for New York, with people coming out in full force to spectate and cheer 30,000 runners on. The crowds buoyed the Americans, many of whom had not gotten to perform in front of their loved ones since early 2020.
“Oh my god, I hope there’s a beer waiting for me at the hotel,” Seidel said, laughing. “I really, really wanted to do New York, regardless of what happened in the build. This is the first time my family’s gotten to see me race since the [U.S. Olympic Marathon] Trials and that was really important to me. They didn’t get to come to Tokyo and we didn’t get to have that celebration. So getting have them here today to celebrate with means everything to me.”
Jen Ator contributed to this report.