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Mary Keitany Scores 4th NYC Marathon Win
It seemed like Mary Keitany was running faster than a New York minute.
Keitany, of Kenya, won the women’s 2018 TCS New York City Marathon in a blistering 2:22:48 on Sunday. It was the second-fastest time ever in the women’s field behind Margaret Okayo’s 2:22:31 course record, set in 2003. Keitany finished more than three minutes ahead of Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya (2:26:02).
The men’s race also featured fast finishes—the second, third and fourth-fastest times in its history, by winner Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia (2:05:59), Shura Kitata, also of Ethiopia (2:06:01), and defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya (2:06:26). Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya holds the men’s record—2:05:06, set in 2011.
American fans had a moment to celebrate when defending champion Shalane Flanagan outraced Rahma Tusa of Ethiopia for third place. (Tusa finished fifth behind American Molly Huddle.) When Flanagan crossed the finish line, she mouthed the words “I love you” to the crowd (last year, an interviewer noted, her words were somewhat saltier when she broke the tape). Flanagan told the media afterward, “I love the community, the running community, New Yorkers. I have an incredible time performing here. I appreciate the fans.”
Four American women placed in the top seven: Flanagan, Huddle, Boston Marathon champion Desiree Linden (2:27:51, sixth place) and New York native Allie Kieffer (seventh in 2:28:12).
Both of the wheelchair races saw close finishes. In the women’s race, defending champion Manuela Schar of Switzerland held off Tatyana McFadden of the U.S., crossing the finish line in 1:50:27 and 1:50:48, respectively. Schar marveled at the finish in Central Park once the race was over. “There’s a pretty little downhill in the park,” she said. “I still can’t believe it was enough.”
Twenty-year-old Daniel Romanchuk became the first American, and the youngest participant, to win the men’s race, which he did in 1:36:31, one second ahead of Marcel Hug of Switzerland and two seconds ahead of David Weir of Great Britain.
Even for the city that never sleeps, it was an unusually fast day.
The women’s race began under bright skies and the heights of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (soon to have an extra ‘z’ in its name). The pace was deceptively conservative: 6:41 at mile 1, 5:44 at mile 2 and 5:47 at mile 3.
“The first 5K was slow,” Keitany recalled.
But the pace picked up at the half-marathon mark: 1:15:49, with Tusa, Flanagan, Keitany, Cheruiyot and Huddle all among the leaders. The surprise, however, was Netsanet Gudeta of Ethiopia, who was leading the way.
Keitany started making her move at mile 16 on the Queensboro Bridge. Part of a group of three with Gudeta and Tusa, Keitany passed Tusa and ran side-by-side with Gudeta. Now the pace had dropped to 4:57 on the downhill, 30 seconds ahead of Cheruiyot, Flanagan and Huddle.
It looked like it would come down to a showdown between Keitany and Tusa, a three-time Rome Marathon champion. But Keitany pulled away from her competitor—and everyone else—on First Avenue through mile 19.
Meanwhile, the other two podium spots weren’t quite decided yet.
“I had a thought as I was running and feeling sorry for myself,” Flanagan recalled afterward. “‘You have to feel motivated.’ I tried to rally, focus on it.
“When I was dropped from Mary, I kept thinking, ‘Keep fighting, you don’t know what’s happening in front of you, keep your head down, keep working, fight for a podium spot.’”
It was her third and possibly final NYC Marathon. She had finished second in her debut in 2010 before her victory last year. Now she worked to close the distance between herself and Tusa. Flanagan used her knowledge of the course to her advantage, picking up six to eight meters by using the inside section of a curve in Central Park.
“To gain on Rahma Tusa, there was a lot of motivation dangling in front of me like a carrot,” Flanagan said. “I bided my time. Once we were in [Central Park], I used my knowledge of the park to run the tangent lines better.”
Flanagan passed Tusa around mile 24 but Keitany was still three minutes ahead, bound for her historic finish on the 40th anniversary of Grete Waitz of Norway’s first victory. (Waitz, who has won the NYC Marathon nine times, holds the record for most wins for both women and men.)
After Keitany won, Flanagan kept running hard but there was too much distance between her and Cheruiyot. She did, however, finish with both a podium spot and a personal best on the course.
“My standards in New York are pretty high,” Flanagan said. “If it truly was my last race, a podium spot would be special.”
And it sounds like she has helped set a standard for other Americans to aspire to in future races.
“There’s definitely a great group of runners continuing to push the bar for everyone,” Linden said. “You can win a major one year and not be the top American the next year. Hopefully we’ll get younger women involved in the sport, get Americans excited about the marathon.”
“I definitely think top American talent is coming to the marathon,” Huddle said. “It’s kind of become a glamorous event.”