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Another weekend, another World Marathon Major. Up next? On Sunday, it’s the New York City Marathon, the sixth and final 26.2 miler of the fall. And for the pro women, it offers one of the more competitive fields of international and American athletes.
Indeed, it’s been an unusual season of distance racing after the pandemic forced the Boston and London events to reschedule from their typical spring dates. With so many marathons to choose from in a condensed time period between September and November, the racing has been plentiful, if not a little diluted. In New York, however, two thirds of the 2021 Olympic marathon podium will race again, with gold medalist Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya and bronze medalist, American Molly Seidel, set to compete.
Jepchirchir, 28, is not only the Olympic champion, but also comes in with the fastest personal best, 2:17:16, which she ran at the 2020 Valencia Marathon. Three other women have clocked under 2:21, including Ruti Aga, 27, from Ethiopia, who has a 2:18:35 best and placed third at the 2019 New York City Marathon. Helalia Johannes of Namibia, 41, ran 2:19:52 last year at Valencia. And Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh, 30, finished in 2:20:51 at the 2019 Chicago Marathon, and set a half marathon world record for a mixed-gender race (1:04:31) in 2020.
Where does that leave the Americans? First, several contenders have dropped out due to injuries, including Aliphine Tuliamuk, who was unable to finish the Olympic marathon in August; Desiree Linden, who ran the Boston Marathon on October 11; and Emily Sisson, who competed in the 10,000 meters at the Tokyo Games. But talent remains in the field and in New York, personal bests don’t mean a lot—the race tends to play out strategically through the five boroughs, over a hilly point-to-point course.
Seidel (2:25:13), 27, leads the group alongside her Olympic teammate Sally Kipyego (2:25:10), 35, who finished 17th in Tokyo. Kipyego has plenty of New York City Marathon experience, placing second in 2016 (she later learned she competed while four weeks pregnant with her daughter Emma). Kipyego is also a 2012 Olympic silver medalist in the 10,000 meters.
In all, five of the top eight finishers at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta will line up on Sunday. Watch for Laura Thweatt, 32, who finished fifth at the Trials and recently left Team Boss in Boulder, Colorado, to train on her own. Also racing: Stephanie Bruce, 37, who was sixth in Atlanta, as well as her Northern Arizona Elite teammate Kellyn Taylor, 35, who placed eighth at the Trials.
Although she won’t be racing with the professional field, eyes will also be on 2017 New York City Marathon champion Shalane Flanagan, 40, who is completing her “Project Eclipse,” in which she’s finished each of the World Marathon Major events in 43 days (she replaced the canceled Tokyo Marathon with her own 26.2-mile course near her home in Portland, Oregon). Although Flanagan is not competing, she’s still posted impressive results, finishing Berlin (Sept. 26) in 2:38:32; London (Oct. 3) in 2:38:32; Chicago (Oct. 10) in 2:46:39; Boston (Oct. 11) in 2:40:34; and “Tokyo” (Oct. 18) in 2:35:14.
How to Watch the 2021 New York City Marathon
When: Sunday, November 7, 2021
Time: Women’s race starts at 8:40 a.m. Eastern
Broadcast: Live on ESPN2 beginning at 8:30 a.m. Eastern and locally on ABC7