Tamirat Tola enjoyed a runaway victory in the TCS New York City Marathon in a course record of 2:04:58 on Sunday (Nov 5) as Hellen Obiri outsprinted Letesenbet Gidey to win a slower yet more competitive women’s race in 2:27:23.
If Tola ran the race like a lion, breaking away from his rivals with 10km to go, then the women’s race was more cat-and-mouse with Obiri of Kenya, Gidey of Ethiopia and defending champion Sharon Lokedi of Kenya locked in battle through the closing stages in Central Park.
Tola had a point to prove as he had finished just outside the podium places in the 2018 and 2019 New York City Marathons. The 32-year-old had won the 2022 world marathon title in Eugene, too, but had to relinquish his crown in Budapest in August due to stomach problems which caused him to drop out.
After having passed halfway in New York in 62:45 with fellow Ethiopian Jemal Yimer, Abdi Nageeye of Belgium, Zouhair Talbi of Morocco and Albert Korir of Kenya for company, it soon boiled down to just Tola and Yimer before Tola finally cut loose.
Geoffrey Mutai’s course record of 2:05:06 had stood since 2011 on this undulating course and such was the strength of Tola’s finish he almost caught the women despite them setting off 25 minutes ahead of the elite men.
“Thank you to all the people who supported me when I ran,” said Tola, who also became the first Ethiopian to win in New York since Lelisa Desisa in 2018. “I have come to New York for the third time and two times I’ve come fourth but today I have won, so it’s very important to me. I’m very happy, especially after losing my world title this year.”
Yimer eventually faded to ninth in 2:11:31 as Korir finished runner-up in 2:06:57. Shura Kitata of Ethiopia was third in 2:07:11 with Nageeye fourth in 2:10:21, then Koen Naert of Belgium in 2:10:25, Maru Teferi of Israel in 2:10:28, Iliass Aouani of Italy in 2:10:54 and Ed Cheserek of Kenya eighth in 2:11:07 in his debut.
Canadian Cam Levins, one of the favourites, dropped out, as did British debutant Andy Butchart, after he went through halfway in 65:54 but then began to struggle.
Obiri disappointed on her marathon debut 12 months ago when placing only sixth following a stellar career on the track and country. But she stormed to victory at the Boston Marathon in April and has now become the first woman since Ingrid Kristiansen in 1989 to seal a Boston-New York double win.
A cagey race saw a large group pass halfway in 74:21 and there were still a number of contenders as the race entered the final 10km. A big move by Viola Cheptoo of Kenya, though, split the field with only Obiri and Gidey immediately able to go with her, although Lokedi and former world record-holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya also soon rejoined the leaders.
Into the final 2km, Obiri and Lokedi led with Gidey looking poised to strike. Lokedi was the first to crack and then Gidey began to drop off with just a quarter of a mile to go as Obiri, with her arms driving hard in distinctive style, began to draw clear.
At the finish only six seconds separated Obiri from world 10,000m and half-marathon record-holder Gidey with 2022 New York winner Lokedi a further four seconds back.
“The race was so good,” said Obiri. “The crowd was so amazing and loud. The ladies were so strong and I was so worried. In a marathon it’s about patience and so I waited until I got to Central Park.
“I knew Gidey was there and she is very strong so I thought ‘let me try to go from 400m’ and finally I did it.”
Kosgei followed in 2:27:45 and then Mary Ngugi-Cooper in 2:27:53, Cheptoo in sixth in 2:28:11, veteran Edna Kiplagat of Kenya clocking 2:29:40 and Kellyn Taylor with 2:29:48 finishing top American ahead of Molly Huddle, who clocked 2:32:02 in ninth.