Superb negative split run secures Keitany her fourth New York City Marathon crown, while determined Desisa gets first win

Mary Keitany won her fourth TCS New York City Marathon title and Lelisa Desisa his first on a sunny autumn day featuring some exciting road race action.

Keitany’s time of 2:22:48 to regain the New York crown might seem impressive enough as it puts her second on the race’s all-time list, but it only tells half the story. With the first 13.1 miles run in 75:50, it’s the superb negative split which really sets the Kenyan’s performance apart.

Her win was a dominant one, as the 36-year-old secured success by more than three minutes ahead of her fellow Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot, while the men’s race was much closer, with Ethiopia’s Desisa holding off his compatriot Shura Kitata to win by just two seconds.

The reigning champions Shalane Flanagan and Geoffrey Kamworor both finished third.

Keitany had won three consecutive New York City Marathon titles between 2014 and 2016 and had been on the hunt for her fourth after settling for second behind Flanagan in 2017.

She set her women’s-only world record of 2:17:01 in London last year but at this year’s race in the UK capital she faded and finished fifth. Keitany made sure to leave enough for a strong finish this time around.

“I didn’t want to rush at the beginning so that I would suffer at the end,” she explained. “I wanted to be comfortable throughout the race.”

On coming close to the course record, she added: “For today, I was thinking of trying to win, not actually the course record. I come to see that I missed it by just 17 seconds, but it’s okay. For me, winning was very important.”

With the opening 5km covered by the large elite women’s pack in 18:45 and 10km passed in 37:05, the course record of 2:22:31 run by Kenya’s Margaret Okayo in 2003 had seemed well out of reach.

The pedestrian pace continued for the first half, but then Keitany blasted out a 66:58 for the second half and none of her rivals could live with that pace.

From 25km to 30km she ran a split of 15:19 and between 30km to 35km it was 15:34 – a 30:53 10km between 25-35km.

She clocked 4:55 for mile 17, 4:58 for mile 18 and 4:55 for mile 19, helping her towards a second 10-mile split of 51:37. Her first 10 miles had been covered in 58:51.

After dropping the Ethiopian duo of Rahma Tusa and Netsanet Gudeta, Keitany went on unchallenged. Behind her, this year’s London Marathon winner Cheruiyot was working her way up, despite struggling with leg pain, and also clocked impressive splits of 75:50 and 70:12 to secure the runner-up spot, while Flanagan ran a 75:49 first half and 70:33 second half to move up to third.

Four American athletes finished in the top 10 as behind Flanagan in 2:26:22 was Molly Huddle with 2:26:44 in fourth, Desiree Linden in sixth with 2:27:51 and Allie Kieffer in seventh with 2:28:12.

There was also a strong finish in the men’s race but it was in complete contrast to the clear win claimed by Keitany. Last year’s Frankfurt and Rome marathon winner Kitata, who finished second behind Eliud Kipchoge in 2:04:49 in London in April, had been pushing the pace but Desisa seemed determined to claim his first victory after five attempts and three podium places in New York.

After the lead group went through half way in 63:55, the Ethiopian duo had broken away along with Kenya’s world cross-country and half-marathon gold medallist Kamworor, but with a mile to go Desisa threw off his hat and made a move.

Kamworor couldn’t keep up and it looked as though Desisa was well on his way to adding a win in New York to his two Boston Marathon victories, but Kitata started to chase them down.

With the finish line in his sight, Desisa gritted his teeth and held on for the win in 2:05:59 for the second-quickest men’s time in the race’s history. Kitata ran 2:06:01 for second and Kamworor 2:06:26 for third, while Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola was fourth in 2:08:30 and Kenya’s 2017 London Marathon winner Daniel Wanjiru fifth in 2:10:21.

Jared Ward was the top US athlete in 2:12:24 for sixth, while Jonny Mellor was best of the Brits in 15th, clocking 2:16:09.

Andy Davies ran 2:20:23 and Nick McCormick 2:27:35.

Chris Thompson has been in fine form lately and had looked on track for a time of around 2:12 after going through half way in 66:07 but the 37-year-old struggled in the second half after suffering with cramp and crossed the finish line in 2:28:54.

Making his marathon debut, USA’s Olympic 1500m medallist and double 2007 world champion Bernard Lagat clocked 2:17:20 in 18th.

The wheelchair races were won by USA’s Daniel Romanchuk in 1:36:21 and Switzerland’s Manuela Schär, who retained her title in 1:50:27.

Switzerland’s three-time winner and Paralympic marathon champion Marcel Hug was second and GB’s 2010 champion and six-time Paralympic gold medallist David Weir third in the men’s race, while USA’s five-time New York winner Tatyana McFadden was second and Zou Lihong third in the women’s race.

» See the next issue of AW magazine for further coverage

Top results

Men
1 Lelisa Desisa (ETH) 2:05:59
2 Shura Kitata (ETH) 2:06:01
3 Geoffrey Kamworor (KEN) 2:06:26
4 Tamirat Tola (ETH) 2:08:30
5 Daniel Wanjiru (KEN) 2:10:21

Women
1 Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:22:48
2 Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) 2:26:02
3 Shalane Flanagan (USA) 2:26:22
4 Molly Huddle (USA) 2:26:44
5 Rahma Tusa (ETH) 2:27:13