New York City

New York returns to reach major milestone

When the cannon fires on Staten Island this Sunday, it will be 735 days since the TCS New York City Marathon was last held.

In a city where the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic were laid bare for the world to see, the return of its beloved race is a signal of hope that the darkest days of the pandemic are behind the people of a place that knows a thing or two about bouncing back.

Alongside the return of this great spectacle, there is much to celebrate this coming Sunday.

It’s the 50th running of a race that began with just 127 runners paying the $1 entry fee. Only 55 of them finished, but they were the tip of a spear that now boasts 1.2 million finishers.

It is also the first edition of the race under the directorship of Ted Metellus, who becomes the first African American race director of any Abbott World Marathon Majors event.

And it marks the conclusion of Series XIII of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a series that began way back at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October 2019 and only made one more stop – here in New York – before being interrupted by the pandemic.

In that 2019 New York edition, the women’s open race was won by debutant Joyciline Jepkosgei. She then went on to win the 2021 London Marathon, beating world record holder Brigid Kosgei in the process, and those two victories could win her the women’s open AbbottWMM Series.

Jepkosgei is not in New York to defend her title, but Peres Jepchirchir, the Olympic champion, is here. A win for the 28-year-old would draw her level with Jepkosgei and place the destiny of the champion’s silverware into the hands of the six voting AbbottWMM race directors.

In the men’s open division, both Kenenisa Bekele and Abdi Nageeye could claim the series title if they can win.

Victory for Bekele would force a vote to determine the champion between him and current leader Sisay Lemma. If Nageeye can add the New York title to his Olympic silver medal, he will be the Series champion outright.

The question over Bekele is whether he can back up a battling, below par performance in Berlin just six weeks ago on New York’s demanding course, while Nageeye is the fresher man and showed he was in decent form to take the second place in Sapporo.

But whoever wins on Sunday will have to do it by defeating the world half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie.

The Kenyan sliced nearly 30 seconds off the previous mark when he clocked 57:32 in Valencia in 2020.

Kibiwott Kandie arrives in New York as half marathon world record-holder

He also has won over the 13.1-mile distance in Ras Al Khaimah, Prague and Istanbul in the last two years, and was second in the half marathon world championship in Poland. He has dipped under 59-minute for the half with incredible regularity and was a live contender to form part of the Kenyan 10,000m team in Tokyo until injury ruled him out of the national trials.

As he sets his sights on the full marathon, the question is whether he can carry that speed with him when he gets into the deep waters more familiar to the likes of Bekele and Nageeye.

He can look to the New York debut success of Jepkosgei for inspiration on that front.

For home grown prospects, Olympic bronze medallist Molly Seidel is the leading women’s contender following the late withdrawal of Desiree Linden. Seidel knows her best effort could produce a day as special as the one we saw here in 2017 when Shalane Flanagan toppled Mary Keitany to become the first American woman to win New York for 40 years.

Flanagan will be on the course too, as she bids to complete her sixth marathon since starting her own autumn odyssey, which has taken in the other four Majors to have taken place as well as a home-spun marathon in honor of Tokyo.

The stories, as ever, are plentiful in the Big Apple. We’ll find out soon enough who will be telling their own fairytale of New York.