As we approach the finale of Series XV of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, only one woman stands between Sifan Hassan and certain series title glory.
Hellen Obiri stormed to an impressive maiden marathon win when she took the Boston laurel wreath in April. The Kenyan, now based in the United States, had labored to sixth place in New York the previous November on an unseasonably warm day in the Big Apple.
She took the learnings from that run and applied a new found patience to time her attack for Boston success perfectly. The contest was inside the final mile before she made her break.
If she finds herself in the same position this coming Sunday, it will be for a win that will draw the 33-year-old level at the top of the AbbottWMM Series XV leaderboard with Hassan, forcing the race directors of the six races to make a decision on who should take the prize home this year.
Hassan’s astonishing comeback in London and searing 2:13:44 in Chicago have catapulted her from marathon novice debutant to second fastest woman of all time.
On the evidence of those performances, it will take something special for Obiri to sway a decision her way, but a victory in New York against a field boasting an impressive list of names would certainly help her cause.
She faces Brigid Kosgei – the world record holder until Tigist Assefa’s mind-blowing run in Berlin in September, and Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic champion who was relieved of her Boston crown by Obiri in April.
Jepchirchir was third in London in April and then flexed her muscles with victory at the world road running championships half marathon in Latvia in September. She tasted victory in New York in 2021.
Three more women boast faster PBs than Obiri, led by Letesenbet Gidey, who ran 2:16:49 in Valencia last year. Edna Kiplagat continues to campaign at the sharp end at the age of 43 and Mary Ngugi-Cooper has been on the podium at Boston.
Last year’s winner Sharon Lokedi is not quicker on paper than Obiri, but she proved her toughness with that triumph in the sweltering heat, so there are threats on all sides in a race that is often decided by the athlete who can concoct the right combination of tactics and heart.
In that regard, it is not dissimilar to the qualities required of Obiri to win in Boston in the spring.
If she can add New York to her resume this weekend, she will be the first woman to have done this particular double since 1989, and that will give the AbbottWMM race directors plenty to think about as they weigh her against Hassan.