Albert Korir men, Peres Jepchirchir women

NEW YORK (AP) – New York was looking for a comeback story for its 50th marathon, and Albert Korir delivered.

And for a city whose sports fans don’t accept second best, Peres Jepchirchir scored a memorable first.

Korir and Jepchirchir did a Kenyan sweep on Sunday New York Marathon, with Korir winning the men’s race two years after finishing runner-up and Jepchirchir becoming the only woman to compete in a major marathon in the fall after winning an Olympic gold medal.

The second oldest of the world’s major marathons returned after canceling in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a city where more than 34,000 people have died from COVID-19, organizers were hoping for an uplifting marathon-like celebration two months after the September 11 attacks.

“It was fantastic,” Korir said.

In the streets emptied 21 months ago, except for ambulances rushing to help a city crippled by the coronavirus – and later filled with angst and frustration in the days following the murder of George Floyd – it There was simply joy on Sunday as around 30,000 runners made their way through the five arrondissements.

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Brooklynites applauded the first wheelchair contestants between sips of coffee. Crowds on Manhattan’s First Avenue greeted the Queensboro Bridge runners. Bronx supporters waved the runners into the home stretch.

They applauded and shouted for the elite and all the runners.

2017 champion Shalane Flanagan ran her sixth major marathon in six weeks – a first made possible because the Boston, London and Tokyo marathons were pushed back from spring to fall by the pandemic. The 40-year-old American calls her trip Project Eclipse because of the scarcity of the opportunity.

“I thought the fans were on a whole new level today,” she said. “The enthusiasm was so contagious. I felt like everyone had this deep feeling of gratitude.”

Also on the course: Dr Jose Alfredo Jimenez Gaxiola, a Mexican intensive care doctor who has weathered the pandemic and survived his own battle with COVID-19; Kellie Roe Kenny of Califon, New Jersey, a 9/11 survivor who first ran in 2001 in memory of her fallen colleagues; and Chris Nikic, the first athlete with Down’s syndrome to complete a full Ironman triathlon.

Molly Seidel finished fourth in her first race since her bronze medal at the Tokyo Games, becoming the first American woman since Deena Kastor in 2004 to win an Olympic medal.

She revealed on Sunday that she broke two ribs about a month ago, but still finished in 2 hours, 24 minutes and 42 seconds, the fastest time ever by an American in New York.

“Every build comes with challenges,” Seidel said. “It was interesting.”

Seidel said she was motivated to run New York because it would be the first time her family could see her run since the 2020 Olympic trials – international travelers were banned from attending the Tokyo Olympics.

“I hope there is a beer waiting for me at the hotel,” said Seidel. “We’re going to go crazy tonight.”

In the men’s professional race, Korir passed Moroccan Mohamed El Aaraby and Italian Eyob Faniel in the 18th mile and quickly eliminated any drama. He won in 2:08:22.

“It was not an easy race,” Korir said. “But I enjoyed it.”

It was Korir’s first victory in one of the World Marathon Majors and his first time on a podium since winning the 2019 Ottawa Race Weekend Marathon. Korir, 27, has finished second behind Geoffrey Kamworor in 2019 by 23 seconds and did not race again until June due to the pandemic.

El Aaraby held on for an unlikely second place after finishing 11th at the Tokyo Olympics. Faniel finished third.

Jepchirchir was alongside compatriot Viola Cheptoo and Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh from the moment they entered the Bronx to the entrance to Central Park.

Moments after swallowing two packets of energy gel, Jepchirchir turned on the jets and walked away, winning in 2:22:39 for the third fastest time by a woman in New York City Marathon history.

“It’s not easy,” she said of the New York course. “Towards the finish line, I felt something that I had never felt before to finish a marathon.”

Jepchirchir, 28, won gold at the Tokyo Olympics marathon in August and returned on a short recovery to win a race once dominated by her hero Mary Keitany, four-time winner in New York City who recently retired from the sport.

Cheptoo finished second in his marathon debut and quickly found his brother, Bernard Lagat, who was broadcasting the race on ESPN. Yeshaneh was third.

Switzerland’s Marcel Hug won the men’s wheelchair race for the fourth time, finishing more than 6.5 minutes ahead of the next rider for his first title since 2017. Australian Madison de Rozario won the event. women in a wheelchair, fending off former champions Tatyana McFadden and Manuela Schär for her first victory in the Big Apple.

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The field was reduced by around 40% this year to help keep runners at bay, and participants had to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of race day. Runners entered for the 2020 race who were eliminated were given the option of a full refund or entry to the 2021, ’22 or ’23 races.

The non-competitive field also had its share of famous athletes, including former US national women’s football team Abby Wambach, Lauren Holiday, Kate Markgraf and Leslie Osborne. Former Giants runner Tiki Barber has raced for the seventh time.

Tony Award-winning actress Kelli O’Hara was scheduled to perform the national anthem before testing her lungs on the course, while two members of British rock group Mumford & Sons were also signed up to perform. Contestants also included “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” contestants Matt James, Tyler Cameron, Tayshia Adams and Zac Clark.

Overcome the obstacles

The 50th Marathon represented the city’s resilience in the wake of a deadly pandemic. And many runners on Sunday embodied that perseverance.

While training for the New York City Marathon in 2003, Manhattan’s Giacinta Pace was hit by a car while running through Central Park. The injury was so severe that she had to have knee surgery and spent months recovering.

She also prepared for the 2012 marathon, but after months of training the event was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy. Soon after, she injured her leg again in a car accident. More recently, the pandemic has hit and she has gained weight.

After the series of incidents, Pace took matters into his own hands.

“I realized I had to work on myself. I did yoga and weight training. I tried to eat vegan. I took 6000 steps in my apartment every day and lost weight. In total, she lost 70 pounds.

When her sister asked her to run the marathon with Fred’s team to raise money for the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, she jumped at the chance. Her father was treated for his cancer at Sloan Kettering and he’s doing well now, she said. ” I focused. I have a personal trainer. “

“It was hard for me to do that but every time I wanted to complain I would remember someone I knew who had COVID or had a disability and I reminded myself that I am strong and that I have two legs and I’m lucky and it kept me going. ”

Pace knew the race would be tough, especially towards the end. “But thousands of people will do it with me. And I feel good that I was able to raise funds for a good cause.

“I want people to know that anyone can do this. I am 25 pounds overweight with a serious knee injury. But I am passionate and determined. I will run all the time. I have a running high because of this. What will keep me going is hearing the cheers of the spectators, ”said Pace. “For me, this is a great accomplishment. I like to watch the scenery while I run. It’s incredible. It’s petrifying. It is fulfilling. It makes me emotional. For me, it’s more than a race. it’s a really intense journey. It doesn’t even matter to me if no one meets me at the finish line – it’s 100% for me.

The first time cancer survivor Jonathan Gersch competed in the New York City Marathon was because of a diagnosis.

“My doctor told me I was in remission and wanted to celebrate by doing something completely wild,” the Manhattan resident said.

So he trained for the marathon. But the race turned out to be more difficult than he expected. “It was very hot that day and my legs were aching,” he said. The only thing that kept him going was knowing that his parents would be waiting for him on First Avenue to cheer him on. When he reached the finish line he said to himself: “Never again”.

But afterward he remembered “all the glory and none of the pain,” he said. And soon he was training again for the next marathon in a tradition that didn’t stop. This year, he ran with a sign on his back that said “15 Years Marathon Without Cancer”.

Editor Deena Yellin contributed to this article.

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