Kenyan dominance in long-distance running was on full display on the streets of New York City on Sunday.
The newcomer Joyciline Jepkosgei’s time of 2 hours 22 minutes 38 seconds in the New York City Marathon was the second fastest performance on the course for women, and the fastest debut here. Geoffrey Kamworor, 26, took the men’s race in 2:08:13, winning in New York for the second time in three years. Mary Keitany and Albert Korir, also of Kenya, were the runners-up.
Jepkosgei’s win over Keitany — who has won four times in eight tries in New York — signaled a potential changing of the guard among female Kenyan runners. They ran together until the final miles, where Jepkosgei, the world-record holder in the half-marathon, pulled away. Even as she started to struggle in the final miles, her effort was enough to win and threaten the course record.
Jepkosgei said she was uncertain about her chances given the presence of Keitany in the race.
“I didn’t know I could win because of my friend Mary,” Jepkosgei said. “She has more experience in the marathon, she has won a few years here in New York. I was happy to run with her.”
She visited the United States for the first time from her home in Iten, Kenya, in March, when she won the New York City Half Marathon.
Kamworor, 26, was greeted at the finish line by his training partner and mentor, Eliud Kipchoge, the world-record holder in the marathon. Kipchoge set the record last year in Berlin, and ran a marathon in less than two hours in a time trial in Vienna last month. That run was not considered a record because it did not take place in race conditions.
“I didn’t want to disappoint him,” Kamworor said. “That gave me a lot of motivation.”
Kipchoge cheered on Kamworor in both of his wins, and was absent last year when he faltered to third.
Kamworor flipped the script from that finish, turning on the pace during the final two miles, about the same point in the race where he faded from contention one year ago.
Together, under the guidance of the coach Patrick Sang, Kamworor and Kipchoge have become two of the best marathoners in the world. Kamworor has been on the medal podium for each of the four N.Y.C. Marathons he has run.
An unsponsored Ethiopian from the open field took third place. Girma Bekele Gebre did not start with the elite runners, but still placed.
After the race, Gebre looked somewhat bewildered standing there next to two of the most decorated distance runners in the world. He has no agent, flew to New York from Ethiopia a few days before the race and stayed with a friend in the Bronx. He won $40,000.
“I started back in the second group, and just ran really fast to catch up,” he said through an interpreter. “I love running in New York. When the crowds were cheering for me, I felt really special joy.”
Gebre had been living in New York, but returned to Ethiopia in the spring when one of his brothers died while working on their farm.
Jared Ward was the top American male, in sixth place at 2:10:45.
“When you swing for the fences, you set yourself up for a hard last few miles, and that’s why it’s scary to try,” Ward said, adding that it’s important to focus on the current pace.
“You try to just chip off where you’re at and hope that you still have something in the next mile,” he said.
At age 42, Sinead Diver of Australia was the oldest woman to finish in the top five since Priscilla Welch, who won in 1987. After taking up running at age 33, she placed fifth in 2:26:23 — despite taking a wrong turn early in the race (which may have cost her fourth place, as she finished just two seconds behind Nancy Kiprop of Kenya). The Americans Desiree Linden, the 2018 Boston Marathon champion, and Kellyn Taylor were the top Americans, in sixth and seventh place.
Linden took the lead in the middle of the race before fading back. She said the departure from her usual steady approach was an experiment in trying new tactics to improve.
“It’s about trying something new. You’re not going to have a breakthrough doing the same thing over and over, and being conservative and cautious,” she said. “The conditions were great, so I wanted to have a swing and have a breakthrough.”
A top contender for the next United States Olympic marathon team, Sara Hall, dropped out at Mile 18. She was attempting New York just five weeks after recording a personal best of 2:22:16 at the Berlin Marathon, the sixth fastest marathon by an American woman.