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Mary Keitany, Tatyana McFadden to defend NYC Marathon titles

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NEW YORK — Kenyan Mary Keitany, the world’s preeminent female road runner, will go for her fourth straight New York City Marathon title on Nov. 5.

Keitany chose to race New York’s challenging course for a sixth time rather than debut on the flatter roads of Berlin or Chicago, where she could try to lower her women-only world record.

“I want to continue to be in the history books,” Keitany reasoned, emphasizing trying to extend her New York City streak rather than chasing times. Keitany spoke from a Midtown Manhattan hotel as she prepares to race the New York Road Runners Mini 10km on Saturday.

Keitany could be one-upped in the Nov. 5 five-borough race by another woman. Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist, eyes her fifth straight NYC Marathon wheelchair title and sixth overall.

Keitany and McFadden are the second and third headline commitments to this year’s NYC Marathon, the world’s largest 26.2-miler with 50,000 yearly finishers. They follow Meb Keflezighi, the only U.S. runner to win here since 1982, who says New York will mark his 26th and final marathon as an elite racer.

Keitany, 35, has torn up the pavement since Kenya’s track and field federation dumbfoundingly left her off its three-woman Rio Olympic marathon team.

Last Nov. 6, the mother of two became the first runner to win three straight New York City titles since Norwegian Grete Waitz won five of her record nine from 1981 through 1986. She did so with the largest winning margin since 1984.

Keitany followed that with a half-marathon personal best in February. Then on April 23, she broke Paula Radcliffe‘s women-only world record in winning her third London Marathon crown in 2:17:01.

Keitany’s fastest time in five New York appearances is 2:23:38. She is not focusing on the women’s course record of 2:22:31.

“I try to run according to my feelings,” she said.

Keitany finished fourth in her only Olympic appearance in 2012, four months after winning the London Marathon. She estimated she will race another three or four years.

The 2016 NYC Marathon runner-up, Kenyan Sally Kipyego, is expecting a baby in July. The third-place finisher, American Molly Huddle, is focusing on the track at least through the world championships in August.

In a contrast from Keitany, McFadden’s dominance has weakened in the last year. After sweeping the Boston, Chicago, London and New York City Marathons in 2013, 2014 and 2015, she was beaten at the Rio Paralympics in September.

Then in February, McFadden was again diagnosed with blood clots in her legs, requiring an operation. She was hospitalized again in early spring and then finished fourth in the Boston Marathon on April 17.

“I have a great team, and they acted so quickly on it, just to even get into my chair in Boston two weeks after surgery was crazy and insane,” she said. “I probably shouldn’t have done it.”

McFadden said last month she hopes to race on the track at the IPC World Championships in July in the 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m. She swept all those races, plus the 100m, at her last worlds appearance in 2013.

McFadden said her commitment to New York City will not necessarily preclude her from trying to compete in her second straight Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang in March. She earned a cross-country skiing silver medal at Sochi 2014.

“It’s always in the back of my mind,” McFadden said of the winter sport. “I just want to see the direction of my health and make sure I take care of that first.”

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Harriette Thompson becomes oldest woman to finish half marathon

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Harriette Thompson, a 94-year-old cancer survivor, became the oldest woman to finish a half marathon at the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on Sunday.

Thompson, who two years earlier became the oldest woman to finish a marathon, clocked 3 hours, 42 minutes, 56 seconds. That’s an average of 17 minutes per mile for 13.1 miles.

“I feel just like I did when I was 16, but I just can’t move as fast,” she joked afterward. “The whole experience was enjoyable except for the potholes.”

The previous record was held by Canadian Gladys Burrill, who ran a half marathon at age 93 in 2012 in 4:49:25, according to the Association of Road Running Statisticians.

The 4-foot-11 Thompson walked and jogged in red lipstick, dark sunglasses and her trademark purple outfit to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Thompson, who has battled jaw and skin cancer, didn’t take up marathon running until age 76 and completed 16 full San Diego Marathons between 1999 and 2015. She became a viral celebrity in 2015 when she finished the San Diego marathon in 7:24:36. She missed last year’s event due to cancer treatment.

In Sunday’s race, Thompson was surrounded by family members to shield her from adoring fans so she could focus.

“I guess it’s unusual, but I don’t really know why people make [such a big deal],” Thompson said afterward.”I guess it may be a phenomenon, but for me it’s just a natural thing to do.”

Thompson has raised more than $100,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in her road-race career. She made media appearances before Sunday’s race, joking about her age while promoting her cause.

“I’m amazed at how many young people say, I’m running just because of you,” Thompson said. “I’m glad I’m good for something.”

Having given up sugar, Thompson said before the race that her celebratory splurge might be an ice cream cone. Afterward, she said, “I’m deciding whether I want scotch or bourbon,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Thompson is a former concert pianist who played Carnegie Hall the same day that Martin Luther King Jr. died. She still plays croquet and joined 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi and retired NBA great Bill Walton at a pre-race press conference last week.

She said she enjoys the crowd atmosphere of road races, “except when it’s so loud I have to take out my hearing aids.”

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Mo Farah casts doubt on 2020 Olympics

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Mo Farah no longer sounds hopeful about competing in the 2020 Olympics.

“I don’t think I will be,” Farah said Saturday after winning the Pre Classic 5000m. “I miss my family. My kids are growing so fast. I know I’m away six months of the year, and sometimes it makes me sad being away so long.”

Previously, Farah sounded borderline optimistic about trying to add to his collection of four Olympic gold medals in Tokyo at age 37. He is moving from the track to road racing after this season, with an eye on marathons.

Though he said right after Rio, “I don’t know” about Tokyo, Farah went on in September to say he “hopefully will be” competing in his fourth Olympics in 2020.

“I think it would be incredible if I can go for another Olympics,” Farah said in September. “In athletics, we don’t take anything for granted. … I’ve got to kind of look after my body and be grateful and just get through each year as it comes rather than, like, plan ahead.”

Then in October:

“It would be nice to be able to compete in another Olympics and compete in Tokyo on the road,” Farah said. “That would be something amazing.”

Farah said Saturday that “it’s looking good” that he will race both the 5000m and 10,000m at the world championships in London in August. He has won the last nine Olympic/world titles in those two events, dating to 2011.

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