NEW YORK — Mary Keitany received two phrases of advice from her 3-year-old daughter before the New York City Marathon on Sunday.
Good luck, young Samantha said. Try not to fall down.
Keitany told her she would try her best.
Several hours later, Keitany brisked through Central Park for her third straight New York City Marathon title, with the largest winning margin since 1984.
Samantha and her son, 8-year-old Jared, were waiting.
“When I crossed the line, she [Samantha] was happy,” the 34-year-old Keitany said. “Ultimately, I was happy, too.”
The Kenyan Keitany 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.
Keitany finished in 2:24:26, which was 3 minutes, 34 seconds ahead of runner-up and countrywoman Sally Kipyego. The margin was another feat of dominance not seen since the great Waitz.
MORE: NYC Marathon Results
Keitany pulled away in the 15th mile and ran alone for the rest of the race, putting a stamp on a previously frustrating year.
As Samantha remembered, Keitany fell during the London Marathon on April 24 and finished ninth. It marked the first time she placed lower than fourth in 29 career half marathons and marathons.
Regardless, Keitany, the second-fastest female marathoner of all time, felt she had earned a place on the three-woman Kenyan Olympic marathon team for Rio based on her other recent results. Yet she was passed over in favor of three less-accomplished runners, one of whom placed 86th in Brazil and another not finishing at all.
“I was disappointed,” Keitany said of the Olympics last week. “So let me just focus on the marathon for New York and come to defend my title.”
Kipyego, a 2009 Texas Tech graduate, was reminded of her own disappointment upon arriving in New York. The 2012 Olympic 10,000m silver medalist made her marathon debut here last year but dropped out around the 23rd mile and reportedly told her coach, “Sign me up for the next one.”
“This was kind of a redemption year,” said Kipyego, who failed to make the Kenyan Olympic team for Rio.
American Molly Huddle had Kipyego in her sights in the final miles in Central Park on Sunday. The two-time U.S. Olympian on the track, in her marathon debut, was surprisingly spry at the end of the race.
Huddle was in fourth place, 29 seconds behind third-place Kipyego at the 21-mile mark. But second-place Joyce Chepkirui was fading. Kipyego eventually caught Chepkirui, and then Huddle did with about one mile left.
Huddle closed on Kipyego, too, but ran out of pavement, finishing 12 seconds behind the runner-up in 2:28:13.
Still, she became the first American runner to make the New York City podium since Shalane Flanagan in 2010 (Abdi Abdirahman made the men’s podium about a half-hour later).
Huddle said she was “flailing” the last 10 miles. Afterward, she repeated her plans to return to the track next year, but she may focus on road racing after that.
“It was a big step in learning how to race the marathon,” said the 32-year-old Huddle, who broke Flanagan’s American record in the 10,000m at the Rio Olympics, finishing sixth. “Really happy to be third.”Follow @nzaccardi