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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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‘Race and Sports in America: Conversations’ primetime special covers social justice, combating inequality

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Athletes, including Olympians, discussed social justice, locker room conversations about race and ways that sports can help combat inequality in “Race and Sports in America: Conversations,” airing Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Olympic Channel, Golf Channel and NBC Sports Regional Networks.

NBC Sports’ Damon Hack hosted roundtables with active and retired athletes at the American Century Championship Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, last week.

Panelists, including Olympians James Blake and Charles Barkley and Tokyo Olympic hopeful Stephen Curry, also reflected on personal experiences.

Barkley, an Olympic gold medalist in 1992 and 1996, said coaches recently reached out to him to speak to their teams.

“First of all, relax and breathe,” Barkley said. “This crap started 400 years ago. We can’t do nothing about that. We can’t do anything about systematic racism. What I challenge every Black person, every white person to do: What can I do today going forward?

“You have to ask yourself, I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Because if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Blake, a retired former top-five tennis player and 2008 Olympian, was wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and arrested by a plainclothes New York City police officer in 2015 in a case of mistaken identity caught on video. The police officer’s punishment was a loss of five vacation days.

“The first thing I said when I got tackled was, I’m complying 100 percent,” Blake said. “And that shouldn’t have to be your response the first time you interact with a police officer. And because that’s the way my dad taught me is stay alive. Do whatever you can to stay alive. Sort it out later with lawyers or however you want to do it, and stay alive in that moment. The fact you have to have those rules in 2020 means maybe we have to do something drastic to change the way police interact with the African-American community and the way the community interacts with the police.”

Curry said his daughters, 7-year-old Riley and 5-year-old Ryan, asked questions about the images they recently saw. He’s not shielding them, but rather being honest about society, going back centuries.

“We have to continue to double down and double down and keep people accountable in all walks of life, all industries, all forms of leadership, the judicial system, all those type of things,” Curry said. “And hopefully for my kids’ generation, their kids, we will see change. I’m hopeful and optimistic about, but I understand how much work will need to go into that.”

The full list of athletes who participated in the “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” roundtables:

• Charles Barkley – 1992 and 1996 Olympic basketball champion
• James Blake – 10-time ATP tennis champion, 2008 Olympian
• Stephen Curry – two-time NBA MVP, two-time FIBA world champion
• Troy Mullins – World Long Drive competitor
• Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers head coach
• Jimmy Rollins – World Series champion shortstop
• Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings tight end
• Ozzie Smith – Major League Baseball Hall of Famer

Additionally, Hack was joined by Super Bowl champion running back Jerome Bettis for an extended interview that will be published on NBC Sports’ digital and podcast platforms.

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Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

Shelby Houlihan
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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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