Des Linden

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Kenyans Geoffrey Kamworor, Joyciline Jepkosgei win New York City Marathon

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NEW YORK — Geoffrey Kamworor and Joyciline Jepkosgei gave Kenya a sweep of the New York City Marathon men’s and women’s titles on Sunday.

Kamworor won the world’s largest annual marathon for the second time in three years, pulling away from countryman Albert Korir in the final miles. Kamworor, who trains with marathon world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge, finished in 2:08:13 and then immediately embraced Kipchoge, who was in the Central Park crowd.

“I didn’t want to disappoint him,” said Kamworor, who calls the eight-years-older Kipchoge a mentor. “That gave me a lot of motivation. He inspired me a lot during the race.”

Jepkosgei, a half-marathon world-record holder like Kamworor, outdueled four-time NYC champion Mary Keitany. She clocked 2:22:38, the second-fastest female time in race history, to become the first woman to win New York City in her marathon debut since 1994. At 25, she is the youngest female winner since 2001.

Keitany, a 37-year-old bidding to become the oldest female NYC winner since 1987, finished second. She was 54 seconds behind Jepkosgei, who in the last year withdrew before scheduled marathon debuts in Honolulu (ankle) and Hamburg (chose to pace the London Marathon).

“I know Mary had more experience in the marathon, so I was trying to push,” Jepkosgei said.

Olympians Des Linden and Jared Ward were the top Americans, each in sixth place.

Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, the defending men’s champion, withdrew in the seventh mile, 29 days after winning the world championships marathon in Doha. U.S. Olympic team contender Sara Hall dropped out at mile 18 with stomach issues, 35 days after lowering her personal best by four minutes at the Berlin Marathon.

MORE: 2019 NYC Marathon Results

New York City marked the end of the 2019 major marathon season. Top Americans are now focused on the Olympic Trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29, when the top three per gender are in line to make the Tokyo team.

Most of the U.S. Olympic favorites did not run New York City, it being less than four months before trials. That group includes Rio Olympic bronze medalist Galen Rupp, who withdrew during the Oct. 13 Chicago Marathon with a calf injury in his first race in a year after Achilles surgery.

Ward, a BYU statistics professor who was sixth in Rio, is one of three other U.S. men to break 2:10 in this Olympic cycle. He’s finished in the top 10 of major marathons each of the last three years. Four years ago, Ward deemed his chances of making the Olympic team at 35 percent. He feels they are better this time.

“I wanted something today that solidified the breakthrough that I had in Boston [in April, a personal-best 2:09:25] and establish to myself that I’m a different marathoner going into this Olympic trial cycle, in this Olympic cycle, than I was in the last one,” Ward said. “It was a validating performance.”

The U.S. women are deeper, even with the recent retirement of four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan. Linden, the 2018 Boston Marathon winner, repeated in the months before New York that she is undecided on running trials in the final years of her career.

“Right now is not the time, just based on how many calves feel and my feet feel,” Linden said when asked about 2020 plans, about an hour after placing in the top eight of an 11th straight marathon since failing to finish at the 2012 London Olympics. “Maybe at 1 a.m. tonight, I’ll have different opinions.”

The U.S. also boasts Jordan Hasay (second-fastest American woman in history), 2017 World bronze medalist Amy Cragg and Molly Huddle, the American record holder at 10,000m.

Earlier Sunday, American Daniel Romanchuk and Swiss Manuela Schar repeated as NYC wheelchair champions.

Romanchuk, 21, followed up a breakthrough 2018 when he became the first U.S. man to win the wheelchair division as well as the youngest male NYC champion in history. Romanchuk won majors in Boston and London in the spring and Chicago and New York City in the fall.

Schar, 34, three-peated as NYC champion to become the first person to sweep all six major city marathons in one year since Tokyo was added to the group in 2017. American Tatyana McFadden, whom Schar supplanted as the dominant female racer, was second, 3:59 behind.

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MORE: 2019 Boston Marathon Results

Foot race or arms race? New York City Marathon runners enter high-tech shoe debate

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NEW YORK — Among the otherwise typical New York City Marathon storylines — like course records and prep for the U.S. Olympic Trials on Feb. 29 — is the debate over shoe technology that escalated after recent historic performances.

Sunday’s race is the first major marathon since the breakthrough weekend of Oct. 12-13.

Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge became the first person to run a sub-two-hour marathon (not in a race, but in a non-record-eligible event where he was the only contestant, with pacers). The next day, countrywoman Brigid Kosgei won the Chicago Marathon in 2:14:04, shattering the 16-year-old women’s world record by 81 seconds.

Both Kipchoge, regarded as the greatest marathoner in history before his 1:59, and Kosgei, arguably the world’s greatest active female road runner before the 2:14, ran in versions of the Nike Vaporfly — uniquely tall shoes on the outside with a carbon fiber plate on the inside. Kipchoge has been running on versions of them for years, including when he lowered the world record by 78 seconds to 2:01:39 in 2018.

In the last 13 months, four men combined to run the five fastest marathons in history, all reportedly in versions of the Vaporfly. Other shoe companies have been tasked to catch up to Nike’s technology since the Vaporfly debuted in 2016.

“It is an arms race, and it should be a foot race,” said Des Linden, a two-time Olympian and 2018 Boston Marathon champion who is sponsored by and runs in Brooks shoes. “We should find out who the best athlete is and who can cover 26.2 [miles] better than the other person. Not who has the newest, greatest technology.”

Linden said she will race Sunday in the latest version of a shoe that Brooks has been working on for two years but didn’t say how close its technology was to the Nike Vaporfly.

“I’m not sure how much I can say about the Brooks shoe,” she said. “I’ve had conversations with them where it was like, is this OK to wear? What’s your guys standing on this? They’re like, yeah, it’s absolutely widely available to the public. There’s plenty of Brooks athletes out there in that shoe. The technology isn’t something that isn’t available to the public. It seems like we’re in a good spot.”

The IAAF, track and field’s international governing body, does have rules regulating shoes.

“Any type of shoe used must be reasonably available to all in the spirit of the universality of athletics,” it reads. “Shoes must not be constructed so as to give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage.”

Days after Kipchoge and Kosgei’s breakthroughs, the IAAF said it commissioned a group to review shoe technologies and possibly recommend rule changes by the end of the year.

“It is clear that some forms of technology would provide an athlete with assistance that runs contrary to the values of the sport,” the IAAF said. “The challenge for the IAAF is to find the right balance in the technical rules between encouraging the development and use of new technologies in athletics and the preservation of the fundamental characteristics of the sport: accessibility, universality and fairness.”

Versions of the Vaporfly have been made available to the public, but Kipchoge ran his 1:59 (again, not in a race) in a prototype. Linden said she doesn’t think the playing field is level between athletes in Nike shoes and those who are not.

“Every company has a different pace that they’re working at,” she said. “So we’re all obviously behind [Nike] to begin with.

“Now that it’s available, it’s everyone playing catch-up. I think that we can get there, but also, are they going to put a hard stop against how far this can go?”

Another top American in the New York City field, Sara Hall, just chopped four minutes off her marathon PR last month wearing her Asics.

“I haven’t run in carbon-plated shoes at all,” she said. “But I think the upside of that is, I really feel like I have ownership over my PRs and stuff. I know I worked really hard to get that PR, and I didn’t just have springs and things like that.”

Jared Ward, who finished sixth at the Rio Olympics (not in Vaporflies), said he’s running Sunday in the latest version of a Saucony shoe that will be released in the spring. Ward, also a statistics professor at BYU, said he hasn’t put a lot of thought into the Nike shoes, but that the shoe industry “is on its side a little bit.”

“At some point, there’s diminishing returns because if you get taller and taller shoes, you have to build wider and wider shoes, and then they start getting heavy,” he said. “In a year or two, things are going to stabilize, and then we’ll be back to running.

“I’m looking more at what the athletes are doing. I think Kipchoge and Kosgei are some of the best, probably the best marathoners ever. And so we put them in good shoes, and they run well, but they’re going to run well in whatever they’re running in.”

The Vaporflies were created in part because athletes did not find the lightweight, minimalist shoe movement to their liking. Take Shalane Flanagan, the four-time Olympian, longtime Nike athlete and 2017 New York City Marathon winner who recently retired.

Flanagan said she and other marathoners told Nike around 2014 and 2015 that they wanted more cushioning. Eventually, Flanagan and Amy Cragg debuted a version of the Vaporfly at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

“Even within my training, I felt I was able to recover quicker because there wasn’t as much muscle breakdown, fiber breakdown, because the load of the landing was softened,” she said. “I was able to get through the training and not feel so sore all the time.”

Those first Vaporflies had a carbon fiber plate, but not nearly as technical as the newer versions, said Flanagan, now coaching a Nike group of runners in Oregon.

“At the time it was more focused on the foam than the shank that was within it,” she said.

Flanagan, before answering questions on the subject, admitted she has bias as a Nike athlete/coach.

“If you look at all different sports, there’s always been kind of a pivotal point in which the sport has decided we’re going to this direction or we’re not going to go a direction in terms of innovation,” she said, noting high-tech swimsuits (banned in 2010), tennis rackets, speed skating suits and baseball bats. “It’s up to our sport to decide which direction we want to go — innovate or stay the same?”

One of the high-profile Nike athletes running on Sunday is Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, the half marathon world-record holder, 2017 New York City champion and a training partner of Kipchoge. He will race in Vaporflies, but not the same version that Kipchoge had three weeks ago. Kamworor was asked what he would say to those who want them regulated or even banned.

“Vaporfly shoe is not only for the elite athletes, but it’s also for the average runners,” he said, referring to the IAAF’s mandate of universality. “It’s not limited to some people. It’s for everyone.”

MORE: Tokyo governor to IOC: Keep Olympic marathon in Tokyo

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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