Geoffrey Kamworor

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Mary Keitany wins 4th New York City Marathon ahead of Shalane Flanagan

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NEW YORK — With about 24 steps left in her New York City Marathon title defense, Shalane Flanagan mouthed “I love you” and waved her right hand to the Central Park crowd. Then she waved her left and crossed the finish line in third place.

The first person to greet the hunched-over Flanagan was Mary Keitany, holding a towel and carrying a Kenyan flag in her right arm.

Flanagan ran the five-borough race 31 seconds faster than last year, when she became the first U.S. female runner to win in 40 years and kept Keitany from a fourth straight title.

On this day, in optimal weather, Keitany not only regained the New York crown, but she also put together arguably the most impressive final half of a marathon in history. The 36-year-old mother of two clocked 2:22:48 overall and won by 3 minutes, 13 seconds over countrywoman Vivian Cheruiyot. Flanagan was another 20 seconds back.

Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa bagged his first New York title, after two Boston Marathon victories, by outlasting pre-race favorites Shura Kitata (by 1.99 seconds) and defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor (by 26 seconds). Desisa clocked 2:05:59, the second-fastest time in New York’s 48-year history. In many other years, that would be the performance of the day.

MORE: New York City Marathon Results | 2018 U.S. Marathon Rankings

Not this time.

Not when Keitany, in running the second-fastest female time in New York history, covered the second half in 66:58. That’s almost nine minutes faster than her first half.

It’s also 29 seconds faster than Paula Radcliffe‘s closing 13.1 miles at the 2003 London Marathon, when she set the world record of 2:15:25, a 26.2-mile mark nobody has been within 90 seconds of since. That time came with the aid of male pacers. New York has no pacers and has the slowest times of the six World Marathon Majors.

The three American women who finished in the top six on Sunday (first time that’s happened in 40 years), were asked to react to Keitany’s split.

“Holy crap,” fourth-place Molly Huddle said.

“The only word for her is incredible,” said Des Linden, Sunday’s sixth-place finisher who in April became the first U.S. female runner to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years.

“I don’t have the physical capability to have an answer for that,” said Flanagan, a 37-year-old, four-time Olympian who is unsure if she will run another marathon.

Last year, Flanagan pulled away from Keitany in the 24th mile and beat her by 61 seconds.

Keitany started the 2017 race as an overwhelming favorite, having won New York the previous three years and, in her previous marathon that spring, clocked the fastest time in a women’s-only race in history in London. Keitany said after her runner-up last year that she incurred a problem the prior afternoon but declined to specify. Keitany’s agent told LetsRun.com that she started her period less than 24 hours before the race.

Keitany said Sunday that she had an infection before this race but did not say when.

“Nothing was special today,” she said in a soft voice. “I was just ready for the race.”

Keitany started in Staten Island on Sunday morning with the most doubt she’s faced since starting her marathon career in 2010.

She lost back-to-back marathons for the first time last fall and spring. In the last two years, Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenyans Gladys Cherono and Cheruiyot became the third-, fourth- and fifth-fastest performers all-time behind Radcliffe and Keitany. Had Keitany’s descent begun?

It had not. Keitany’s incredible second half Sunday included 17th, 18th and 19th miles faster than five minutes. Her 19th mile was 4:55. The top men ran the 19th mile in 4:50.

“I didn’t want to rush at the beginning so that to suffer at the end,” she said. “I wanted to be comfortable throughout the race.”

Flanagan also showed that she is still among the world’s best marathoners. She said after finishing seventh in a miserable Boston Marathon in April that she had contested her hometown marathon for the last time as an elite. She could leave competitive marathoning altogether with this third-place finish.

“I just thought [in the final miles] if this truly is going to be my last race, a podium spot really would be special,” Flanagan said.

She could try to become the first U.S. distance runner to compete in five Olympics in 2020. At 39, she would be the third-oldest female U.S. Olympic runner after marathoners Colleen de Reuck (2004) and Francie Larrieu-Smith (1992), according to the OlyMADMen.

“My heart is leaning towards serving others,” said Flanagan, who as a training group teammate has helped Amy Cragg to a world bronze medal and Shelby Houlihan to the American record in the 5000m in the last 15 months. “It’s become swinging more in that direction than it is in my own running.”

Flanagan’s future in New York could also be impacted by the calendar. Elites may forego the latest fall major marathon next year in preparation for the Olympic Trials on Leap Day 2020. If they make the Olympic team, they could miss the 2020 New York City Marathon as well, given it’s three months after the Tokyo Games.

If Flanagan races trials, she may enter as an underdog for the three-woman Olympic team. Think of the potential field: Linden, Huddle, Cragg and Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. women’s marathoner of all time who withdrew before last month’s Chicago Marathon with a heel injury.

Meanwhile, Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp, who is out through the spring marathon season after foot surgery, is the only U.S. man to break 2:11 in the last three years. The top American on Sunday was Jared Ward, who finished sixth, as he did in Rio.

Ward’s time was 2:12:24, making him the second-fastest American for the year but outside the world’s top 250. Bernard Lagat, a 43-year-old, five-time Olympian on the track, was 18th in 2:17:20, qualifying for the Olympic Trials in his marathon debut. It’s not unfathomable that Lagat could make the Olympic team, though he’s only committing at the moment to running New York again at some point.

Paralympian Daniel Romanchuk became the first American to win the men’s wheelchair race, beating three-time winner Marcel Hug of Switzerland by one second in 1:36:21. Romanchuk, 20, also became the youngest male winner in New York history.

Swiss Manuela Schar repeated in the women’s wheelchair division, pulling away from 17-time Paralympic medalist and five-time New York winner Tatyana McFadden by 21 seconds in 1:50:27.

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MORE: Galen Rupp out several months, to miss spring marathon

Geoffrey Kamworor eyes New York City Marathon repeat, Eliud Kipchoge

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NEW YORK — When Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor finished last year’s New York City Marathon, Eliud Kipchoge was already there waiting for him. One day, Kamworor would like to reverse those roles.

“You believe that maybe one time you run against him, you’d like to beat him,” Kamworor said Thursday, three days before he defends his title in New York.

Kamworor is arguably the world’s second-best marathoner behind training partner Kipchoge, the world-record holder whom Kamworor calls a mentor.

They’ve gone head-to-head once, at the 2013 Berlin Marathon, before either had reached their 26.2-mile peak. Kipchoge placed second, his only defeat in 11 marathons, and Kamworor was third, another 2:21 behind.

Kipchoge’s appearance in New York last year was purely as a spectator, delighted to see Kamworor’s breakthrough. Kamworor does not expect him to return to watch this year’s race.

While Kipchoge is in a class of his own, Kamworor is among those jockeying in the amoeba-like second tier. Chicago Marathon winner and four-time Olympic track champion Mo Farah is there, too. Ethiopian Shura Kitata, 22, can boost his argument by challenging Kamworor on Sunday.

Kamworor, who chose a running career over studying law at a U.S. college, notched his first major marathon win in New York last November. It fulfilled years of promise.

At 18 years old, he helped pace Patrick Makau to a world record in Berlin in 2011. A year later, he debuted in the marathon and then had a biopic titled, “The Unknown Runner.” Kamworor has won the last three world titles in the half marathon.

“I don’t think I’ve trained the most talented athletes, but I’ve trained athletes with talent who are hard-working people and who want to maximize their full potential, like Eliud and Geoffrey,” Patrick Sang, who coaches the training group with Kipchoge and Kamworor, said in 2016, according to the IAAF. “I don’t think they are the greatest talents, but they are the people who are willing to give the most out of their potential.”

One thing working against Kamworor is his personal best — 2:06:12 from his debut in Berlin in 2012. That ranks outside the top 100 in the world all-time and is 4:33 slower than Kipchoge’s world record.

However, Kamworor hasn’t run a marathon other than New York City since 2014, and New York is not a course for fast times with its bridges and undulations.

“I don’t have any specific time,” goal for Sunday, said Kamworor, who held off surging countryman Wilson Kipsang by three seconds last year.

Kamworor remembers learning of Kipchoge’s world-record 2:01:39 at the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 16.

“I was not so much surprised,” he said. “I’m optimistic that in the future maybe I’ll try to break it.”

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MORE: Galen Rupp out several months, to miss spring marathon

Shalane Flanagan is first U.S. woman to win NYC Marathon in 40 years

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NEW YORK — Shalane Flanagan is the first U.S. female runner to win the New York City Marathon since 1977. It might have been the final marathon of her decorated career.

The 36-year-old clocked 2:26:53, shockingly beating three-time defending champion and world-record holder Mary Keitany of Kenya by 61 seconds on Sunday (finish video here).

“This is the moment that I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl,” Flanagan said on ESPN2. “It’s a moment, though, that I’m just trying to soak up and savor right now because I feel like this is the kind of moment that we dream of to find out our potential and realize how incredible we can be.”

Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor won the men’s race in 2:10:53, holding off surging countryman Wilson Kipsang by three seconds.

Meb Keflezighi, racing his 26th and final marathon at age 42, was 11th in 2:15:29. He collapsed in exhaustion at the finish line and was helped up by family members.

“A sense of relief,” Keflezighi, the only person to win an Olympic medal and the Boston and New York City Marathons, said on ESPN2. “Today was a struggle, but to get to that finish line was a magical moment.”

NYC MARATHON: Full results | Meb’s emotional final marathon

Flanagan is the first U.S. female runner to win the five-borough race since Miki Gorman in 1977, doing so after one of the most difficult years of her 15-year elite career.

The four-time Olympian Flanagan put a gap between Keitany and third-place Ethiopian Mamitu Daska in the 24th mile. She extended it in Central Park. She tearfully crossed the finish after appearing to exclaim profanely and blowing a kiss.

Flanagan then turned to her left and took about a dozen steps. She found Keflezighi’s cheering section and was engulfed in a hug.

“That was for Meb,” she told race director Peter Ciaccia seconds later. (Keflezighi later said that he heard Flanagan won on his 24th and mile, “and I think I did a jump with both hands in the air.”)

Flanagan teased possible retirement before this race, in the unlikely event that she won. She plans to discuss her future with coaches Jerry Schumacher and Pascal Dobert on Sunday night.

“We’ll have some decisions to make,” she said.

“If she wants to continue, I think we’ll get the best version we’ve seen of Shalane,” Schumacher said. “This can continue for a while, but if she doesn’t, then what a great way to finish.”

Flanagan has been the leading woman in U.S. distance running for about the last decade. She won an Olympic 10,000m silver medal in 2008 and made her marathon debut in New York City in 2010, finishing second.

She had not raced New York since but was strong in the years between — making two more Olympic teams, including winning the 2012 Olympic Trials and placing third in the 2014 Berlin Marathon. She was the top American in the Rio Olympic marathon in sixth.

But this year, she withdrew ahead of April’s Boston Marathon with a back fracture that kept her from running for 10 weeks. She then missed the outdoor world championships team in the 10,000m by placing fourth at nationals in June. She had made every Olympic and world outdoor championships team from 2004 through 2016.

“Sometimes we don’t realize in the moment when we feel like dreams are taken away, that actually there is some delayed gratification down the road,” Flanagan said Sunday before she broke down in tears answering the first question of a press conference. “I think it was a blessing that I got injured last winter.”

Keitany, a 35-year-old mother of two, was an overwhelming pre-race favorite. Not only had she won New York the last three years, but the Kenyan also broke Paula Radcliffe‘s women-only world record in winning her third London Marathon crown in 2:17:01 on April 23.

But Keitany revealed after running 2:27:54 (nearly three minutes slower than her worst time in her last four NYC starts) that she incurred “a problem with my home” on Saturday at about 3 p.m. Keitany was asked to specify but declined, saying only that it was not an injury.

Flanagan’s upset capped an incredible year for U.S. women in the marathon.

Jordan Hasay, 26, made her marathon debut, finishing third in both Boston in April and Chicago in October.

Hasay had the fastest debut marathon by a U.S. woman in Boston. Then, in Chicago, she moved to No. 2 on the U.S. all-time list behind Deena Kastor.

Amy Cragg took bronze at the world championships in August, becoming the first U.S. man or woman to make a world championships marathon podium since 1993.

Also Sunday, Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist, saw her streak of four straight New York wheelchair titles end.

Swiss Manuela Schar distanced McFadden by 2:52. A month earlier, McFadden won the Chicago Marathon with Schar in third place, two seconds behind.

McFadden closed out a difficult 2017. She was diagnosed with blood clots in her legs in February, requiring an operation. She was hospitalized again in early spring and then finished fourth in the Boston Marathon on April 17.

Swiss Marcel Hug repeated as men’s wheelchair race winner on Sunday in 1:37:21.

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