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Fast Women: Redemption for Hellen Obiri in NYC
Kellyn Taylor leads the American woman.
Issue 264, sponsored by Oiselle
Hellen Obiri wins the NYC-Boston double
One year ago, Hellen Obiri made her much-anticipated marathon debut at the New York City Marathon, but it didn’t go as planned. She finished a disappointing-to-her sixth in 2:25:49 and ended up in the medical tent. But in 2023, Obiri has been tough to beat. She won April’s Boston Marathon, and on Sunday, she added a New York City Marathon win, finishing in 2:27:23. “Sometimes you learn from your mistakes,” she said after the race.
Obiri became the first woman to win Boston and New York in the same year since Ingrid Kristiansen did so in 1989.
This year’s elite field was small but mighty, with only 14 women starting the race. If they had gone hard from the gun, which rarely happens in New York, it could have been a lonely race. But instead, something else equally unusual happened—a group of 11 women ran together, at a slow (for them) pace, for more than 20 miles.
The slow pace meant that Kellyn Taylor did a lot of the leading, sometimes opening up gaps, but the chase pack kept closing them up. But it was Taylor who first broke the race up, just shy of two hours in. Molly Huddle, who, like Taylor, was running her first marathon since having a baby in 2022, was among those who fell off the pace at that point.
Taylor’s move whittled the group down to eight, with Ethiopia’s Letensenbet Gidey and Kenya’s Viola Cheptoo, Mary Ngugi-Cooper, Obiri, Brigid Kosgei, Sharon Lokedi, and Edna Kiplagat hanging on.
Cheptoo made the next big move, in the 23rd mile of the race, which caused Kiplagat, Taylor, and Ngugi-Cooper to drop back. Obiri took the lead as the race headed into Central Park, and about a mile later, late in the 25th mile, Cheptoo fell off the pace. Kosgei dropped back several times and impressively worked her way back up to the leaders. But she was gone for good with about a mile to go.
You can watch most of the final mile of the women’s race here. Lokedi dropped back with less than 600m to go, and Obiri began to pull away from Gidey just before the 26-mile mark. Obiri’s overall time was nothing special, but she flew through the closing miles. Over the last 4.5 miles, she averaged 5:01/mile, and she ran her final mile in 4:52.
Gidey, who was running her second marathon, seemed pleased with her runner-up finish, in 2:27:29, six seconds behind Obiri. (Gidey frequently doesn’t fare well when her races come down to a kick, but the last time Obiri and Gidey raced, in the 10,000m at the 2022 World Championships, Gidey earned a narrow win.) And Lokedi, last year’s surprise champion, finished third in 2:27:33. Lokedi was running her second marathon as well; she intended to run Boston, but an injury prevented her from doing so. She spent most of the year injured, and she said she’s not even at 100 percent now, so she was happy to make the podium again.
The weather for this year’s race was about as good as it gets in New York. There was talk of Margaret Okayo’s 20-year-old course record of 2:22:31 going down. But after a year of constant record breaking, it was fun to watch a race where time meant very little, and it was just about who could get to the finish line first. After the leaders went through halfway in 1:14:21, I thought surely we were in for a quick second half. But the race didn’t really get going until about four miles to go.
Kosgei hung on to take fourth (2:27:45), Ngugi-Cooper moved up to fifth (2:27:53), and Cheptoo took sixth (2:28:11). Kiplagat, who was 10 days shy of her 44th birthday, finished seventh in 2:29:40 and won the masters division. Her agent said she was thrilled to do so well after a buildup that wasn’t ideal.
Kellyn Taylor leads the way for the U.S. women in NYC
Kellyn Taylor confirmed leading up to the race that she chose to run New York partly because the Chicago Marathon didn’t want her. And Molly Huddle was in a similar boat. “We birthed humans. We were still running—it’s not like we’ve been sitting on the couch eating Cheetos for a year,” Taylor told Erin Strout.
There were only four American women in the NYC elite field this year, in large part because the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are less than three months away. Anyone hoping to squeeze in a marathon before the Trials is probably running the California International Marathon, or another fast race, in an attempt to earn a last-chance qualifier. But Taylor and Huddle saw more benefits to getting in another marathon versus sitting this one out.
Because of the slower pace, Taylor described the race as one of the weirdest races she has ever run. But she held her own in a strong field and finished eighth in 2:29:48, 10 months after giving birth. Huddle said her legs fell apart with 5K to go, which she thinks is related to her lower-volume training, but she held on to finish ninth in 2:32:02. Sydney Devore (12th, 2:36:01) and Meriah Earle (14th, 2:44:11) were the other Americans in the elite field. (Live results | All results)
Other NYC Marathon Highlights
Switzerland’s Catherine Debrunner has been on a roll this fall, no pun intended. She won the wheelchair races at the Berlin and Chicago Marathons, set course records at both, and broke the world record in Berlin. And she added another title and course record in NYC, winning in 1:39:32. She won the race by 8:21 over Manuela Schär, also of Switzerland. Susannah Scaroni, last year’s champion, finished third in 1:48:14. The top two Americans, Scaroni and Tatyana McFadden (sixth, 1:53:31) earned the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the marathon at next year’s Paralympic Games in Paris.
Reigning Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir traveled to New York for the race, but she said at the press conference that she suffered a lower leg injury in her final workout before the race. After two days of physical therapy, she decided it was safer to withdraw, so she can focus on defending her Olympic title in Paris, assuming she makes the Kenyan team.
The race produced no new U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers, but Taylor and Huddle, who had previously qualified with half marathon times, now have marathon qualifying times.
Italy’s Ivana Iozzia, 50, was the top female finisher from the mass start, running an impressive 2:41:16. She also dominated the 50–54 age group. And Laurie Knowles, 46, was the top U.S. finisher from the mass start, running 2:47:02.
Here are the age-group winners I haven’t already mentioned: Lexi Baker (18–19, 3:16:41), Sarah Tully (20–24, 2:48:17), Susan McDonald (55–59, 2:54:36), Denise Iannizzotto (60–64), 3:33:29), Gwen Jacobson (65–69, 3:19:15), Maria Grazia Navacchia (70–74, 3:51:43), Marlies Prim (75–79, 5:38:47), and Gillian Carrick (80–89, 4:43:32).
Some other notable NYC Marathon finishers: Shalane Flanagan ran 3:04:55, pacing former Bachelor Matt James. Wearing quite the race-day uniform, Alexi Pappas ran 3:26:14. Alysia Montaño, an 800m standout during her pro career, ran 3:28:04, while fundraising for &Mother, the organization that she founded.
I love when pros raise money for good causes. Molly Huddle also fundraised for &Mother.
This is a great video of On Athletics Club coach Kelsey Quinn reacting to Hellen Obiri’s win.
I enjoyed this pre-race article from The New York Times about how the NYC Marathon was supporting new moms on race day (gift link). The photos were my favorite part.
I know some people had trouble with the race app crashing, but I updated my app on race morning and had no problems. It was great to be able to watch the media feed of the women’s races so I could see what was going on even when ESPN was showing something else. This year, the app also included commentary from Des Linden and Amanda McGrory the handful of times they were on air. I would have loved to have a clock on the screen (ESPN also lacked a clock much of the time), but overall, the app was great and I wish more major races would follow suit.
Annie Rodenfels earns her first national title
Annie Rodenfels got married on October 27, and instead of going on a honeymoon, she headed to New York City and won the USATF 5K Championships eight days later. Rodenfels, 27, pulled away from the field with about three-quarters of a mile remaining and broke the tape in 15:22, earning her first national title and $12,000.
Weini Kelati set the pace early on, and in the second mile, Keira D’Amato took over, opening up a small lead over Kelati and Rodenfels. But with a mile to go, the trio was back together again. Rodenfels has won many a race on the strength of her kick, but she opted to try something different this time. “I’ve been working on trying to take it farther out, instead of just leaving it to kick,” she told Carrie Tollefson on the race broadcast. “I’ve lost a national title in a kick before to Keira, and I wasn’t going to let that happen again.”
The chase pack closed well, especially Rachel Smith, who moved up to second, finishing in 15:26. It was a particularly impressive result given that Smith was running her first serious race since giving birth six months earlier. And Bethany Hasz, Rodenfels’ teammate, finished third in 15:27. D’Amato (15:28) and Kelati (15:30) finished close behind, in fourth and fifth, respectively.
The men started roughly five minutes before the women, and about three minutes in, a bus almost took out most of the men’s field.
Roberta Groner, 45, opted to run in the mass race instead of the elite field, and she edged out Ellie Leather for the win, 16:30 to 16:31. (Results)
Other News and Links
The rumors were true. Elise Cranny announced that she’s leaving the Bowerman Track Club. Their women’s squad has been steadily losing members for a while now, but losing their top athlete is a big blow. Bowerman has gone from being the premiere distance squad in the U.S. to only having four members. The only athletes left are Karissa Schweizer, Courtney Frerichs, Christina Aragon, and Andrea Seccafien. Cranny was on The Running Effect podcast last week. While it was recorded before she made her announcement, she said a lot of things that suggested there was change to come, and that overtraining was a factor in her uneven performances this year. “I think I have kind of continued to leave a lot in training,” she said. “I felt like I put in all of this really hard training, probably the best training I’ve ever had in my life, and I don’t feel like it translated to the races, particularly on the world stage.” She also said that this past year, she lost a lot of the joy she normally finds in running. No word on Cranny’s next move yet.
The debate over the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials start time has become tough to follow, but this Runner’s World article from Sarah Lorge Butler lays it all out. According to the local organizing committee (LOC), they were told by USATF that the noon start was non-negotiable. So the LOC built a financial model centered around the noon start, to offset the cost of hosting. Then USATF and NBC agreed to a 10:00 a.m. start time, but the LOC is saying that changing the start time will cost them $700,000 in fines and waived rights fees. Track Shack’s Jon and Betsy Hughes sent the athletes this letter, explaining their side of the story. “After all of this, why would anyone bid to host in the future?” Kara Goucher tweeted in response.
Kazakhstan’s Norah Jeruto, the 2022 world champion in the steeplechase, was provisionally suspended in April due to irregularities in her biological passport. But on Friday, the Athletics Integrity Unit announced that a disciplinary tribunal dismissed the charge, because they could not prove that she had used a banned substance. The AIU said they would review the decision before deciding whether or not they would appeal it. You can read the full decision here, and Jonathan Gault had some good analysis of the situation here.
And another steeplechaser, Ethiopia’s Zerfe Wondemagegn, 21, has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for EPO. The AIU hasn’t released any details about her case, but she’s a big name in the sport. She finished fourth in the steeple at the world championships in August.
Last week, Harvard professor Jenny Hoffman set a Guinness world record for the fastest crossing of America on foot. Sandra Villines held the previous record: 55 days, 16 hours, and 23 minutes. And Hoffman ran from San Francisco to New York City in 47 days, 12 hours, and 35 minutes. I appreciate the detail in this article (NY Times, link takes a moment to jump to the right place) that she listened to Des Linden’s book along the way.
Reigning NCAA Indoor mile champion Olivia Howell signed an NIL deal with Adidas. Howell won the title while competing for the University of Illinois, but she is now competing for the University of Texas.
PEOPLE featured Christine (Thorn) Fischer, an accomplished distance runner who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in January. She was in NYC over the weekend to watch her husband, Reed Fischer, race.
I appreciated this post from Leah Falland about enjoying running again, after years of stressing about high performance.
In this post, former Atlanta Track Club coach Amy Yoder Begley, who now works for USATF, mentioned that her husband, Andrew Begley, is starting a new team based in Indiana.
Oregon high school sprinter Mia Brahe-Pedersen announced that she’ll be leaving her home state and heading to the University of Southern California next year.
Women’s Running did a nice Q&A with Erin Strout, this year’s recipient of the George Hirsch Journalism Award.
Great Britain’s Carla Molinaro won the IAU 50K Championships, held in Hyderabad, India, in 3:18:23. Andrea Pomaranski, 41, who was running just her second ultra, finished second in 3:19:07 and reported that the conditions were very tough. And Sarah Webster, also of Great Britain, finished third in 3:20:07. Great Britain won the team competition and the U.S. team finished second. (Brief recap and results)
The Pan Am Games felt like a strange contest to see who could race the best during the off-season (for most track athletes), but the event, held in Santiago, Chile, drew impressive crowds. The following athletes won gold on the track: Peru’s Luz Mery Rojas (10,000m, 33:12.99), Venezuela’s Joselyn Daniely Brea (5,000m, 16:04.12 and 1500m, 4:11.80), Cuba’s Sahily Diago (800m, 2:02.71), and Argentina’s Belén Casetta (steeplechase, 9:39.47). And the following Americans won medals in distance events: Taylor Werner (5,000m silver, 16:06.48), Ednah Kurgat (10,000m bronze, 33:16.61), and Emily Mackay (1500m bronze, 4:12.02). (Results)
Canadian sisters Lucia Stafford (15:37) and Gabriela DeBues-Stafford (16:08) went 1–2 in the 5K that accompanies the Hamilton Marathon. (Results)
Bailey Kowalczyk won Saturday’s USATF Trail Half Marathon Championships, hosted by the Moab Trail Half Marathon, in 1:36:44. Rachael Rudel took second (1:41:24) and Alicia Vargo took third (1:42:35). (Results)
I loved hearing more of Gabi Rooker’s story on The Rambling Runner podcast. Rooker has gone from beginner to 2:24 marathoner in a short period of time. She said that balancing a full-time job as a physician assistant and training has progressively gotten more challenging, so she’s going to be taking a leave of absence from her job in January, leading up to the Olympic Trials. I loved hearing about the support she has gotten from her local running group, Mill City Running, and other pros in the sport.
I expect that Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone is going to be doing more media appearances now that she has a book coming out. She was on The Shakeout Podcast last week, and I appreciated what she had to say about how she handles inappropriate questions from members of the media. “You can ask me whatever you’d like, but I get to choose how I respond,” she said.
Additional Episodes: Malindi Elmore’s live discussion with Keeping Track hosts Molly Huddle and Alysia Montaño | Age-group standout Barb Broad, 73, who didn’t take up running until she was 40, on Hear Her Sports | Tristin Van Ord on Lactic Acid (And now I’m curious if host Dominique Smith really attended Van Ord’s wedding.) | Jereny Rivera discussed her struggles with low ferritin on Rambling Runner
Something that made me smile
I’m excited to have Oiselle supporting Fast Women this month. I’m a big fan, evidenced by the fact that I wear their clothing pretty much every day. (Their Lux tops and Roga shorts are my current favorites.) If you’re in the market for some new running clothing and/or accessories, check them out.