By the time Mary Keitany was pacing her way up Manhattan’s First Avenue, she had no reason to look back for challengers. The Kenyan’s lead was growing over the strong women’s field with every stride, and all she thought about was the finish line.
Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia didn’t break out into a big grin until he pulled away from two opponents late in the race.
In perfect crisp autumn weather for distance runners, Keitany and Desisa won the New York City Marathon on Sunday in near record times.
Keitany, 36, became the second woman to win the marathon four times. She ran the race in 2 hours, 22 minutes, 48 seconds, the second fastest time for the course in history. Margaret Okayo of Kenya set the record of 2:22:31 in 2003.
“I can say the course record was not in my mind,” Keitany said. “For me, winning was the most important.”
Desisa, 28, held off countryman Shura Kitata by 1.99 seconds for his first win in New York, joining victories at the Boston Marathon in 2013 and 2015. He finished second in New York in 2014 and third in 2015 and 2017.
“This is my dream,” Desisa said. “To be a champion.”
Desisa finished in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 59 seconds, the second fastest time for the course. Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya set the record of 2:05:05 in 2011. Last year’s winner, Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya, finished third.
“I’m pretty happy to finish on the podium,” Kamworor said. “I came out the best that I could in the race. I tried my best, and I’m happy to be third.”
Keitany won in 2014, 2015 and 2016 before coming in second last year to Shalane Flanagan, the first American woman in 40 years to win the New York City Marathon. She joined Grete Waitz, the Norwegian who won the marathon nine times between 1978-1988, as the only women to win the marathon four times.
She and Ethiopians Rahma Tusa and Gudeta turned their race to a three-woman field at the 15-mile mark. Keitany pulled away from Tusa and Gudeta at the 19-mile mark, leading Tusa by 26.58 seconds and Gudeta by 43.98 seconds. She extended her lead over Tusa to 1:27.83 at the 21-mile mark.
From that point, the question was not whether Keitany would win. Rather, it was by how much.
She beat countrywoman Vivian Cheruiyot by 3 minutes, 13 seconds.
Flanagan finished third.
“You have to find motivation, things to focus on,” Flanagan said. “When I finally got to third place, I got another level of excitement because I was fighting.”
The United States had four women finish in the top 10: Molly Huddle was fourth, Desiree Linden was sixth and Allie Kieffer was seventh.
Four American men also finished in the top 10: Jared Ward was sixth, Scott Fauble was seventh, Shadrack Biwott was ninth and Chris Derrick was tenth.
Daniel Romanchuk became the first American to win the men’s wheelchair division, with a time of 1:36:21. Romanchuk finished 01.15 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Marcel Hug. David Weir of Britain, American Aaron Pike and Australian Kurt Fernley rounded out the top five.
“I need air and I’m in pain,” said Romanchuk, a 20-year old from Champaign, Illinois, who won the Chicago Marathon last month. “It’s wonderful to be able to win my two Abbott major marathons on American soil. It’s an amazing experience.”
Manuela Schar of Switzerland repeated as winner of the women’s wheelchair division. Schar, who also won the Berlin and Chicago marathons, finished with a time of 1:50:27. American Tatyana McFadden finished second with a time of 1:50:48. Lihong Zou of China came in third. Eliza Ault-Connell of Australia and Margriet Van Den Broek of the Netherlands finished fourth and fifth.
“New York is always a really tough one for me because of the course,” Schar said. “I’m not really a good climber so I always have to work really hard in the flat part. Yeah (I) tried to make that ground that I lose in the hills. I’m always a bit more nervous before New York than before the other races.”
Retired NFL running back Tiki Barber finished the race in 4:44:47. He has run the marathon every year since 2014, with his best time being 4:28:26 in 2016. Actress Teri Hatcher recorded a time of 5:51:21 in her second marathon. In 2014, she compiled a time of 5:06:42.