NEW YORK — Perfect weather conditions produced peak performances from some of the world’s best marathoners at the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon. Mary Keitany crossed the finish line in first for the fourth time in the past five years with a 2:22:48 win. Lelisa Desisa now has a New York City Marathon win to go along with his 2013 and 2015 Boston Marathon titles after his win in 2:05:59 – the second-fastest in the race’s 48 year history.
Here are a few quick thoughts off the elite men’s and women’s races:
Mary Keitany put on a clinic
Mary Keitany captured her fourth New York City Marathon title in 2:22:48 but it was a 66:58 second half of the race that underscored why she is the best marathoner in the world and won by more than three minutes.
Defending champion Shalane Flanagan and 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden led for much of the first half of the race before Keitany and two other East African women pulled away with a 5:08 for the 15th mile. Keitany then quickened to a 4:55, 4:58, 4:55 for the 17th, 18th and 19th miles and was alone for the remainder of the race.
“I wanted to run a very nice race,” Keitany says. “When I was all alone, I was not thinking about the course record but I was just thinking about how to win. I was thinking about 2013 when I went in front and they got me at 24 miles.”
In 2011, Keitany was more than two minutes ahead of the competition through the early miles but she still finished second. It’s one of the few blemishes on her resume. Keitany made her marathon debut in New York in 2010 and finished third in 2:29:01 and then quickly established herself as one of the greatest marathoners in history. She won three consecutive New York City Marathons from 2014 to 2016 in 2:25:07, 2:24:25 and 2:24:26. She set the women’s-only marathon world record of 2:17:01 at the 2017 London Marathon and a fourth New York City title would not have been a shock in the fall but on the day before the race, Keitany got her first period in three months believes it affected her running so she finished second in 2:27:54.
No issues on Sunday led a masterful performance by Keitany. Flanagan ran 33 seconds faster than her victory last year and found herself three minutes and 33 seconds behind Keitany for third place overall.
Here's a quick look at Keitany's record at the New York City Marathon:
2010 - 2:29:01, 3rd place
2011 - 2:23:38, 3rd place
2014 - 2:25:07, 1st place
2015 - 2:24:25, 1st place
2016 - 2:24:26, 1st place
2017 - 2:27:54, 2nd place
2018 - 2:22:48, 1st place
Lelisa Desisa Adds Another Title
This year’s race marked Desisa’s fifth run at the New York City Marathon after finishing second in 2014 and third in 2015 and 2017. In 2014, Desisa dueled with Wilson Kipsang in the final mile and nearly came to blows before the Kenyan pulled away in response and Desisa was unable to respond and finished second in 2:11:06. A similar battle unfolded with his compatriot Shura Kitata on his heels as the duo entered Central Park after breaking defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor with a 4:31 mile.
Desisa, 28, now owns two Boston Marathon victories, a silver medal from the 2013 world championships and a New York City Marathon crown. His victory on Sunday made up for his showing at April’s Boston Marathon, where the stormy and cold conditions forced him to drop out after 35 kilometers.
It’s hard to move up in the ranks of Ethiopian all-time marathoning with greats like Haile Gebrselassie (a former world record holder) and Abebe Bikila (1960 Olympic gold medalist) but Desisa is one of the most decorated in recent years.
Shalane Leaning Toward Coaching?
Flanagan, 37, contemplated retirement before last year’s race but a win extended her career for at least a year.
In the post race press conference, she was asked whether this was her last New York City Marathon.
“I think I’m going to take a few hours post-race to decompress, really evaluate. I don’t want to be too soon to make a decision. I do feel like my heart is leaning towards serving others and the knowledge that I’ve gained. It’s become swinging more in that direction than it is in my own running.”
Flanagan trains under coach Jerry Schumacher with the Nike Bowerman Track Club in Portland, Ore. The training group features the best American distance runners with Olympians in the 800 meters through the marathon. Flanagan imparting her knowledge with that group would be just another invaluable resource for the team and the sport could always use more female coaches.
Americans Turned Out
Flanagan was not the only American woman who fared well. Two-time U.S. Olympian Molly Huddle was just 22 seconds behind her for fourth place in 2:27. Linden took sixth in 2:27:51. Allie Kieffer finished 7th in 2:28:12 for the fourth American in the top 10.
Flanagan, Huddle and Linden were asked about Keitany’s second half and expressed their admiration:
Flanagan: "There’s not much I can do about that. It is what it is. I don’t have the physical capability to have an answer for that."
Huddle: “Holy crap. That’s amazing.”
Linden: “I can’t say the words in here.”
Linden mouthed “Holy s---.“
On the men’s side, Jared Ward was the top American and finished sixth overall in 2:12:24 to hold off a late charge from Scott Fauble by eight seconds. The performance was a step forward for Ward, who contested the marathon at the 2016 Olympics but struggled with a leg injury in the past two years. For Fauble, the performance is an assuring one that he’s found his event in the marathon. Ward and Fauble could be contenders for the 2020 U.S. Olympic marathon, which appears to be wide-open and with no clear favorite at the moment.
The Marathon Humbles The Best
Bernard Lagat is one of the most decorated and celebrated runners U.S. history. He has competed at four Olympics, has two Olympic medals and owns the American record in the 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters but never raced a marathon until Sunday. At 43 years old, he made his debut and it humbled him after he crossed the finish line in 2:17:20.
“Without experiencing that first one, even if you get the best training, it’s hard to really put it together out there and execute,” Lagat told reporters. “Now that I tested it, it’s not bad. When I go back, I know how to train really well for it. I’ll hopefully improve as I go forward.”
Before the race, Lagat's credentials would have made him a contender for the top American spot but there was still a lot of uncertainty on how he would fare. He wanted to try and break Meb Keflezighi's U.S. Masters record of 2:12:20 but was five minutes off the mark. Lagat did not swear off a return to the marathon, which is good because his result qualified him for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. If he elects to race the trials in Atlanta in February 2020, he'll be 45 years old and hopefully more trained for the race. The first one is done and maybe Lagat has caught the marathon bug.