A very strong women's field will be on display at Sunday's New York City Marathon that stars the defending New York, London and Boston champions.
When the cannon goes off Sunday morning to start the 45th annual New York City Marathon, here’s who to look for up front among a very competitive women’s field:
Mary Keitany, Kenya (personal best: 2:18:37, London Marathon 2012)
Keitany returned to the New York City Marathon in 2014, after giving birth to her second child in 2013, and won in 2:25:07 in the cold and brisk conditions. She was unable to come away with the win and finished second in April’s London Marathon, which also featured brisk temperatures. In the build-up to London, Keitany also overcame a bout with malaria. Keitany, 33, says her build-up for the New York has gone well, without any injuries or illness. She heads into Sunday’s race having run 1:07:32 for the Great North Run half-marathon in September.
Keitany looks to become the first woman to repeat as champion since Paula Radcliffe’s titles in 2007 and 2008.
Other champions to challenge
Tigist Tufa, Ethiopia (2:21:52, Shanghai Marathon 2014)
The London Marathon champion took down Keitany in a race that was hyped up for five other female stars. The 28-year-old Tufa previously trained with fellow Ethiopian Buzunesh Deba in New York City, so it is likely that she is familiar with the course and streets. New York will be her fourth marathon of the year, as she most recently placed sixth at the IAAF World Championships.
Caroline Rotich, Kenya (2:23:22, Chicago Marathon 2012)
Rotich, 31, has run the New York City Marathon twice before, finishing seventh in 2010 and 2011. This time she enters with a fresh Boston Marathon victory under her belt after winning April’s race in 2:24:55.
A victory for Tufa or Rotich would also give them the lead in the Abbot World Marathon Majors standings, which awards $500,000 to the best finisher at the Tokyo, Boston, London, Chicago, Berlin and New York City Marathons. The winner will be decided after the Tokyo Marathon in February.
The top New Yorker
Buzunesh Deba, Ethiopia (2:19:59, Boston Marathon 2014)
The 28-year-old Bronx resident broke 2:20 at Boston last year and has two runner-up finishes in New York. Under cold conditions, Deba faded to ninth place last year. This year’s race will be her sixth try at standing atop the podium.
Alana Hadley, U.S.A. (2:38:34, Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2014)
Just 18, Hadley has the fastest personal best of any U.S. woman in the field and is the youngest elite athlete in the history of the New York City Marathon. She won last year’s Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in a course-record 2:38:34. Hadley hit the U.S. Olympic marathon trials qualifying mark with her 2:41:56 finish at the 2013 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon when she was 16. She became the youngest person since 1984 to qualify for the Olympic marathon trials since Cathy O’Brien accomplished the feat at the same age in 1984.
Hadley will turn 19 on Jan. 8. On Sunday, she will most likely not be running with the leaders but looks to leave a lasting impression of what will be missing from the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Laura Thweatt, U.S.A. (Marathon debut)
Thweatt has struggled with stress fracture injuries throughout her career, but the former Colorado Buffalo found her stride on the cross-country course by winning February’s U.S. Championships by 31 seconds. She holds personal bests of 15:04 for 5,000 meters, 32:15 for 10,000 meters and 1:11:02 for the half-marathon. Thweatt could be the top American over Hadley.
Debutant to watch
Sally Kipyego, Kenya (Marathon debut)
Twenty-nine-year-old Sally Kipyego has an Olympic silver medal on her résumé after finishing second in the 10,000 meters at the 2012 Games in London. She made her debut over 13.1 miles in the streets of New York by winning the NYC Half in 1:08:31. After Sunday, Kipyego will have shown off her range by racing the 1,500-meter, 2,000-meter, 3,000-meter, 5,000-meter, 10,000-meter, half-marathon and full-marathon distances in 2015.