New York, N.Y. – He may or may not actually be the 20 years of age that his passport declares (birth dates are often less precise in some parts of the world). But that didn’t stop Eritrea’s GhirmayGhebreslassie from frolicking like a young colt through the five concrete boroughs in the 46th running of the TCS New York City Marathon.
Showing no signs that he was competing in his third big time marathon in seven months time, the long-named strider put an exclamation point on his 2016 campaign, adding the New York City title to fourth place finishes in the London and Rio Olympic Marathons.
Under azure blue skies and clement mid-50s Fahrenheit temps, Ghebreslassie took charge as the lead pack climbed the Pulaski Bridge at halfway in Queens (1:04:25). His decisive move splintered the 12-man pack and led eventual runner up Lucas Rotich of Kenya and eventual DNF Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia on a clean breakaway. From that point forward the man from Asmara, Eritrea just kept turning the screw tighter and tighter until Desisa then Rotich gave way up the Willis Avenue Bridge at 20 miles.
Thin as a miser’s smile, the 2015 World Marathon champion in Beijing was only 34-seconds off the course record pace at 20 miles. But once free from Rotich, the recently married Gheb cantered home in 31:01 over the final 10K while Mutai had pressed his margin with a 28:36 in 2011 to set the record at 2:05:06.
In the end Ghirmay G. added a shiny Big Apple to his growing display case with a convincing 2:07:51 win, third fastest winning time in New York history and just five seconds off his PR run this spring finishing fourth in London.
Kenya’s Mary Keitany notched her third straight women’s title in 2:24:26, a mostly solo effort reminiscent of legendary Norwegian Grete Waitz whom she joined as the only three-peaters in NYC women’s history.
Nine time champ Grete won her first three in a row from 1978 to 1980 then five straight 1982-1986. Kenya’s Sally Kipyego finished her first marathon in second some 3:35 behind, but only 12 seconds ahead of America’s MollyHuddle who debuted nicely in third in 2:28:13.
But I was aboard the men’s lead moto for ESPN2 coverage, so that’s the race I watched up close.