As Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang of Kenya and Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia ran stride for stride into the last stretch of the New York City Marathon on Sunday morning, a long run turned into an unusually personal sprint. As Desisa, the younger challenger, tried to surge ahead, his left arm pushed Kipsang’s arm away.
That turned a windy, tactical race into, well, hand-to-hand combat. And the look on Kipsang’s face said everything. He glared at Desisa. His next move was to dig into his finishing gear and sprint ahead in the final turn of the course in Central Park, a surge that sent him flying through the finish line, seven seconds ahead of Desisa. Only then did his defiance turn into a smile.
But Kipsang said he had not been motivated by anger.
“I didn’t see him because he was coming from behind,” Kipsang said. “Then I decided now to sprint because I saw the finish was very close and the speed was very high. So when he gave me more space, then I would sprint.
Not only did Kipsang win in his first appearance in the New York City Marathon, in a time of 2 hours 10 minutes 59 seconds, he also captured the World Marathon Majors title with his third major marathon victory in two years.
Desisa’s second-place time was 2:11:06. Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia, who won this race in 2010, finished third in 2:12:13. The American Meb Keflezighi, who won in 2009, was fourth in 2:13:18. Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya, who won the last two New York City Marathons, was in the lead pack until the final miles but faded to finish sixth.
“The race was deep, strong, windy and tactical,” he said. “When it is tactical, may the best man or woman win, and he did today.”
The runners were greeted with a sunny day for the marathon, in contrast to Saturday’s rain and gloom, but it was cold and windy for the entire race. The temperatures poked into the mid-40s, and the winds were about 31 miles per hour at the start but gusted to nearly 50.
Kipsang became the first man to win the major marathons in New York, Berlin and London, race officials said.
The Women’s race was won by Mary Keitany who came in first with a time of 2:25:07 edging out her Kenyan counterpart, Jemima Sumgong by three seconds who came in second, making it one of the closest finishes in race history.