Might Dathan Ritzenhein Have A Chance To Win The 2016 NYC Marathon? We Break Down the 2016 NYC Marathon Elite Fields

By LetsRun.com
September 14, 2016

The fields are set for the year’s final Abbott World Marathon Major. On Wednesday, the New York Road Runners announced the elite international field for the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon on November 6, headlined by defending champions Mary Keitany and Stanley Biwott of Kenya. Those two are among several top African runners who will challenge Americans such as Dathan RitzenheinTyler PennelMolly Huddle and Kim Conley (the U.S. field was already announced in July).

Keitany, who was controversially stupidly left off the Kenyan Olympic team this summer, will be going for her third straight title. Should she succeed, she would be the first runner, male or female, to three-peat since Grete Waitz won five straight from 1982 to 1986. Biwott did run the marathon in Rio but struggled in the heat and wound up dropping out.

Behind Biwott, world champ Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea (4th at the Olympics) and two-time Boston Marathon champ Lelisa Desisa (3rd in NYC last year) are the big names. Kenyan Lucas Rotich, who won the Lake Biwa Marathon in March and the Healthy Kidney 10K in New York in May, is also entered.

On the women’s side, Kenyan Gladys Cherono coould give Keitany a run for her money. The silver medallist at Worlds in the 10,000 in 2013 and the 2014 World Half Marathon champion, Cherono’s two career marathons (2:20:03 for 2nd in Dubai, 2:19:25 for 1st in Berlin, both last year) have gone very well. 2015 runner-up Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia and Joyce Chepkirui of Kenya, who lost by a stride to Huddle in March’s controversial NYC Half, should also contend for the win in November.

We’ve got the full fields below, followed by a few thoughts.

Men’s field

Name PB Comment
Stanley Biwott, KEN 2:03:51 Defending champ
Lelisa Desisa, ETH 2:04:45 3rd last year, 2nd in Boston
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, ERI 2:07:47 World champ, 4th at Olympics
Lucas Rotich, KEN 2:07:17 Won Lake Biwa Marathon in March
Dathan Ritzenhein, USA 2:07:47 Coming off 60:12 HM at Great North Run
Ryan Vail, USA 2:10:57 Injury kept him out of the Olympic Trials
Hiroyuki Yamamoto, JPN 2:11:48 Has run the exact same time in both of his marathons
Matt Llano, USA 2:12:28 6th at Olympic Trials
Shadrack Biwott, USA 2:12:55 7th at Olympic Trials
Tyler Pennel, USA 2:13:32 5th at Olympic Trials
Craig Leon, USA 2:13:53 8th last year
Christo Landry, USA 2:14:30 3rd in US 20k last week
Moses Kipsiro, UGA 2:15:48 Ran a 12:50 5000 in 2007

Women’s field

Name PB Comment
Mary Keitany, KEN 2:18:37 Two-time defending champ
Aselefech Mergia, ETH 2:19:31 2015 Dubai champ; 2nd last year
Gladys Cherono, KEN 2:19:25 2nd in Dubai, 1st in Berlin last year
Buzunesh Deba, KEN 2:19:59 Two-time runner-up (2011, 2013)
Joyce Chepkirui, KEN 2:24:11 3rd in Boston
Lanni Marchant, CAN 2:28:00 Canadian record holder
Kellyn Taylor, USA 2:28:40 6th at Olympic Trials
Janet Bawcom, USA 2:29:45 5th at Olympic Trials
Sara Hall, USA 2:30:06 PR’d to get 12th in London this spring
Neely Gracey, USA 2:35:00 9th in Boston (top American)
Sally Kipyego, KEN 1:08:31 (HM) DNF’d debut in NYC last year
Molly Huddle, USA 1:07:41 (HM) Set 10k AR (30:13) to take 6th in Olympics
Kim Conley, USA 1:09:44 (HM) Failed to make 5k final in Olympics
Gwen Jorgensen, USA 32:12 (10K) Olympic triathlon champ

Full press release

Quick Thought #1: While the U.S. fields are strong, overall the fields are much weaker than last year, particularly on the men’s side.

Last year’s men’s field had four guys with sub-2:05 PRs and another one at 2:06 in super talent and world xc champ Geoffrey Kamworor. This years’ field only features two guys who have broken 2:07 (both of them have broken 2:05).

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On the women’s side, things are a little more encouraging, this year’s field actually has more sub-2:20 women (4) than last year (3), but the depth was much better in 2015. Last year had seven women who had broken 2:24 versus just four this year and included the reigning champs in New York, Dubai, Boston and London.

Of course, PRs aren’t everything, especially in New York. And it’s not exactly New York’s fault that their men’s field isn’t as strong as it normally is as in an Olympic year, it’s always going to be harder to attract talent to a fall marathon. As of now, Ghebreslassie is the only guy one of only two guys who finished in the top 10 in Rio whom we’ve seen announced for a fall marathon. (Update: Canadian Eric Gillis was 10th in Rio and is running the Toronto Marathon on October 16th.)

In terms of Americans, while U.S. Olympians Galen RuppJared Ward and Meb Keflezighi passed on another marathon this year, NYC definitely has the best American field of a fall major with Ritzenhein and Trials 5th placer Tyler Pennel leading the way. Obviously, it’s certainly a lot stronger from an American perspective than the 2015 edition, which was held just three months before the Olympic Trials.

It’s the same story on the women’s side. We haven’t seen any of the top 10 from Rio announced for a fall marathon, and that includes all three Americans in Shalane FlanaganDesi Linden and Amy Cragg. But NYC got Keitany, who will be the best woman running a marathon this fall, plus Huddle, one of the best Americans ever, making her debut. Add in the 5th and 6th placers from the Trials (Janet Bawcom and Kellyn Taylor), the top American from Boston (Neely Gracey) and two more intriguing debutants in two-time Olympian Kim Conley and Olympic triathlon champ Gwen Jorgensen and this is a very good American field.

Quick Thought #2: How does NYC stack up against the other fall majors?

Men’s fields

Berlin Chicago NYC
Sub-2:05 3 3 2
Sub-2:07 8 5 2
Sub-2:09 10 6 5

Full Berlin field * Full Chicago field

If you are looking at simply PRs, NYC looks weaker than Berlin and Chicago. But if you’re arguing which fall men’s marathon is the toughest to win in 2016, the answer may be New York. Biwott was widely regarded as the World #2 behind Eliud Kipchoge entering Rio, Desisa never has a bad race and Ghebreslassie has developed into one of the world’s best in non-rabbitted races. Berlin, with Wilson KipsangKenenisa BekeleEmmanuel Mutai and Tsegaye Mekonnen, probably has more star power, but it takes a different kind of runner to succeed in Berlin than in New York. Chicago, meanwhile, boasts world record holder Dennis Kimetto (who hasn’t run a good marathon since April 2015), Dickson Chumba and Tsegaye Kebede. If we had to rank them, we’d probably go 1. Berlin, 2. New York, 3. Chicago given Berlin’s superior depth.

Women’s fields

Berlin Chicago NYC
Sub-2:20 0 1 4
Sub-2:23 3 2 4
Sub-2:27 6 4 5

Full Berlin field * Full Chicago field

This one requires less analysis. NYC clearly has the strongest women’s field, (Berlin has more women under 2:27, but it only announced six elite women in the press release and NYC has WAY more star power up front). Add in the U.S. debutants and there’s no question NYC is the place to be for a female marathoner this fall.

Quick Thought #3: Could an American (Ritz) win the men’s race?

In the past 32 editions of the NYC Marathon, just one American (male or female) has won the race: Meb Keflezighi in 2009. For an American-born winner, you have to go back even further: Bill Rodgers in 1979. The U.S. is unlikely to break that streak this year, but it’s not inconceivable that there could be a U.S. champ on November 6. And if it’s going to happen, it’s going to come in the men’s race. Molly Huddle is undoubtedly one of the world’s best runners, but the top Africans left her in the dust in Rio even though Huddle smashed the American record for 10,000 meters. She has all the tools to become a great marathoner, but there’s no way she takes down a stacked field like this in her debut. We don’t see any of the other American women challenging for the win either.

It’s different on the men’s side. First, there are fewer top-tier Africans (four, vs. five on the women’s side), and two of those runners — Biwott and Ghebreslassie — will be turning it around quickly from the Olympics (there are exactly 11 weeks between the Olympic marathon and NYC). Say those two guys run poorly. That leaves only two really fast guys, Desisa and Rotich. Ritz’s PR is only 30 seconds slower than Rotich, and Ritz is in incredible shape (60:12 HM at the Great North Run). In Desisa’s 10 career marathons, he’s only run poorly once, though it should be pointed out that the one time he ran poorly — 2014 Boston — an American ended up winning.

Obviously, the odds are still stacked against Ritz, as he’d need to have a stellar day and multiple Africans would have to blow up (unless all four Africans blew up and then that would basically mean an American had to win and put people like Tyler Pennel in the mix). But with a shallow African field, a fit Ritzenhein and Tyler Pennel, a guy who’s still developing and who has run well in his two career marathons (both non-rabbitted), there’s a much better chance than normal for an American champion.

Quick Take #4: Mary Keitany is the heavy favorite on the women’s side

Keitany bombed in London this spring (she fell and wound up 9th) but she’s won two straight in NYC and ripped off course records in winning the Bix 7-miler and the Beach to Beacon 10K this summer, showing she’s in ridiculous shape. She’ll be extra motivated after her Olympic snub and should take out her frustrations on the streets of New York in November.

Talk about the fields on our world famous fan forum / messageboard: MB: 2016 NYC Marathon Fields released – Does Ritz have a chance (only 4 other sub-2:08 guys in the race)?

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