Geoffrey Kamworor Blitzes 4:31 25th Mile To Grab Lead and Holds On To Win 2017 New York City Marathon

Meb Keflezighi Calls It A Career With an 11th Place Showing as 40-Year-Old Abdi Abdirahman Was The Top American

November 5, 2017

NEW YORK — Two-time cross country and half-marathon world champ Geoffrey Kamworor, 24, had accomplished an awful lot in his young career but he’d never won a marathon until today when he gapped the field in the 25th mile and then barely held on to win the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon in 2:10:53. Former world record holder Wilson Kipsang, the 2014 NY champ, put on a furious charge between the 26-mile mark and the finish but ended up just short in second in 2:10:56.

For the second straight year Abdi Abdirahman, 40, was the top American as he was seventh in 2:12:48. Shadrack Biwott was the only other American in the top 10 as he ran 2:14:57 for 10th. 42-year-old Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 New York winner and 2014 Boston winner, ended his career with a 2:15:29 clocking for 11th in the 26th marathon of his career. American Jared Ward, who was sixth at the Rio Olympics, was 12th in 2:18:39.

Defending champ Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea, who last year became the youngest champ at age 20, dropped out after running with the leaders through 22 miles. No man has won in New York in back-to-back years since John Kagwe did it in 1997 and 1998.

The Race
As is often the case in New York, the race was tactical early on. Ghebreslassie put in a huge surge on the Pulaski Bridge just before 13 miles that television commentator Tim Hutchings aptly described as “extravagant” to give himself a two-second lead at halfway (66:09) ahead of a six-man chase pack.

While miles 13 and 14 were run in 4:55 and 4:45, miles 15 and 16 were run in just 5:10 and 5:14 and the lead pack was back up to 12 as the pace had slowed back to 2:12:23 pace. The pace stayed modest and the lead pack stayed large until mile 21. A 4:47 21st mile whittled the lead pack down to seven with Kamworor in the lead but a 5:05 22nd mile meant that The Netherlands’ Michel Butter (2:09:58 pb, today was his 32nd birthday) and the American Abdi Abdirahman had both rejoined the lead pack.

Kamworor made his bid for glory in the 23rd mile, which he ripped in 4:44, and only three other men could hang with him as the eventual top two of Kamworor and Kipsang of Kenya shared company with the two Ethiopian Boston Marathon champs in the race, Lemi Berhanu (2016 Boston champ) and Lelisa Desisa (2013 and 2015 Boston champ). The 24th mile featured a more-than-50-foot elevation gain and the pace slowed to 4:55 as the final four readied themselves for the push for home over the final 2.2 miles.

In the 25th mile, it was Kamworor who made the bid for glory. Kamworor threw down a 4:31 25th mile to give himself a seven-second lead over Kipsang as Desisa (31 seconds back) and Berhanu (52 seconds back) were eliminated from contention. Kipsang, however, did not quit and the gap between him and Kamworor failed to increase. At 26 miles, Kamworor still led by six seconds and victory appeared to be in hand until all of the sudden it wasn’t. Kipsang started a furious charge and soon the gap was shrinking. With the large roar of the crowd, it wasn’t clear if Kamworor knew Kipsang was coming. In the end, Kipsang ran out of real estate. As Kipsang crossed the finish line in second, he had a smile on his face that seemed to indicate that he knew if the race had been 30 meters longer, he might have stolen it.

Kamworor barely hangs on Kamworor barely hangs on

But Kamworor, in his seventh career marathon, emerged as a victor at last thanks in part to the fact that he ran all the way through the finish line and didn’t celebrate early. He ran his final .2188 miles at 4:55 mile pace to hold on for the win. Kipsang hammered it at 4:29 pace.

Results and analysis below.

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Top 25 Men

1 Geoffrey Kamworor  KEN 2:10:53 5:00
2 Wilson Kipsang  KEN 2:10:56 5:00
3 Lelisa Desisa  ETH 2:11:32 5:01
4 Lemi Berhanu  ETH 2:11:52 5:02
5 Tadesse Abraham  SUI 2:12:01 5:03
6 Michel Butter  NED 2:12:39 5:04
7 Abdi Abdirahman  USA 2:12:48 5:04
8 Koen Naert  BEL 2:13:21 5:06
9 Fikadu Girma Teferi  ETH 2:13:58 5:07
10 Shadrack Biwott  USA 2:14:57 5:09
11 Meb Keflezighi  USA 2:15:29 5:11
12 Jared Ward  USA 2:18:39 5:18
13 Senbeto Geneti Guteta  ETH 2:20:29 5:22
14 Birhanu Dare Kemal  ETH 2:21:30 5:24
15 Brendan Martin  USA 2:22:36 5:27
16 Harbert Okuti  UGA 2:22:46 5:27
17 Francesco Puppi  ITA 2:25:35 5:34
18 Abu Kebede Diriba  ETH 2:27:25 5:38
19 Alberto Mosca  ITA 2:28:07 5:39
20 Matt Lenehan  USA 2:28:26 5:40
21 Fredrik Uhrbom  SWE 2:28:42 5:41
22 Benjamin Mears  USA 2:29:12 5:42
23 Asier Cuevas  ESP 2:30:00 5:44
24 Suleman Abrar Shifa  ETH 2:30:26 5:45
25 Rafael Oliveira  POR 2:31:03 5:46

Quick Thought #1: Kamworor is a most deserving champion

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Kamworor is arguably the world’s most versatile runner. A two-time world champion in cross country and on the roads at the half marathon distance, he’s also been a runner-up on the track (2015 silver in the 10,000), but until today he’d never won a major marathon. However, he’d never run a bad marathon either. In his debut in Berlin at age 19 in 2012, he was third (2:06:12). Then the next year he was fourth in Rotterdam (2:09:12) and third in Berlin (2:06:26), before finishing sixth in Tokyo (2:07:37) and fourth in Berlin (2:06:39) in 2014 and second in New York in 2:10:48 in 2015.

To finally finish first was an amazing feeling for Kamworor.

“It was really great. And I’m really delighted to have won a marathon. So for me, it’s a fantastic moment. I’m really happy to win a marathon for the first time since running a marathon. This was my sixth marathon, and that was my first victory marathon,” he said afterward, showing he’s now a true marathoner as he got wrong how many marathons he’s run (this was #7, not #6).

Quick Thought #2: The finish of this race paled in comparison to the 2015 New York City Marathon

Kamworor’s last marathon was here in New York in 2015. It’s interesting to compare his run there and today. It certainly could be argued that Kamworor ran better in 2015 in a losing effort (he was 2nd, 14 seconds behind Stanley Biwott) than he did today.

Off of a slower first half, Kamworor ran a faster overall time in 2015 and had a way faster close.

Compare the stats for yourself.

2015 vs 2017 Geoffrey K in 2015 Geoffrey K today
1st Half Split 66:49 66:09
2nd Half Split 63:59 64:44
Split from 20 miles to finish 28:49 30:17
Total time 2:10:48 2:10:53

Quick Thought #3: Ghirmay Ghebreslassie does not defend his crown

No man has won New York in back to back years since John Kagwe did it in 1997 and 1998.

Ghirmay Ghebrselassie, the defending champ, made a big charge up the Pulaski Bridge before mile 13 to get the pace going momentarily, but he ended up paying the price and dropping out. Ghebreslassie has had success in New York, but not a lot of experience and that might have cost him today. The fittest guy doesn’t always win in New York and veteran Meb Keflezighi talked about Ghebreslassie dropping out.

“Ghirmay was very strong, and he was in control a lot of the race just to be in the lead,” Meb said. “He was confident, and I was surprised that he dropped out. I saw him, and I stopped a couple times, and I encouraged him to go to the finish line. He said he was injured. I just stopped and gave him a hug and kind of kept going. But, yeah, I think tactically there was a lot of surges that were out of your comfort zone. So those can come to bite you in Central Park. So the surges, like fartlek kind of thing, probably cost him. Geoffrey played it very smart. He wasn’t in the lead by any means early on.”

Quick Thought #4: Abdi Abdirahman is 40 years old, fell down during the race, and finished as the top American. And he’s still not satisfied.

While Shalane and Meb will get the headlines, let’s not forget the fastest American in New York today: Abdi Abdirahman. Yes, one year after finishing as the top American in 3rd at age 39, the “Black Cactus” was 7th at age 40 in 2:12:48.

But Abdi doesn’t judge himself by things such as “top American” or “top master” (an honor he also earned today). When he’s on the start line, he’s there to battle with the best of the best, and he did so admirably for 22 miles before Kamworor began to string out the race.

And he did all that after falling during the first five kilometers of the race. Abdi said that at the first drinks station, Wilson Kipsang grabbed Abdi’s drink and dropped it on the ground, and as Abdi tried to get out of the way, someone tripped him from behind. The result was a nasty-looking wound on his knee and scrapes on his hip and shoulder.

“I just lay on the ground for a few seconds. I just look at the sky…I don’t know, I just get up and start running [again],” Abdi said.

Though he was in pain for the next few miles, Abdi toughed it out and wound up with another very respectable marathon result.

Though Meb made his exit today and Shalane Flanagan may follow suit, don’t expect Abdi to retire anytime soon. He simply loves running, and he’ll keep running these races as long as he can.

“I mean it wasn’t my best day and I was still top-10,” Abdi said.

Abdi will be 43 years old at the next Olympic Trials, but he and Meb have shown lately that age is just a number when it comes to American marathoners. There’s still a long way between here and Tokyo — which would be Abdi’s fifth Olympic team — but we’re not counting him out.

Quick Thought #5: Farewell to an American legend

We plan to pay full tribute to Meb next week when we have more time, but for now we’ll just say this. Few athletes — in any sport — have brought Meb’s combination of talent, toughness, and class. Meb’s story and his litany of accomplishments (we must have heard a million times this week how he’s the only man to win Boston, New York, and an Olympic medal) has inspired a generation of American runners, and we have yet to meet anyone with a negative word to say about the man. His run today was not the best of his career, as he battled stomach issues late in the race (something he’s struggled with in recent marathons) that caused him to throw up. But 11th at NYC, #3 American, in 2:15:29 is very solid for a 42-year-old and Meb certainly has nothing to be ashamed of.

And the fact that Meb, at 42, made it 19 miles with the leaders of the New York City Marathon is a tremendous feat in and of itself. He admitted that, though he knew his odds were slim at that point, he still gave himself a chance to win.

“My goal was, if I can make it to 23, 24 miles with the group, then the crowd will give me a little boost. Obviously at 22 or 21 — 22 is when I stopped and three other stops. So that chance was maybe a less than 1 percent chance, 0.2 percent chance of a marathon [win]. But everything has to go perfect and it didn’t. The goal was to be maybe top-10 or top-3, but you play it by ear and do it by feel. The finish line was very important to me, though, and honored to be here.”

Meb’s days as a competitive marathoner may be over, but he’ll still be a prominent figure in the sport. His agent/brother Hawi Keflezighi said that Meb plans to take a step back in early 2018 to be with his family as he’s essentially been training and traveling nonstop since winning Boston in 2014. But Meb will still make appearances at races (and even hop in a couple for fun), will continue his work with the MEB Foundation, and is considering coaching at some point as well.

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