Geoffrey Kamworor Powers to Second NYC Marathon Title in Three Years
November 3, 2019
NEW YORK — The Beast has roared again. Following a similar plan that carried him to his first major marathon victory in 2017, Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor won his second TCS New York City Marathon in three years by unleashing a devastating move just before 24 miles to drop countryman Albert Korir and break the tape in 2:08:13.
But unlike 2017, when Kamworor held off a hard-charging Wilson Kipsang by just three seconds, the 26-year-old had plenty of time to celebrate as he won by a comfortable 23-second margin. Third place went to the surprising Girma Bekele Gebre, an unsponsored Ethiopian running for the New York-based West Side Runners Club. Gebre, who was 19th in New York last year and not part of the elite field in 2019, ran with the number 443 on the front of his bib rather than his name and clocked a humongous five-minute personal best of 2:08:38.
For the second year in a row, Jared Ward finished as the top American in sixth, running 2:10:45. He was followed by 42-year-old Abdi Abdirahman, who ran 2:11:34 for ninth. His time broke the US masters record of 2:12:10 set by Bernard Lagat in July’s Gold Coast Marathon. Connor McMillan, a 2019 BYU grad who finished 4th in the 10,000 at the US champs in July, ran 2:12:07 to finish 10th in his first professional marathon (he ran 2:23 as a 20-year-old at BYU in 2016).
Despite a picture-perfect day for marathoning (sunny, 45 degrees Fahrenheit at start) and some early surges from 2018 runner-up Shura Kitata, who ran the uphill first mile on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in 5:02, the pace was conservative at the halfway mark, with 14 men passing halfway in 1:04:49 — almost a minute slower than last year. The only big casualty at that point was defending champ Lelisa Desisa, who dropped out just seven miles in, the 28-day turnaround from Worlds to NYC too much to overcome. At 19 miles, the pack still contained 11 men, including Americans Ward and Abdirahman.
Kamworor launched his first attack during mile 20 in the Bronx, dropping a 4:47 to trim the pack to five: Kamworor, Gebre, Korir, Kitata, and Tamirat Tola. He eased off the gas for mile 21 (5:08) but mile 22 was the fastest of the race to that point, Kamworor and Tola battling up front and ripping a 4:36 mile to dispose of Kitata. Another 4:36 followed for mile 23.
Then, the backbreaker. Tola and Gebre fell off early in mile 24, and just after entering Central Park, Kamworor delivered the finishing blow, accelerating to pull away from Korir to open a six-second lead at 24 miles. His 24th-mile split? 4:40 — a remarkable time for a segment of the course that climbs over 50 feet.
From there, Kamworor ran unchallenged dropping a 4:31 25th mile, his powerful form a sight to behold as he gobbled up ground en route to the finish line. Once he reached it, he immediately found his training partner and mentor Eliud Kipchoge, and the half marathon world record holder and the marathon world record shared an embrace.
Geoffrey Kamworor is a much better runner than two years ago, and now he has a decision to make
Kamworor was good when he won New York in 2017, but he was much, much better today. Check out his splits from 21 miles to the finish — and then remember that he ran over two minutes faster today (2:08:13) than he did in 2017 (2:10:53). In particular, his 4:40 on the uphill 24th mile today was just sick.
|Mile||2019 split||2017 split|
|26 to finish||1:02||1:05|
Of course, as we pointed out last year, he may have run more impressively in 2015 and 2018 when he lost in NY than in 2017 when he won in NY. Judge for yourself.
|1st Half Split||66:49||66:09||63:59||64:50|
|2nd Half Split||63:59||64:44||62:27||63:23|
|Split from 20 miles to finish||28:49||30:17||29:29||29:14|
We asked Kamworor’s coach Patrick Sang to compare Kamworor’s fitness this year to year’s past.
“I think the fitness was very good. Of course he was fit the other years, but I think the experience has come in [and helped him],” said Sang.
“You can’t really have a clear comparison [to years past]. What I can say is he trained well and he is getting a lot of experience, race after race and the confidence that he is getting from his training partners — and the races they have done — [is helpful]. There is always a psychological edge when you know your partners have trained well and you see their results. For you going to a competition, you have that mental confidence.”
Clearly, Kamworor is among the top marathoners in the world, and his ability to close over the final five miles makes him a threat in championship-style races like the Olympic marathon. But what event will he run in Tokyo 2020?
That’s the big question, and Kamworor said he remains undecided. He will take some time to enjoy this victory, talk with Sang, and plot a path forward. There are pros and cons to both the 10,000 and the marathon.
The 10,000 would be an easier team for Kamworor to make — he won the Kenyan World Championship trials earlier this year, but passed up his spot — and he’d also have a better shot at gold. As great as Joshua Cheptegei is, he’s not as dominant in the 10k as Eliud Kipchoge is in the marathon. His medal odds are better in the 10k as well — Rhonex Kipruto, whom Kamworor beat at the Kenyan 10,000 trials this year, earned bronze at Worlds this year — but Kamworor has only finished 11th (2016 Olympics) and 6th (2017 Worlds) in the 10k after his silver at the 2015 Worlds.
Working in favor of the marathon: Kamworor still has untapped potential in the event. While he’s now run NYC in four of the last five years, he has never been a full-time marathoner, racing events like the World Half and World Cross in the spring. The downside is that by pursuing the Olympic marathon, he may not be able to focus on defending his World Half title next year (though he did just run a great half in Copenhagen and a great marathon in New York this fall).
The other problem? Even as the NYC champ, Kamworor is no lock to make the team. Remember, Mary Keitany won NYC in 2015 and was generally regarded as Kenya’s — if not the world’s — top marathoner, but she was left off the team after a subpar showing in London in 2016. Even if Kamworor decides he wants to run the Olympic marathon, he’d have to run a strong marathon next spring to cement his shot on the team. If he does decide to run one next spring, the Boston course would suit him well. But what we’d really like to see is Kamworor battle Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele in London. Close friends Kamworor and Kipchoge haven’t raced in the marathon since 2013, when Kipchoge beat Kamworor in Berlin. Both men are significantly better runners now.
We spoke to Kamworor’s agent Valentijn Trouw after the race and he said he didn’t know what Kamworor would do next year. He admitted that the logic of doing another Olympics in the 10,000 and then coming back to New York to try to defend his crown might make the most sense logically, but it was possible that after today’s win that Kamworor will feel most confident in the marathon and want to focus exclusively on that.
Sang also said he didn’t know what Kamworor would do next year. “I don’t want to say. We take it one step at a time. The team that handles him will sit and plan.”
Sponsorless and without an agent, Girma Bekele Gebre just won $60,000 and finished 3rd in the NYC Marathon
It’s rare in the year 2019 for anyone to finish on the podium of a World Marathon Major event without an agent or a sponsor, but that’s what Girma Bekele Gebre did today. Though he may have missed out on an appearance fee and sponsor bonus, at least he doesn’t have to pay out an agent’s commission on his $60,000 in prize money ($40,000 for third, $15,000 for breaking 2:09, $5,000 for being the first NYRR member).
It’s strange that a 2:13 guy — Gebre’s PR from earlier this year in Pittsburgh — couldn’t get in the elite field, especially considering he ran 28:07 to finish 2nd in the Healthy Kidney 10K earlier this year. But in the NYRR’s defense, Gebre — who runs for the West Side Runners but says he trains in Addis Ababa — had some fairly mediocre performances in his most recent NYRR races. He ran 66:31 at the Brooklyn Half in May (though that was only a week after Pittsburgh), then 24:53 at the Italy Run (5 miles) in June, 31:29 at the Queens 10K in June, and 20:25 for the Achilles Hope & Possibility 4-Miler, also in June.
That’s right. A guy who ran 5:07 pace for a four-mile race (he finished sixth) in June just averaged 4:55’s for 26.2 to finish third at the NYC Marathon. Safe to say that the next time he runs in New York, Gebre will do so from the elite start.
Although maybe we shouldn’t guarantee that. The fact that Gebre can get third proves a point that we always make about New York. The fields aren’t all that deep in terms of invited elites from East Africa. With only four guys in the field with a PB under 2:08, Gebre may have figured, “Hey, I know I can break 2:10 and get at least 5th and that would get me at least $30,000.”
Jared Ward says he validated his 2:09 in Boston, feels he’s in a much better spot than four years ago
Ward ran a personal best of 2:09:25 in Boston in April, which made him one of the favorites to make the 2020 Olympic team, and said his goal today was to validate that performance. He felt he did that by placing sixth in 2:10:45, 1:39 faster than in 2018.
While his goal was to reach the podium, Ward knew going in that he needed a few of the top East Africans to have a bad day, and not enough of them did.
“Looking outside in, I’m a longshot for a podium in a field like this,” Ward said. “And I feel fortunate to be able to run with those guys for that long (19 miles). Maybe next time, I hold on two miles longer and next time, two miles longer. I’m happy with the race. I wanted something today that solidified the breakthrough that I had in Boston and established to myself that I’m a different marathoner going into this Olympic cycle than I was in the last one. And so I’m happy with this performance in that way.”
Ward, a stats professor at BYU, said that going into the 2016 Olympic Trials, he gave himself a 35% chance of making the team. This time, he doesn’t know exactly what his chances are, but he believes they’re higher than four years ago.
Abdi Abdirahman is unkillable; breaks the US masters record
Perhaps we should just stop counting out Abdi Abdirahman. Abdi came back from the dead to make the Olympic team in 2012 when he was 35. Almost seven years later, he looked to be washed up as his last three marathons before today consisted of a 15th in Boston and DNF in NYC last year and a 26th in Boston in 2019. Yet he responded with a 2:11:34 to finish 9th today and break Lagat’s US masters record.
Now Abdi, who turns 43 on January 1, is a legit contender for a spot on his fifth Olympic team at February’s Olympic Trials. As one person in the media room in NYC told us: “You can’t kill Abdi.”
Connor McMillan impresses in first serious marathon
McMillan was 3rd in the NCAA 10k final and 4th at USAs this year, but considering the Olympic standard in that event is 27:28 and McMillan’s PR is 28:09, it is going to be tough for him to get it between now and the Trials. That’s why he chose to run the marathon here, to lay down a marker and get qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials, where he has a better chance of making it to Tokyo. His race went about as good as one could realistically hope for — 2:12:07 for 10th place on a tough course — and he’ll enter the Trials as a dark horse for the team. At just 23, he has a bright future in the marathon and the unsponsored McMillan should generate some interest from the shoe companies after today’s run.
“It feels good. It hurt like heck but it’s supposed to,” said McMillan. “[Chicago three years ago] was my debut technically but that was my debut as a boy. This was my debut as a man. Top 10 was my goal — I wanted to be the 2nd American and that didn’t happen, so you can’t win them all.”
“I’d give myself an A-,” said McMillan, who stuck to coach Ed Eyestone’s pre-race plan of not running faster than 5-minute pace and thus ran most of the race all alone in no-man’s land.
Might Eliud Kipchoge run New York in 2020?
As we were watching the race today, we thought to ourselves, “Wouldn’t it make sense for Kipchoge to run New York next year?” We know he won’t go to Berlin as it’s too close to the Olympics, so New York seems ideal.
We asked his coach Patrick Sang about that and he replied, “I’m sure those are things the team that handles him will look into and explore the possibility. I know one of his wishes is to run all of the marathon majors one day.”
Boston Marathon elite athlete coordinator Mary Kate Shea said they’ve tried to get Kipchoge in the past and would love to have him as well.
Brett Robinson post-race
28-year-old Aussie Brett Robinson, who ran 2:10:55 in London earlier this year in his first marathon finish, had the lead as the runners ran over the Queensboro Bridge heading into Manhattan but faded badly and ended up running 2:17:50 for 23rd. Consider he’s also got a DNF on his resume, he wasn’t sure what to make of his marathoning future.
Top 50 Results
|3||Girma Bekele Gebre||ETH||2:08:38|
|13||Birhanu Dare Kemal||ETH||2:13:35|
|17||Tadesse Yae Dabi||ETH||2:14:24|
|21||Diriba Degefa Yigezu||ETH||2:16:38|
|30||Temesgen Habtemariam Bekele||ETH||2:23:04|
|32||Abu Kebede Diriba||ETH||2:23:55|
|48||Guillermo Pineda Morales||USA||2:33:03|
Splits for Men’s Leader
Mile 1: 5:02. Kitata already 40m up
Mile 2: 4:43. Pack has caught up to Desisa.
Mile 3: 4:54 (14:39)
Mile 4: 5:00
Mile 5: 4:53 (24:32 – 2:08:39 pace)
Mile 6: 4:51
Mile 7: 4:53 Tola now pushing
Mile 8: 4:50
Mile 9: 4:59 Kitata surging again, he’s a few meters ahead of a big pack
Mile 10: 4:56
Mile 11: 5:04 – Kitata now 6 seconds up on the field.
Mile 12: 4:56
Mile 13: 5:06
Mile 14: 5:01 Brett Robinson now going to the front and opening up a gap
Mile 15: Robinson caught just before he comes off the bridge. Eight guys in lead pack at the moment, no Americans.
Mile 16: 4:56 Now Ward and Abdi have caught up to leaders. 12 men together.
Mile 17: 5:00
Mile 18: 4:53
Mile 19: 5:04 Five guys breaking away — korir, kamworor, gebre, Kitata, tola
Mile 20: 4:47 (1:38:59)
Mile 21: 5:08 Kitata getting dropped right now. Down to four guys.
Mile 22: 4:36
Mile 23: 4:36 Kamworor attacking viciously, it’s him and Korir as they’ve dropped the other two. Just before 24 miles, Kamworor takes off. Korir can’t respond.
Mile 24: 4:40 for Kam. 4:47 for Korir. 4:50 for Gebre, 5:05 for Tola.
Mile 25: 4:31
Mile 26: 4:42 (2:07:11)
26.2: 2:08:13 so 29:14 for his final 10,008.1 meters
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