The 2021 NYC Marathon Fields Are Set. Here Are the Biggest Storylines. 

Kenenisa Bekele Is Making His NYC Debut, Kibiwott Kandie Is Making His Major Marathon Debut, and Peres Jepchirchir is Chasing History

August 19, 2021

In just over a month, the busiest fall marathon season in history will kick off in earnest. Beginning with Berlin on September 26 and ending with New York on November 7, all six World Marathon Majors will be held in a six-week period. Three of those races — Chicago (October 10), Boston (October 11), and New York — will be held in the United States, and the fields for the three American majors are now set after New York announced its field this morning.

Fittingly for a race in the media capital of the world, the NYC field features significant glitz and glamor. The headliner is a man many consider to be the greatest distance runner in history, Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, who will make his NYC Marathon debut in his first race in the US in seven years. Bekele is also scheduled to run Berlin on September 26, meaning he will have just a six-week turnaround between races (we have a separate article on Bekele here). Olympic silver medalist Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands is running. And Kenya’s Kibiwott Kandie, who ran the half marathon world record of 57:32 last year in Valencia, is also entered and will make his major marathon debut in New York.

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On the women’s side, NYC features the newly-crowned Olympic champion in Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, as well as Olympic bronze medalist Molly Seidel of the USA. Des Linden is also entered — she will run NYC less than four weeks after Boston — as are 2021 Olympians Aliphine Tuliamuk, Sally Kipyego, and Emily Sisson.

It’s not accurate to call these races “loaded.” The best fields of any major this fall are in London, as usual — London has seven guys with a PB under 2:04, while New York has just one guy under 2:06 (Bekele). The women’s race, with two Olympic medalists and a recent major champ (2019 Tokyo winner Ruti Aga) is comparatively stronger, and features the best US women’s field of any major this fall, but again, London is better (defending NYC champ Joyciline Jepkosgei passed up NYC to run London).

Since 2017, we’ve been tracking the PBs of those who toe the line at the Abbott World Marathon Majors. Here’s how this year’s New York fields compare to the other major fields  announced this year and to New York’s own fields starting in 2017.

Men Sub-2:04 Sub-2:05  Sub-2:06 Sub-2:07 Sub-2:08
2021 NYC 1 1 1 2 4
2021 London 7 8 9 9 9
2021 Chicago 1 3 6 8 9
2021 Boston 0 2 6 11 13
2019 NYC 0 3 3 4 4
2018 NYC 0 3 4 6 6
2017 NYC 1 3 3 5 6
Women Sub-2:19 Sub-2:20 Sub-2:21 Sub-2:22 Sub-2:23 Sub-2:24 Sub-2:25
2021 NYC 2 3 4 4 6 7 8
2021 London 4 8 9 10 10 10 11
2021 Chicago 1 1 2 2 3 3 3
2021 Boston 0 3 6 9 15 16 16
2019 NYC 2 2 2 2 5 5 7
2018 NYC 2 2 2 4 5 6
2017 NYC 1 3 3 5 5 5 7

What NYC does have is intrigue. Here’s what we’re most excited about come November 7.

Kenenisa Bekele will make his NYC debut

Despite Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon dominance, Kenenisa Bekele is the greatest distance runner ever in our opinion and we’ve long wanted to see him running the TCS New York City Marathon. Given his cross country prowess, we always thought the undulating course would be perfect for him and now we get to see him race the marathon in NYC. His participation in NYC gets its own article: Why Kenenisa Bekele Is Running the Berlin AND New York City Marathons This Fall.

The Olympic champ is here

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No one has ever won the Olympic marathon and bounced back to win one of the World Marathon Majors that fall. Which means Peres Jepchirchir will make history should she break the tape in Central Park on November 7.

There are a couple of reasons to believe Jepchirchir could be the first to do it. Obviously, she’s really, really good at marathoning — she ran 2:17:16 (#5 all-time) to win Valencia last year and is the Olympic champ. But the turnaround between Sapporo & NYC — 13 weeks — is also manageable.

Jepchirchir will go off as the favorite in NYC, and regardless of whether she can pull off the Olympic/NYC sweep, it will be compelling watching her try.

And just to quash any rumors: men’s Olympic champ Eliud Kipchoge will not be running a marathon this fall.

“He’s done [for 2021],” Hermens said.

The half marathon WR holder is making his major debut

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We’ve never seen a sub-58:00 half marathoner run a marathon. That will change in November when Kibiwott Kandie of Kenya runs New York.  

Kandie has actually already run a marathon, but it went disastrously as he ran 2:22:48 at the Kuching Marathon in Malaysia in 2019. Expect him to run a lot faster in New York.

The last NYC Marathon saw a debut champion on the women’s side in Joyciline Jepkosgei, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see Kandie win in his major debut. His 2020 campaign was one of the greatest ever by a half marathoner — he ran 58:58, 58:38, 58:54, and a 57:32 world record in his four races, which included wins at RAK, Prague, and Valencia and a runner-up at the World Half champs.

Kandie is also a great cross country runner, winning the Kenyan XC title in 2020 and finishing second in 2021 (speaking of that, we need World XC to return next year…three years without it is far too long). His resume reminds us of Geoffrey Kamworor, another Kenyan half marathon/XC star who has won two of the last three NYC Marathons.

…and so is Ben True

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Ben True has been the nearly-man of US distance running on the track, finishing 6th, 5th, and 4th at the last three Olympic Trials on the track. Speaking to True in May, just before his most recent Trials heartbreak, it was clear that while his endurance remains on point, it is getting harder and harder to turn the legs over and kick in a way that he can be competitive on the track. Which means it’s time to move up. In True’s case, all the way up to the marathon.

The 35-year-old has already run a couple of half marathons — he ran 62:39 to win the NYC Half in 2018 — and has found success both on the roads (where he’s won races such as Beach to Beacon and the US 15K champs) and cross country (he was 6th at World XC in 2013). That should help him in his transition to the marathon in NYC, where he’ll compete for top American honors alongside Noah Droddy, Shadrack Biwott, Brian Shrader, and Jared Ward.

Talk about 2021 NYC on our world-famous fan forum / messageboard: MB: Bekele running Berlin AND NYC?

Related: Why Kenenisa Bekele Is Running the Berlin AND New York City Marathons This Fall Bekele will make his NYC debut just six weeks after Berlin. Will he be recovered enough to make it to the start line? We got the inside scoop from his agent Jos Hermens.

American Field Announced For 50th New York City Marathon – All Three US Olympians + Des Linden Will Race Olympic bronze medallist Molly Seidel leads the field as Des Linden will do the Boston/NYC double just 4 weeks apart.

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