Olympic Champion Peres Jepchirchir Wins 2021 New York City Marathon in 2:22:39, American Molly Seidel Sets American Course Record of 2:24:42

By LetsRun.com
November 7, 2021

NEW YORK  Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya outkicked compatriot Viola Cheptoo Lagat and Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia over the final 800 meters to win the 2021 TCS New York City Marathon in 2:22:39, just off the course record of 2:22:31. Cheptoo, a Kenyan Olympian at 1500 meters in 2016 and the sister of Bernard Lagat, was second in her marathon debut in 2:22:44 with Yeshaneh third in 2:22:52. American Molly Seidel, the Olympic bronze medallist, was fourth in an American course record of 2:24:42, breaking Kara Gouher’s mark of 2:25:53 which had stood since 2008.

The leading trio were bunched together until Jepchirchir made her bid for glory two minutes before the finish.

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The race started conservatively with the halfway mark reached in 1:12:43, with a pack of nine featuring four Americans, including leader Annie Frisbie in her debut. Heading up First Avenue, the pace picked up Jepchirchir leading the way. By mile 17, four women were in the lead pack, Jepchirchir, Ruti Aga, Yeshaneh, and Seidel, and further injection on pace in mile 19 made it what looked to be a two-woman duel between Jepchirchir and Yeshaneh as they headed into the Bronx.

However, Viola Cheptoo was not done and she joined Jepchirchir and Yeshaneh during mile 20. Those three would remain together through the hills of Central Park to Columbus Circle where Jepchirchir hit the gas and showed her class, unleashing a final mile of 5:09 to just miss Margaret Okayo‘s 18-year-old course record.

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Results and full analysis below.

Top 12 Results *More results here

PLACE NAME Country Time
1 Peres Jepchirchir KEN 2:22:39
2 Viola Cheptoo KEN 2:22:44
3 Ababel Yeshaneh ETH 2:22:52
4 Molly Seidel USA 2:24:42
5 Helalia Johannes NAM 2:26:09
6 Kellyn Taylor USA 2:26:10
7 Annie Frisbie USA 2:26:18
8 Laura Thweatt USA 2:27:00
9 Grace Kahura KEN 2:30:32
10 Stephanie Bruce USA 2:31:05
11 Lanni Marchant CAN 2:32:54
12 Haruka Yamaguchi JPN 2:34:04

Quick Take: Peres Jepchirchir is operating at a historically high level right now

When Jepchirchir took a break from the sport to give birth to her daughter Natalia in October 2017, she was one of the best runners in the world — the World Half Marathon champion and half marathon world record holder. Returning to that level would not be easy.

But it is now clear that Jepchichir, 28, has not just returned to that level, but surpassed it. Over the past 14 months, she has embarked on one of the most dominant stretches ever by a long distance runner. Here is what she has done during that span:

  • Won the World Half Marathon title
  • Twice broken the women’s-only WR in the half marathon (65:34 in Prague, 65:16 in Gdynia)
  • Won the Valencia Marathon in 2:17:16 (#5 all-time)
  • Won the Olympic marathon in 2:27:20
  • Won the New York City Marathon in 2:22:39

Her win today in New York, 13 weeks after her Olympic triumph, was historic. She became the first athlete in history — male or female — to win both the Olympic marathon and NYC. And she won them both in the span of just three months. She is also the first woman to win the Olympics and double back to win another marathon later that year (Frank Shorter was the last man to do it, winning the Olympics and Fukuoka in 1972).

Jepchirchir has to be considered the best female marathoner in the world at the moment, with Joyciline Jepkosgei (who won NYC in 2019 and London this year and was second behind Jepchirchir in Valencia last year) a close second. Jepkosgei did not get selected to the Kenyan Olympic team, so let’s hope for a showdown between the two sometime next spring.

Quick Take: Molly Seidel is a marathon star and is in position to own American marathoning in the 2020s

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Going into today’s race, one of our biggest questions was whether Seidel, after her Olympic bronze in Sapporo, would take up the mantle of Shalane Flanagan and Des Linden and become the dominant force in American women’s marathoning in the 2020s. The answer, quite clearly, is yes.

Not every top American woman was in New York today, but a number of them were, and Seidel left no doubt who was the best as she finished fourth in 2:24:42, 1:36 ahead of the second American (Kellyn Taylor in 6th) and over a minute faster than any American woman had ever run in New York (Kara Goucher had the previous American CR at 2:25:53 from 2008).

Even more impressively, Seidel ran New York after breaking two ribs a month ago. Seidel declined to share how she broke the ribs and said that the injury did not affect her much in the race today. But it affected the final month of her buildup significantly, to the point where she was considering scratching from the race.

“Two weeks ago it was extremely painful and it was hindering my ability to do anything,” Seidel said.

Seidel was able to get treatment to manage the injury, and ultimately decided to run. Even if she was not 100%, Seidel said she invested too much mental and emotional energy into this buildup for her not to give it a shot out there today.

“That’s why today is really special,” Seidel said. “Because frankly, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to come out here and do it.”

After a busy fall, Seidel has earned a break, and was looking forward to celebrating her run in New York with her family, who did not get to be with her after her bronze in Sapporo.

“We will be going crazy tonight,” Seidel said.

Quick Take: Viola Cheptoo wishes she had moved to the marathon sooner

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Until last year, Viola Cheptoo (the younger sister of Bernard Lagat) had never raced beyond 10 kilometers. Primarily, she was a miler, making it to the Olympic semifinals in the 1500 in 2016. But in February 2020, she ran 66:47 to win her debut half marathon in Naples, a performance that demonstrated she had a future on the roads.

Turns out, the half marathon may not have been long enough. Today, in her marathon debut, she was right with the greatest marathoner in the world until the final mile and wound up second in 2:22:44, just 13 seconds off the course record. Does she regret not moving up to 26.2 miles earlier in her career? 

“Yes I do,” Cheptoo said. “Because I think I should have moved a little bit earlier. My coach kept asking me to move up to at least 10k, but I was stuck in track for some time.”

The good news for Cheptoo is that she is still only 32 years old, so she should have a few more years to do damage on the roads.

Cheptoo dedicated her performance to Agnes Tirop, the 2015 World Cross Country champion from Kenya who was murdered last month. Cheptoo had seen Tirop run 30:01 on the roads at an adidas race in Germany in September and knew that she would have gone on to great success in the marathon had she not died at the age of 25.

“When it got really tough, I just thought that Agnes would [have been] running in New York in a year or two,” Cheptoo said.

Quick Take: Annie Frisbie knocked it out of the park

If you’d never heard of Annie Frisbie before today, you shouldn’t feel too bad. As a senior at Iowa State in 2019, she didn’t even make NCAAs on the track. She graduated with modest track pbs of 16:05/32:58. Her best collegiate finish was 34th at the 2018 NCAA XC championships. During her senior year at Iowa State, her best conference finish was just 5th.

Today, she went out and ran the fourth-best debut marathon in American history, running 2:26:18 to finish 7th at the New York City Marathon. Afterwards she said her goal was to run under 2:35.

“My goal was to break 2:35 and then be closer to 2:30. So I definitely exceeded my expectations,” she said.

“I didn’t really anticipate running out front the first half, but it just kind of happened that way…And then the second half I tried to run my own race and hang in there and try to latch onto a few other people and stay in it…And the last 10k, I really felt it in my legs, but I think that’s completely normal. And I 100% expected that whether I was having a good day or bad day, so it was great. I loved it.”

Frisbie isn’t sure what’s next, but today’s run was pretty incredible. Her official PB for the half marathon was 1:15:48 coming in (she hit halfway in the lead today in 1:12:43). She had run 31:55 at the Cooper Bridge Run this fall, so her half PR was destined to fall, but crushing it in New York on the way to finish in the top 10 is very impressive. 

Oh yeah, and Frisbie is unsponsored. She’s part of Team USA Minnesota, but has a full-time remote job as a graphic designer. The unsponsored part should change very soon.

Quick Take HOKA NAZ Elite’s Kellyn Taylor and Stephanie Bruce were both in top 10 but wanted more

Teammates Taylor (6th, 2:26:10) and Bruce (10th, 2:31:05), were both in the top 10, but they were a bit disappointed after the race because they wanted more.

Taylor acknowledged her buildup wasn’t ideal. 

“Expectations are always really high. We always go into any race, majors not excluded, wanting to finish as high as we can and be on the podium. We didn’t do that. But if you were to look at, at least for me, my segment as a whole was very odd,” Taylor said.

Bruce was able to joke when asked about the quality of American women’s marathoning with five in the top 10 today, “We said we should have been marathoning 10 years ago.”

Bruce added, “I have some things I’m trying to work out personally and with my health, I have to fix. So, we don’t take anything for granted right now.”

A very fast day by Americans in New York

Conditions were near-perfect for running today in New York, and the Americans in the field took full advantage. Not only did Seidel break the American course record; Kellyn Taylor and Annie Frisbie ran the #3 and #4 times ever on the course, putting them ahead of some pretty impressive names.

The top 10 times ever by Americans in New York are listed below. Eight of the 10 have come during the Supershoe Era (2017-present).

  1. 2:24:42 Molly Seidel 2021
  2. 2:25:53 Kara Goucher 2008
  3. 2:26:10 Kellyn Taylor 2021
  4. 2:26:18 Annie Frisbie 2021
  5. 2:26:22 Shalane Flanagan 2018
  6. 2:26:44 Molly Huddle 2018
  7. 2:26:46 Des Linden 2018
  8. 2:26:52 Kellyn Taylor 2019
  9. 2:26:53 Shalane Flanagan 2017
  10. 2:26:58 Deena Kastor 2001

Laura Thweatt, who ran 2:27:00 for 8th today, just missed out on the top 10.

Stephanie Bruce said of the fast times across the board and by the Americans, “I think it’s a combination of obviously good conditions, good competition, new technology, the shoes, all those factors really make a difference for sure.”

Shalane Flanagan runs 2:33:32

Shalane Flanagan completed her sixth marathon of the fall with her fastest showing yet – a negative split 2:33:32 (77:08-76:24) clocking that would have placed her 12th (sixth American) in the women’s field had she run there (She ran in wave 1).

Flanagan’s 2021 marathons
2:38:32 Berlin
2:35:04 London
2:46:39 Chicago
2:40:36 Boston
2:35:14 Tokyo (virtual)
2:33:32 New York

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