NYC Media Day, Part 1: Jepchirchir May Not Race Due to Calf Injury, Cheserek Has Been Training with Kelvin Kiptum
Part 1 of our reflections on media day at the 2023 NYC Marathon focuses on the international athletesBy Jonathan Gault and Weldon Johnson
NEW YORK – We are just three days out from the 2023 TCS New York City Marathon, and on Thursday it was time for the top professionals in this year’s elite fields to meet the press. We had an Olympic champion (Peres Jepchirchir), a world record holder (Letesenbet Gidey), a North American record holder (Cam Levins) and reigning champions from the NYC and Boston Marathons (Sharon Lokedi and Hellen Obiri), among other luminaries, and we’ll share all the best stuff with you below.
The biggest news of the day centered around Olympic champ Jepchirchir. Though she had been in fine form this fall, winning the Great North Run and World Half, she revealed today that she suffered a calf injury on Saturday, calling her status into this weekend’s race into doubt. Cheserek discussed training with world record holder Kelvin Kiptum during his buildup.
Here’s what we learned from talking to the top international athletes (we’ve got reflections on the North Americans in a separate article here).
More from New York on Thursday: LRC NYC Media Day, Part 2: Cam Levins Is Going for the Win, Kellyn Taylor Opens Up about Super Shoes, Olympic Trials, HOKA NAZ Elite Coaching Change
Calf problem may prevent Olympic champ and 2021 NYC champ Peres Jepchirchir from starting NY – will it affect her Olympic title defense?
Peres Jepchrichir’s preparations for New York had gone very well this fall until last Saturday, when she suffered a calf injury in training. She still flew to New York with the hope of competing and the NYC Marathon’s physios will be working on her until race day, but she did not sound like someone who was confident she would compete on Sunday. She said she would make a final decision on Saturday and said, “I’m not happy at all because then when I’m preparing something, then all of a sudden I get injured. I’m not happy though. I accept because it’s part of it, training and injuries, but it’s disturbed me mentally, but I know I’ll be fit again.”
Will this affect her chances of defending her Olympic title? Possibly. Although Jepchirchir said she was confident the Kenyan federation would pick her for the Olympics, there is no formal process in place.=
“They [the Kenyan federation] say that maybe, like me and Eliud [Kipchoge], we are going to defend [our Olympic titles] and then they select [the rest of the team] through rankings,” Jepchirchir said.
After watching the NYC Marathon growing up, Edward Cheserek is ready for his debut
Cheserek moved to New Jersey from Kenya as a teen, attending St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark from 2010-13 and would make the short trip across the Hudson River to watch the NYC Marathon each year. Now it’s his turn to run it.
Cheserek had to be coaxed into the marathon. But after kicking his way to 17 NCAA titles at the University of Oregon and running a 3:49 indoor mile in 2018, Cheserek said he could feel himself losing his speed in 2019 and knew he had to move up in distance. Initially, that meant focusing on the 5k and 10k on the track, but Cheserek kept moving up, debuting in the half marathon in 2021 and now the marathon.
He says his preparation has gone very well. Cheserek has been based in Kenya for much of the summer and fall, and spent much of June and July working out with world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, who lives 20 minutes away.
“I was hanging there [in workouts] but…when it comes to [the race], 42 km, he has more experience than me,” Cheserek said.
Cheserek took to marathon training really well and ran an impressive 59:11 to win the Copenhagen Half on September 17. He hopes he did not mistime his peak.
“I was feeling really good, I feel like I want to race, but at the same time New York is too far [away]. I was really feeling good in September…Then after Copenhagen, my legs were dead and then I went back there and was like, you know what, I have to start over again, get ready for New York…I’m feeling good [now] but I’m a little bit tired. Hopefully Sunday I’ll be well-recovered.”
Will shoes cost King Ches?
The other possible concern for Cheserek: footwear. The shoe companies are in the midst of an arms race, with Nike (Alphafly 3) and adidas (Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1) both rolling out new supershoes this fall. But Skechers barely sponsors any pros and while Cheserek said it’s hard to know how their racing shoe stacks up to the others since he has only run in Skechers, he acknowledged he could be at a disadvantage on Sunday.
“We’re getting better, but probably not close to the other shoes,” Cheserek said.
Hellen Obiri has adjusted to the marathon and living in the United States
There was a ton of buzz surrounding Hellen Obiri’s marathon debut in New York last year. In the end, she faded to sixth, as her team put a lot of blame for the performance on improper fueling. She adjusted a few things and rebounded very nicely to win Boston in marathon #2.
She is very excited about marathon #3 and taking on the star-studded New York field. “It’s a lot of pressure because this is the strongest field… But for me, I’m so excited to race with them, and I can’t wait,” said Obiri.
Obiri confirmed what LetsRun.com reported yesterday: her coach Dathan Ritzenhein has told her she can run 2:11 in the marathon.
Besides adjusting to the marathon, Obiri has adjusted to living in the US full-time with her family in Boulder, Colorado. And like the marathon, Hellen said things didn’t go smoothly at first. She said, “For the first few months, it was terrible for us to adapt,” citing her daughter going to school for the first time in the US and having to live with the cold weather of Boulder. But now, “We are doing so fine. We are adapting so well. Training is going on so well.”
Brigid Kosgei says she is finally healthy – can she regain her old form?
Just over two years ago, Kosgei was riding a four-race win streak and was regarded as the world’s best marathoner. Just 20 months ago, Kosgei won the Tokyo Marathon in 2:16:02, giving her the first and third-fastest marathons in history. Now, after a wild last 15 months, those times are only #3 and #9 on the all-time list and there are questions about whether Kosgei is still among the best in the world.
The biggest issue for Kosgei has been injuries – she has not finished a race since 2022 Tokyo with hamstring/knee issues leading to a DNS and DNF in London the last two years. Now, Kosgei says, she is healthy, with no interruptions in her buildup.
“Now I’m feeling good,” Kosgei said. “I hope I will run something good.”
Kosgei is typically straightforward in her interviews and admitted that her training for NYC was not as fast as before her world record in Chicago in 2019 – but also pointed out that the races themselves are very different.
“[My workout results were] not similar, it’s just a little bit slower,” Kosgei said.
One more thing on Kosgei: she was not sad to see Tigst Assefa break her world record in Berlin in September. But she has a warning for Assefa.
“I just say that record will be returned to Kenya,” Kosgei said. “…But I was not angry, I was happy.”
Speaking of Assefa, we spoke with her coach Gemedu Dedefo (who claimed her first name is actually spelled T-I-G-I-S-T – more confusion). He told us he thinks 2022 Valencia/2023 world champ Amane Beriso, whom he also coaches, is actually the better runner but that Assefa’s stride is more suited to the new adidas supershoe. That’s something sports scientist Ross Tucker wrote about for LetsRun after Berlin – not just that Assefa could be a super-responder but that in some cases, responses to the shoes could be a bigger factor in determining the outcome of races than differences in athletic ability.
This time, Letesenbet Gidey is focused on winning, not time
Letesenbet Gidey’s marathon debut last year in Valencia was a somewhat humbling experience – as much as you can be humbled by a 2:16:49 debut record. Through a translator, Gidey said she was targeting the world record in Valencia – not an outrageous expectation given her exploits at shorter distances – but she did end up hitting the wall and realizing that the world record is tough (and even tougher now that Assefa has taken more than two minutes off it).
“I realized it takes a lot of work, a lot of preparation,” Gidey said. “I think it maybe even takes additional years [for me to break it].
Gidey has not been focused on time at all during this buildup, only hoping to win. And while New York is a very different course from Valencia, Gidey believes she will handle it well.
“I’ve never come to New York before,” Gidey said, “but at the same time, I am a cross country runner (two-time World U20 champ), so I don’t think I am going to have too hard of a time.”
In each of the last two years, Gidey has run a track season followed by a fall marathon, and her agent Valentijn Trouw told LetsRun he could see that continuing in the future, adding that he believes the sport could be entering a new era (or, alternately, a throwback to the old era) where the sport’s top athletes like Gidey and Hassan can run track and the marathon in the same year.
As for Gidey’s Olympic plans, she said she still needs to discuss that with her coach, and the outcome of Sunday’s race will certainly play a role in that decision.
Tamirat Tola hoping stomach/shoe problems are behind him
2022 world champion Tamirat Tola revealed that stomach problems caused him to drop out late in the race at Worlds in Budapest, and his coach Gemedu Dedefo told LetsRun that an upset stomach also bothered him last week in training. They think everything will be okay for Sunday, but it’s something to watch. Tola also said that a few years ago, he was experiencing issues with his shoes late in races – he cited his runs in New York in 2018 and 2019 (where he finished 4th both times) and London in 2019 (6th). “After 35k, there’s a problem in my leg,” Tola said. Since then, he’s switched shoes and his results have improved, but he hasn’t raced in the new Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 and is uncertain how he’ll handle a marathon in them.
But he was confident his training was better than when he won the World Championships in 2022. And he acknowledged winning New York would be easier now that Geoffrey Kamworor and Evans Chebet are out.
Interview with defending NYC champ Sharon Lokedi
Sharon Lokedi shocked the world last year by winning New York last year. Being the defending champ has its perks. Her mom is going to watch her race professionally for the first time as she has come over from Kenya to visit for the first time.
Sharon has now recovered from the inflammation in her posterior and anterior tibialis that kept her out of Boston in the fall and is ready to take on a star-studded field before next month when she and Edward Cheserek start the wedding festivities with a pre-wedding party December 8th. She wouldn’t commit to saying she was in as good of shape as last year but is glad to be healthy.
If you loved part I of our NYC media day coverage, you’ll love Part II which focused on the North American runners:
NYC Media Day, Part 2: Cam Levins Is Going for the Win, Kellyn Taylor Opens Up about Super Shoes, Olympic Trials, HOKA NAZ Elite Coaching Change Cam Levins wants to win the New York City Marathon, Kellyn Taylor is ready for her first marathon in super shoes, and Elkanah Kibet wants to secure the third Olympic spot for the USA.