Peres Jepchirchir and Albert Kori runner, nyc marathon 2021 winner

Emotional and Tenacity Strength Kenyans participate in the New York City Marathon.

Albert Korir won the men's division with a time of 2:08:22, while Peres Jepchirchir won the women's race with a time of 2:22:39, having also won in the Tokyo Games.

On Sunday, Viola Cheptoo was halfway through the New York City Marathon when she peeked over her shoulder and sent a plea to Peres Jepchirchir. The two Kenyans were leading the women's race in a close group with Ethiopia's Ababel Yeshaneh, and Cheptoo was keen to maintain the lead for as long as possible.

"Could you kindly assist me until I reach at least 35K?" Cheptoo recalls speaking with Jepchirchir about a checkpoint fewer than five miles from the finish. "She was kind enough to accompany me."

Peres Jepchirchir and Albert Kori runner, nyc marathon 2021 winner
Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, winner of the women's marathon, alongside second-place runner Viola Cheptoo of Kenya and third-place finisher Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia.

Cheptoo, a former miler, was making a statement with her marathon debut. On the other hand, Jepchirchir had arrived as distance-running royalty. She was trying to become the first Olympic winner, male or female, to add a New York City Marathon title to her résumé, just three months after winning gold in the women's marathon at the Tokyo Olympics.

As they went side by side into Central Park, where large people clapped for them, Jepchirchir continued to encourage Cheptoo — to hold on tight, to fight hard. Jepchirchir drew away for the win in 2 hours 22 minutes 39 seconds, finishing ahead of Cheptoo in second and Yeshaneh in third.

"My preparation time was limited," Jepchirchir explained, "but I gave it my all."

It was a day of adversity as the city welcomed the marathon back to the five boroughs for the first time since 2019. Jepchirchir's fortitude in winning two marathons in 92 days. Cheptoo's fortitude in wading into unfamiliar waters just weeks after the death of a friend and while her older brother, five-time Olympian Bernard Lagat, watched from the broadcast booth.

Albert Korir of Kenya, center, posed for a photo with Mohamed Reda El Aaraby of Algeria, left, who finished second, and Eyob Faniel of Italy, who finished third.
Albert Korir of Kenya, center, posed for a photo with Mohamed Reda El Aaraby of Algeria, left, who finished second, and Eyob Faniel of Italy, who finished third.

Albert Korir's fortitude in training during the epidemic back home in Kenya as he looked to improve on his runner-up performance in 2019. The fortitude of Italy's Eyob Faniel, who finished third in the men's marathon after enduring 56 hours of travel from his training base in Kenya last week. ("That was insane," he admitted.)

Molly Seidel's tenacity, who placed fourth among women in an American course record less than a month after breaking two ribs. ("I'm hoping the hotel has a beer waiting for me," she remarked.)

The fortitude of the approximately 30,000 more marathoners who went to the streets on a breezy, sun-drenched day. And, of course, the fortitude of the city, which delighted at the race's long-awaited return.

"The people were incredible," said Elkanah Kibet, a first lieutenant in the United States Army who finished fourth in the men's race as the highest American at the age of 38 - a result that surprised even him. "I wasn't anticipating this, but I just went for it and hung out with the lead group as much as possible."

A year after the marathon was canceled due to the epidemic, around 30,000 participants took on the 26.2-mile course through the city's five boroughs.
A year after the marathon was canceled due to the epidemic, around 30,000 participants took on the 26.2-mile course through the city's five boroughs.

Korir won the race in 2:08:22. It was his first major title. Mohamed Reda El Aaraby was 44 seconds behind him. Faniel came in third, followed by Kibet.

If Kibet was a relative unknown, Seidel entered the race as a crowd favorite following her Olympic bronze medal in the women's marathon. Though she was lauded for her candor and prowess on social media, she was also concealing a secret on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge: She has been training with broken ribs in previous weeks.

Seidel declined to divulge the nature of the ailment following the race, but stated that she had pondered withdrawing from the marathon as recently as two weeks ago.

"It was excruciatingly uncomfortable, and it was impairing my capacity to function," she explained.

On the course, she appeared to be in good shape and pain-free as she stayed with the leaders until Jepchirchir, Cheptoo, and Yeshaneh fought to break away with about six kilometers to go. Seidel finished in 2:24:42, the fastest time ever recorded by an American and a personal best in her fourth marathon.

Molly Seidel crossed the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx from Manhattan on Sunday.
Molly Seidel crossed the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx from Manhattan on Sunday.

Seidel stated that she has desired to compete in New York since she began collecting Wisconsin state high school championships.

"It was incredible travelling from neighborhood to neighborhood," she remarked. "It is an experience I will never forget."

She also expressed gratitude for the opportunity for her family to witness her run in person for the first time since she finished second at the United States Olympic marathon trials in 2020.

Nonetheless, the race possessed an aura of seriousness. Cheptoo and Jepchirchir competed less than a month after a fellow Kenyan, Agnes Jebet Tirop, was discovered stabbed to death in her home on Oct. 13. Her spouse was later apprehended as he attempted to leave to a nearby nation in connection with her murder. Tirop, 25, was a rising star in the world of running, having just set a world record in a 10-kilometer event in Germany. Cheptoo had returned from Germany with Tirop, who had kept her personal issues to herself, Cheptoo explained.

Cheptoo, a former miler, made an audacious start in the marathon.
Cheptoo, a former miler, made an audacious start in the marathon.

"It's been quite difficult for me because I kept thinking, 'What could I have done?'" said Cheptoo, who has spent the last few weeks raising awareness about domestic violence concerns by establishing foundations in Tirop's memory. "We want women who are experiencing these difficulties to be able to speak up, and we know that many athletes suffer in silence."

Numerous professional athletes wore patches commemorating Tirop on Sunday. And when Cheptoo neared the finish line, she frequently thought of Tirop. Tirop could have been a star on the streets of New York with her loping stride and endearing attitude.

"When things were extremely rough," Cheptoo explained, "I kept telling myself that Agnes would be running in New York in a year or two."

As a result, Cheptoo ran for Tirop on Sunday.

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