FILE PHOTO: Athletics – New York City Marathon – New York, New York, United States – November 3, 2019 General view of race participants in action on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge during the marathon REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo
November 5, 2021
By Amy Tennery
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Kenenisa Bekele is looking forward to his New York City Marathon debut and Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir bids to build on her stellar 2021 when the famous five-borough race returns on Sunday after a year-long COVID-mandated hiatus.
The second-fastest marathoner of all time with a 2:01:41 personal best, Ethiopia’s Bekele is the only runner in the men’s field with a sub-2:06 performance to his name, but he will have to fend off Olympic silver medallist Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands to reach the top of the podium.
“I will be in (a) good position,” said Bekele, who finished third in Berlin in September. “It’s a new course and a new challenge for me, but I’ll have a good result, I’m sure.”
The 39-year-old was drawn to New York with the goal of getting more experience in the United States – this will be only his second U.S. marathon – and to build on a legacy that includes three Olympic gold medals – two in the 10,000 metres and one in the 5,000 – and five World Championship golds.
“After Berlin I recovered well. My dream will come true to participate in this race,” Bekele said.
Kenyan Jepchirchir, who triumphed in a duel with compatriot Brigid Kosgei to win the Tokyo Olympic marathon, expects a tough race from rivals including American Molly Seidel, who picked up bronze at the Games.
“To have strong people in a competition, it helps a lot to push, run good,” said Jepchirchir, who counts four-times New York champion Mary Keitany as a mentor.
Sally Kipyego, who finished third at the 2020 U.S. Olympic trials, is also among the 13 Tokyo Olympians to feature in Sunday’s race three months after the Games.
“I would love top five,” said Kipyego, the runner-up in 2016. “Even top 10 Sunday would be good just because of what I’m dealing with. I’m dealing with a tired body.”
The New York City Marathon, which did not take place last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will have a number of safeguards in place, including mandatory proof of vaccine or a negative test within 48 hours before the race.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, editing by Ed Osmond)