NEW YORK – The Kenyans and Ethiopians were eclipsed by American Shalane Flanagan in the New York City Marathon women’s race on Sunday.
Flanagan took victory in 2:26:53 and beat pre-race favourite Kenya's Mary Keitany who finished second in 2:27:54.
Flanagan ended a 40-year drought for US women at the race, playing her cards late and moving all in during the closing miles in Central Park to reach the finish a highly emotional, euphoric champion.
In the days before the race, defending champion Keitany had indicated the course record of 2:22:31 may be on her radar, but in cool, blustery conditions, any such plans were jettisoned soon after the start.
At 25 kilometres, as the runners traversed the Queensboro Bridge, Keitany remained at the front and a 5:38 mile whittled the lead pack once more to nine.
Content to bide her time, she drifted back into the pack soon after, allowing Italian triathlete Sara Dossena to take the pace with 10 miles left to run.
Traditionally, the three-mile run down First Avenue is when the first major move of the race occurs – as runners enter Manhattan and a wall of sound from either side of the road – but the women’s race remained uneventful until 20 miles, at which point sustained pressure from Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska dropped all but two athletes: Keitany and Flanagan.
In the miles that followed, Keitany and Daska traded blows at the front, neither of them able to inflict the knockout punch on the other – or indeed Flanagan, who was looking increasingly confident in their slipstream.
With three miles to run, Flanagan finally unleashed her effort, clocking a 5:08 mile to put Daska and Keitany into severe discomfort. That pulled her clear of her rivals, and subsequent miles of 5:11 and 5:04 lengthened that advantage.
Her 26th mile over the rolling terrain in Central Park was covered in 5:12, more than 20 seconds faster than any other elite woman, and at that stage Flanagan was able to coast to the finish to revel in her first success at an Marathon Major.
There were tears – lots of them – both before and after she reached the finish in 2:26:53, bringing her home more than a minute in front of Keitany (2:27:54) and Daska (2:28:08).
“About nine months ago I was heartbroken about not getting to race in Boston and it hurt quite a bit,” said Flanagan, “but I kept telling myself there’d be delayed gratification and a moment down the road that made up for it.
“I’ve dreamed of a moment like this since I was a little girl. It means a lot to me, to my family, and hopefully, inspires the next generation of American women to be patient. It took me seven years to do this so a lot of work went into this moment.”
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1 Shalane Flanagan (USA) 2:26:53
2 Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:27:54
3 Mamitu Daska (ETH) 2:28:08
4 Edna Kiplagat (KEN) 2:29:36
5 Allie Kieffer (USA) 2:29:39