By Jonathan Gault
November 9, 2022
With Sunday’s New York Marathon on the books, it’s officially the end of the 2022 Abbott World Marathon Majors season. With the Valencia Marathon still to come on December 4 and with WMM’s transition from an organization focused on elite athletes to everyday runners and Paralympians, this may be the last time we will measure things in terms of the WMM season. But the fact remains that, even as WMM slashes the prices of its series, WMM’s events – Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York – still attract some of the best land in the world and remain among the best marathons. in the world when it comes to investing in elite athletes (in terms of prize money and appearance fees).
It was the first time since 2019 that all six races had been held in a single year, and while attendance numbers are still down from pre-pandemic levels, elite races have just about returned. to normal. What have we learned from a full racing season? Here are some of my biggest takeaways, some from New York in particular and some from the countryside as a whole.
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Sharon Lokedi’s win was one of the most unlikely in recent World Marathon Majors history
We barely mentioned Sharon Lokedi in our preview of the women’s race in New York. But can you blame us? In a year where four of the other five major tournaments were won in 2:14, 2:15, 2:16 and 2:17, how could we have known that a woman who has never competed in world championships or Olympics and sports at 68:14 half marathon pb was going to win the New York Marathon on his debut?
(The lesson here, as with Viola Cheptoonearly won on its debut last year: the New York course, with its bridges, late hills and lack of pacemakers, can sometimes produce unlikely results, especially in hot weather.)
Lokedi’s win reminded me a bit Wesley Korir winner Boston in 2012. Just like Lokedi, Korir was a Kenyan runner who came through the NCAA system. While both have found collegiate success (Korir had an NCAA best finish of 3rd in the 5k at the University of Louisville; Lokedi won the 10k for the University of Kansas in 2018), neither athlete was pegged to stardom after graduation.
Now it’s clear that both were made for the marathon. Within five years of graduating, Korir had gone from a strong NCAA runner to a 2:06 marathoner and Boston champ (in a warm weather year). Now Lokedi is a New York champion just three years after finishing 11th in her last collegiate race, the 2019 NCAA Indoor 5k.
While in Kansas, Lokedi was one half of a college couple as she dated Edward Cheserek (now her fiancé). Who would have predicted that Lokedi, and not 17-time NCAA champion Cheserek, would go on to have the most successful professional career (so far)?
How unlikely was Lokedi’s victory in New York? There’s strong reason to believe this is the most unlikely WMM win for a woman in the past 10 years. Of the 22 WMM champions since the start of 2019, 17 have entered the race with pbs under 2:20 (I count Edna Kiplagat as the 2021 Boston champion). Of the other five, one was the WR Half Marathon holder at the time (Joyciline Jepkosgei) and another was Ashete Bekerewho had won Valencia (2:21:14) and Rotterdam (2:22:55) just before his victory in Berlin in 2019. Hardly a surprise.
The other three were Lokedi, Gotytom Gebreslase (who won Berlin 2021 on his debut), and Tigiste Assefa (who won Berlin this year). Here’s a look at Gebreslase and Assefa, along with two other household names vying for the “most unlikely WMM victory”:
- Shalane Flanagan, 2017 New York: Flanagan was a huge underdog for the three-time defending champion Marie Keitanybut Flanagan had already finished 2nd in New York and 6th at the 2016 Olympics. If Keitany had a bad day, she was one of the women expected to contend for victory.
- Linden, Boston 2018: It was a big shock, no doubt, and Linden probably won’t win without a day of bad weather once in a generation. But Linden had been a world-class marathon runner for years by this point, finishing 2nd in Boston in 2011 and 7th at the 2016 Olympics.
- Gotytom Gebreslase, 2021 Berlin: Made her marathon debut with bps of 14:57 and 67:52 in the half, but the field she beat was weak – only one woman with a bp under 2:20 and just three under 2s :23.
- Tigiste Assefa, 2022 Berlin: Assefa’s incredible time of 2:15:37 (after entering the race with a bp of 2:34:01) was one of the most shocking moments in history. But Assefa had run faster than Lokedi in half time (67:28) and on the field in New York, which included 2022 Worlds medalists Gotytom Gebreslase and Lonah Saltpeter and 64:22 half marathon Hellen Obiriwas stronger than Berlin, where Keira D’Amato started as the favorite.
Lokedi, Gebreslase and Assefa entered their marathons with similar backgrounds. But given that Lokedi had the slowest half pb of the three (68:14) and given the strength of the field in New York, I would call Lokedi’s victory the most unlikely women’s WMM title of the last decade. If you add men to the equation, however, it must be Yuki Kawauchiin Boston in 2018.
Are the second, third and fourth best male marathoners in the world all part of the same training group?
When we established the 2022 LetsRun World Rankings, it is quite obvious who will be the No. 1 in the men’s marathon. But after Eliud Kipchogeyou can argue that the next three best guys in the world all train under trainer Claudio Berardelli as members of 2 Running Club in Kapsabet, Kenya.
Evans Chebet, who became the first man in 11 years to win Boston and New York in the same year, is a strong choice for No. 2 in the standings; if it’s not him, he should give it to his training partner Amos Kiprutowho won London and recorded the fastest non-Kipchoge time of the year (2:03:13) finishing 2nd behind Kipchoge in Tokyo.
The only debate is whether the third man in Running Club 2, Benson Kipruto (1st Chicago in 2:04:14, 3rd Boston in 2:07:27), deserves the nod to 4th place against Ethiopia Tamirat Tola (3rd Tokyo in 2:04:14, 1st Worlds in 2:05:36) and Mosinet Geremew (1st Seoul in 2:04:43, 2nd Worlds in 2:06:44).
Either way, it’s remarkable that a practice group can combine to win four majors in a single year – and they’ve only been denied a fifth in Tokyo because of Kipchoge.
The 2022 marathon season was historically fast on the women’s side…but the 2023 season could be even better
We’ve never seen a year in the women’s marathon like 2022. Of the 13 fastest women’s marathons in history, more than half of them were run this year:
|2:14:04||Brigitte Kosgei||Chicago 2019|
|2:14:18||Ruth Chepngetitch||Chicago 2022|
|2:15:25||Paula Radcliffe||2003 London|
|2:15:37||Tigiste Assefa||Berlin 2022|
|2:16:02||Brigitte Kosgei||Tokyo 2022|
|2:17:01||Marie Keitany||2017 London|
|2:17:08||Ruth Chepngetitch||2019 Dubai|
|2:17:16||Peres Jepcherchir||2020 Valencia|
|2:17:18||Paula Radcliffe||2002 Chicago|
|2:17:18||Ruth Chepngetitch||2022 Nagoya|
|2:17:20||Almaz Ayana||2022 Amsterdam|
|2:17:23||Yalemzerf Yehualaw||2022 Hamburg|
|2:17:26||Yalemzerf Yehualaw||2022 London|
Obviously the shoes contributed to the glut of fast times, but we didn’t see the same effect on the men’s side. Eliud Kipchoge is the only man to run a time that ranks in the top 13 all-time in 2022, and only two men have beaten 2:04 this year (Kipchoge and Amos Kipruto). If that holds, it would be the fewest men’s under 2:04 since 2018.
But as the fast times rolled in this year, I kept thinking about one thing: why don’t these women race each other?
Look at the list above. Currently, six of the eight fastest women in history are currently active (Kosgei, Chepngetich, Assefa, Jepchirchir, Ayana, Yehualaw). Somehow neither of them have faced each other this year. It seems impossible.
I don’t blame anyone in particular. Nobody knew that Assefa would be one of the fastest marathon runners in history before running in Berlin. And Kosgei and Jepchirchir were both signed up for the fall marathons but ended up scratching due to injury. But with a glut of talent in the event right now, the likes of which we’ve never seen before, hopefully we’ll see some great head-to-head matchups next year in the women’s marathon.
New York must strengthen its security
Securing a 26.2 mile course with millions of spectators is no easy task. Still, it was alarming to see not one, but two cyclists finding their way onto the course and pedaling alongside the men’s race leader on Sunday.
First, at about 11 miles, a man in a dragged leather jacket chief Daniel Do Nascimento before leaving the course. Then, a few kilometers later, another man came a few meters from Do Nascimento and rode his bike beside him while shouting at him. After a few minutes, he was led off course by NYPD officers on the Queensboro Bridge.
LetsRun has reached out to New York Road Runners for comment on both incidents. NYRR did not address the first episode but did offer the following comment on the second incident:
“NYRR works closely with our city, state and federal agency partners, especially the NYPD, throughout the year to ensure a positive and safe experience for all race participants, spectators, volunteers and staff. Working in coordination with the NYPD, the situation of a cyclist on the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge was addressed immediately, and NYPD officers ensured the individual left the course.
Fortunately, none of these incidents affected the race or injured an athlete. But the NYRR and NYPD need to look into what happened in those cases to make sure we don’t get a repeat in the future.
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