The Kenyan turned on the gas in the final 200 meters to beat Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa.
NEW YORK — It was a frigid Sunday morning in The Big Apple but that didn’t stop Kenyan Wilson Kipsang from scalding Ethiopian rival Lelisa Desisa with a punishing kick over the final meters in Central Park to win the New York City Marathon in 2 hours, 10 minutes and 55 seconds. Kipsang, the former marathon world-record holder and reigning London Marathon champion, captured the third World Marathon Majors win of his career. With his victory on Sunday, he took the 2013-2014 World Marathon Majors title, pocketing $500,000 for his efforts.
“I am really very happy to have won this race and being my first time in New York and running in such tough conditions, I am really very happy,” the 32-year-old Kipsang said in the post-race press conference. “It was very windy but it was more tactical because none of the guys wanted to take the lead because of the strong winds. I felt like taking off but I saw that it was too early for me so I had to really exercise a lot of patience in this race.”
Temperatures in the mid-40s and swirling 30 mph winds turned the race into a tactical affair from the get-go with a number of athletes taking their turn at the front throughout. A slow halfway split of 1:06:56 saw 14 runners still in contention. Two big surges reduced the lead pack to eight at 30K and four at 35K, but with two kilometers to go it was down to just Desisa and Kipsang. Coming back into Central Park for the final time through Columbus Circle, approaching the 26-mile mark, Kipsang and Desisa were running stride for stride, content to bide their time for as long as possible. Desisa made the first surge, a move Kipsang quickly matched. Inside the final quarter mile of the race, Desisa tried to go by Kipsang again, brushing his shoulder— a move that caused the former world record holder to flash a bold glance at his East African rival before putting the race away with a blistering flurry to the finish line.
“When he came from the other side, he brushed my shoulder and I was telling him what happened and there’s a lot of space,” Kipsang said of the close battle at the finish. “Then I decided now to sprint because I saw the finish was very close and the speed was very high. He was running from behind and then he came from the other side. But it was very tactical so it was not easy.”
The 24-year-old Desisa had no response for Kipsang’s kick and finished 11 seconds back in 2:11:06. The 2013 Boston Marathon champion said he had stomach issues that started around 15K into the race and he was running uncomfortably the rest of the way. He threw up at some point in the second half of the race, which relieved some of the pressure on his gut, but the issue apparently hampered him all the way to the finish line.
“I went for the win but Kipsang was better because my bladder was full,” Desisa said. “I was not relaxed because of that but I am happy [with second place].”
Behind Desisa, 2010 New York City Marathon champion Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia finished a solid third, an impressive result given recent injury issues that hampered his training. Gebremariam passed defending champion Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya (6th, 2:13:44) with four kilometers to go to move into third place, a position he was happy with on this day. Mutai struggled over the final two miles, splitting 5:37 and 5:43 to close things out.
“I used all my tactics in this race,” said Gebremariam, who threw his arms up in celebration upon crossing the finish line. “I was not in good shape. I was in a good position but the course was very slow because of the wind. I listened to my body and stayed behind to see the distance. I am really, really happy with the result. It’s not my best result but now I know where I am and you will see me more maybe.”
Reigning Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi, who spent many of the race’s early miles towing the lead pack through New York City’s five burroughs, finished fourth in 2:13:18. The 39-year-old led three American men into the top ten.
“The race was deep, strong, windy and tactical,” Keflezighi said afterward. “When it is tactical, may the best man or woman win—and he did today.”
Twenty-eight-year-old Ryan Vail of Portland—the top American finisher here last year in 13th—finished ninth in 2:15:08, while 31-year-old Nick Arciniaga of Flagstaff was tenth in 2:15:39. It was the best showing by the U.S. men in the Big Apple since Keflezighi’s win in 2009, when six Americans placed amongst the top ten finishers.
“My goal today was to be more aggressive than last year,” Vail said. “I tried to stick with that front pack for as long as possible. It was a tremendous help having Nick there. He kept me rolling and kept me motivated…Obviously we’re always going for the win. Meb went for the win today as well. I think having three in the top ten is a big story, especially after last year when I was the first American in 13th [place]. So hopefully we’ve redeemed ourselves for this year and hopefully we’ll make an even better showing next year.”