Monday, December 05, 2022

Emotion and Grit Power Kenyans at the New York City Marathon

Emotion and Grit Power Kenyans at the New York City Marathon

Viola Cheptu was deep into the New York City Marathon on Sunday when she looked over her shoulder and pleaded with Perez Jepchirchir. The two Kenyans were leading the women’s race in a tight pack with Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshneh, and Cheptu looking to stay at the front for as long as possible.

“Can you please help me get to at least 35K?” Cheptu recalls asking Jepchirchir, referring to an outpost less than five miles from the end. “She was really nice enough to go with me.”

A former terrorist, Cheptu was making a bold statement in her marathon debut. On the other hand, Jepchirchir had arrived as a far-flung royalty. Just three months away from winning the women’s marathon gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, she now had history within reach: She was hoping to become the first Olympic champion, male or female, to add the New York City Marathon title to her resume. .

So Jepchirchir continued to encourage Cheptu—to work hard, to work hard—as they ran side by side in Central Park, where a huge crowd gathered for them. In a display of athletic prowess that seemed almost inevitable, Jepchirchir won in 2 hours 22 minutes 39 seconds, ahead of Cheptu in second and Yashaneh in third.

“My preparation was short,” said Jepchirchir, “but I tried my best.”

As the city welcomed marathons across five boroughs for the first time since 2019, it was a tough day. Jepchirchir’s power to win two marathons in a span of 92 days. Cheptu was brutally watered just weeks after a friend died and his older brother, Bernard Lagat, a five-time Olympian, was seen from a broadcast booth.

Men’s champion Albert Korir’s rigor to train through the pandemic at home in Kenya, as he sought to build on his runner-up spot in 2019. Rigidity of Italy’s Iob Faniel, who finished third in the men’s race after Standing. The 56-hour journey – and various travel nuisances – from his training base in Kenya last week. (“That was crazy,” he said.)

The stiffness of Molly Seidel placed fourth among women on an American course record nearly a month after breaking two ribs. (“I hope there’s a beer waiting for me at the hotel,” she said.)

The brutality of some 30,000 other marathoners who took to the streets on a bright sunny day. And the cruelty, of course, of the city itself, which rejoiced in the long-awaited return of the race.

“The guys were amazing,” said Elkanah Kibet, first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, who, at age 38, finished fourth as the top American in the men’s race—a surprising result, even for him. . “I wasn’t expecting it, but I just went for it, and I was hanging out with the main group as much as I could.”

Korir’s win time was 2:08:22. It was his first major championship. He was followed by Mohamed Reda El Arabi, who was 44 seconds behind. Faniel was third, then Kibet.

If less was known to Kibet, Seidl debuted as a crowd favorite after winning a bronze medal in the women’s marathon at the Olympics. Though brash, outspoken and celebrated for being something of a social media good, she was also hiding a secret on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge: She had been training in recent weeks with broken ribs.

After the race, Seidel declined to explain how the injury occurred, but said he had considered pulling out of the marathon as recently as two weeks ago.

“It was extremely painful, and it was hindering my ability to do anything,” she said.

Throughout the course, she appeared fit and painless as she kept up with the leaders until Jepchirchir, Cheptoo and Yeshneh worked to separate themselves with about six miles to go. Still, Seidel finished in 2:24:42, the fastest time ever for an American and just the fourth personal best in the marathon.

Seidel said she had been dreaming of competing in New York as she began collecting state high school championships in Wisconsin.

“It was great to go from neighborhood to neighborhood,” she said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”

She also said that she is grateful that her family was able to see her run in person for the first time since she finished second in the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials.

Yet there was an air of seriousness to the race as well. Cheptu and Jepchirchir had been competing together less than a month when a fellow Kenyan, Agnes Jebet Tirope, was stabbed to death in her home on 13 October. Her husband was later arrested in connection with her murder as he tried to run away from a neighbour. Country. Tiropp, who was 25 years old, was a rising star in the running world and made a world-record performance in the 10-kilometer run in Germany. Cheptu had traveled home from Germany with Tyrop, who had kept any personal problems he had, Cheptu said.

“It’s been really hard for me, because I kept thinking, ‘What could I do? said Cheptu, who has spent recent weeks raising awareness of domestic abuse issues through building a foundation in Tirope’s memory. “We want women who are going through these situations to be able to speak up, and we know that a lot of athletes are suffering silently.”

On Sunday, several elite athletes wore patches to commemorate Tirope. And as Cheptu closed at the finish, he often thought of Tirope. With his flamboyant and charming personality, Tirop could become a star on the streets of New York.

“When it got really tough,” Chapeau said, “I just kept thinking, you know, Agnes will be running in New York in a year or two.”

So Cheptu instead ran for Tirup on Sunday.

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