Historic Field Set for New York City Marathon
A star-studded field of Olympic, World, and World Major Marathon champions will toe the line of the elite women’s race of the 2023 TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 5.
Four Kenyans — defending champion Sharon Lokedi, former marathon world record holder Brigid Kosgei, reigning Boston Marathon champion Hellen Obiri, and Olympic Champion Peres Jepchirchir — will headline what is bound to be a very close race.
With a hilly profile and an elevation gain of 810 feet through all five of the city’s boroughs, the New York City Marathon is often a close race where tactics crown the winner rather than a reliance on sheer speed. However, while it’s unlikely any world records will fall over such a technical course, the historic field with numerous women capable of winning the title should produce fast results that could finally break Margaret Okayo’s 2:22:31 course record after 20 years.
Lokedi, 29, will look to defend her 2022 title after storming to victory in the last two miles of last year’s race, running a time of 2:23:23 in her debut marathon. In the buildup to the race, Lokedi ran the United Airlines NYC Half and the Mastercard New York Mini 10K, where she secured fourth and second-place finishes, respectively.
“Last year, I came into the TCS New York City Marathon with the goal of being in the thick of the race, and the result was better than I could have ever hoped for,” Lokedi said in a New York Road Runners (NYRR) press release. “This year, I’m returning with a different mindset, hungry to defend my title and race against the fastest women in the world.”
The fastest on paper, Kosgei will certainly look to disrupt Lokedi’s hopes of a title repeat. Kosgei, 29, shook the running world when she broke Paula Radcliffe’s world record, which had stood for 16 years, with a 2:14:04 performance at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She is sure to be hungry for a win after Ethiopia’s Tigst Assefa, 26, shocked the world with a historic 2:11:53 performance at the Sept. 24 Berlin Marathon to decimate Kosgei’s previous world record.
An Olympic silver medallist, Kosgei has the winning record to back her up having won five World Marathon Major titles, most recently winning gold at the Tokyo 2021 Marathon. She will make her Big Apple debut on her quest to win her fourth different Major.
“I am not worried about the course, as I have had success in hilly marathons before, but New York has always been about head-to-head competition, and I know I must be in the best possible shape to compete with the other women in the race,” Kosgei told NYRR.
Obiri, 33, placed sixth in her marathon debut in New York last year before going on to win the 2023 Boston Marathon. She remains the only woman to hold a world title in indoor track, outdoor track, and cross-country. She is also a two-time Olympic silver medalist and two-time World Champion in the 5,000m, demonstrating her ability to perform over a wide range of distances. Obiri is still new to the distance and will be looking to prove herself as one of the top marathoners in the world.
“With a year of marathon experience now under my belt, a win in Boston, and my move to the U.S., I’m coming to New York this year with more confidence and in search of a title,” Obiri told NYRR. “I’m excited to show the people of New York what I’m capable of and that my win at the United Airlines NYC Half in March was just the beginning.”
Jepchirchir, 30, knows how to win. The Tokyo Olympic gold medallist has won five of her last six marathons, including the 2022 Boston and 2021 New York Marathons. She is also the former half marathon world record holder and World Champion. A win in New York City would be an important step toward selection for the Kenyan Olympic team and the defense of her Olympic title.
However, it remains uncertain if Jepchirchir will be able to race. She announced at the New York media day that she sustained a calf injury during training last Saturday and will make the decision on whether to run the morning of the marathon.
Last year, Jephchirchir could not defend her 2021 New York title, sidelined by a glute injury.
Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, 25, poses the greatest threat toward de-throning Kenya. Gidey, a 10,000m track specialist, who is the 2022 World Champion and reigning Olympic bronze medallist in the event, is sure to shake things up. New York will be Gidey’s second marathon ever after she stormed to the fastest women’s marathon debut in history at the 2022 Valencia Marathon. Her time of 2:16:49 makes her the second fastest in the field, behind only Kosgei. Like Obiri, Gidey will be looking to show that she is capable of competing with the top runners across the 26.2-mile distance as she makes the jump from the track.
Other athletes in a strong position to contend for the podium include Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, last year’s runner-up and bronze medalist at the 2022 World Championships, and Ethiopia’s Gotytom Gebreslase, who placed third in last year’s race and won the marathon at the 2022 World Championships. Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat, 43, has an impressive marathon resume spanning over a decade, winning her first Marathon Major title at the 2010 New York Marathon and most recently at the 2021 Boston Marathon. She placed fourth at last year’s race. Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw, 24, is also capable of a podium finish. Her personal best of 2:17:23 to win the 2022 London Marathon is the fourth-fastest among the field.
The American delegation is decidedly small and lacking in star power in comparison to previous years. Most of the top contenders for the U.S. Olympic Team opted to race an equally star-studded field in Chicago last month to allow for more recovery time ahead of the U.S. Olympic Trials, slated to be held in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 3.
U.S. Olympian Molly Huddle, 39, and Kellyn Taylor, 37, will headline the American pack. They will both make their postpartum comebacks after giving birth in 2022.
Huddle set a North American record in the 10,000m to finish sixth at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games before recording a third-place finish at the 2016 New York Marathon. However, Huddle has not completed a marathon since dropping out of the 2020 Olympic Trials at the 21-mile mark. Taylor’s last marathon was the 2021 New York Marathon, where she finished sixth in 2:24:29 — a time that makes her the fastest of the American field on paper.
The pair will be joined by compatriots Sydney Devore, Meriah Earle, and Joanna Reyes.