New York City Marathon 2021 Preview

The 2021 World Marathon Major Calendar will round out with the New York City Marathon, here’s our preview. The Sunday 7th November date means New York have managed to assemble possibly the finest field of the lot with plenty of Olympic interest and some exciting debuts. Here we preview the elite races.

How fast is the New York City Marathon?

New York, by marathon majors standards, is one of the relatively slower courses in large part due to some significant elevation in the first five miles:

That said due to the calibre of the elite field over the years New York is the fourth fastest major for women and fifth fastest for the men. With previous winners including Mary Keitany (four times), Paula Radcliffe (3), Wilson Kipsang, Geoffrey Mutai (2) and Geoffrey Kamworor (2) winning New York is in my eyes the third most prestigious major behind London and Berlin.

Average Winnings Times (Since 2007)BerlinBostonChicagoLondonNew YorkTokyo
Men 02:03:4102:09:4502:06:5002:04:5902:07:5702:07:09

Who is in the women’s elite field for the 2021 New York City Marathon?

The elite women’s field for the 2021 New York City Marathon is as follows: (Only sub 2.30 runners and notable debuts included).

AthleteCountryPersonal Best (where they set it)Recent Performances
Peres Jepchirchir Kenya2.17.16 (Valencia, 2020)Tokyo Olympics – 1st (2.27.20), Valencia 2020 – 1st (2.17.16)
Ruti AgaEthiopia2.18.34 (Berlin, 2018)Valencia 2020 – 7th (2.20.05), Tokyo 2020 – DNF
Helalia JohanesNamibia2.19.52 (Valencia, 2020)Tokyo Olympics – 11th (2.31.22), Valencia 2020 – 3rd (2.19.52)
Ababel YeshanehEthiopia2.20.51 (Chicago, 2019)Ethiopian 10,000m Olympic Trials – DNF, Delhi Half 2020 – 3rd (65.21), World Half – 5th (65:41)
Nancy KipropKenya2.22.12 (Vienna, 2019)Nagoya 2020 – DNF, Santa Pola Half 2020 – 2nd (69:32)
Desiree LindenUSA2.22.28 (Boston, 2011)Brooks 50k 2021 – 1st (2.59.54), US Olympic Trials 2020 – 4th (2.29.03)
Emily Sisson USA2.23.08 (London, 2019)Olympic Games 10,000m – 10th (31.09)
Kellyn TaylorUSA2.24.29 (Duluth, 2019)Marathon Project 2020 – 3rd (2.25.22) US Olympic Trials 2020 – 8th (2.29.55) 
Sally KipyegoUSA2.25.10 (Berlin, 2019)Tokyo Olympics – 17th (2.32.53), Eldoret 2021 – 26th (2.40.22)
Molly Seidel USA2.25.13 (London, 2020)Tokyo Olympics – 3rd (2.27.46), London 2020 – 6th (2.25.13)
Laura ThweattUSA2.25.38 (London, 2017)USA 15k Champs 2021 – 8th (50.31), US Olympic Trials 2020 – 5th (2.29.08)
Andrea Ramirez LimonMexico2.26.34 (Marathon Project, 2020)Tokyo Olympics – DNF, Marathon Project 2020 – 6th (2.26.34)
Haruka YamaguchiJapan2.26.35 (Osaka, 2020)Nagoya 2021 – 24th (2.37.04), Osaka 2021 – 14th (2.39.26)
Aliphine TuliamukUSA2.26.50 (Rotterdam, 2019)Tokyo Olympics – DNF, US Olympic Trials 2020 – 1st (2.27.23)
Stephanie BruceUSA2.27.47 (Chicago, 2019)Valley Half 2021 – 1st (69.55), US Olympic Trials – 6th (2.29.11)
Lanni MarchantCanada2.28.00 (Toronto, 2013)Las Vegas Half 2021 – 6th (73:19)
Krista DucheneCanada2.28.32 (Toronto, 2013)Chilly Half 2021 – 1st (76:20)
Hannah Lindholm Sweden 2.28.59 (Sevilla, 2020)Berlin 2021 – 12th (2.33.23), S7 2021 – 3rd (2.29.36)
Roberta GronerUSA2.29.09 (Rotterdam, 2019)USA 15k Champs 2021 – 18th (51.56)
Samantha RoeckerUSA2.29.59 (Marathon Project, 2020)Marathon Project 2020 – 12th (2.29.59)
Viola CheptooKenyaDebutHerzongenaurach Half 2021 – 6th (69.13), New York 10k – 2nd (31.39)

Who is in the men’s elite field for the 2021 New York City Marathon?

The elite men’s field for the 2021 New York City Marathon is as follows: (only sub 2.12 runners and notable debuts included)

AthleteCountryPersonal Best (where they set it)Recent Performances
Kenenisa BekeleEthiopia2.01.41 (Berlin, 2019)Berlin 2021 – 3rd (2.06.47)
Abdi NageeyeNetherlands2.06.17 (Rotterdam, 2019)Tokyo Olympics – 2nd (2.09.58), Valencia 2021 – 15th (2.07.09)
Ghirmay GhebreslassieEritrea2.07.11 (Siena, 2021)Siena 2021 – 10th (2.07.11)
Eyob FanielItaly2.07.19 (Sevilla, 2020)Tokyo Olympics – 20th (2.15.11), Tuscany Half 2021 – 3rd (60.07)
Albert KorirKenya2.08.03 (Ottawa, 2019)Eldoret 2021 – 10th (2.13.53) New York 2019 – 2nd (2.08.36)
Callum HawkinsGreat Britain2.08.14 (London, 2019)Tokyo Olympics – DNF, Marugame Half 2020 – 3rd (60.01)
Girma Bekele GebreEthiopia2.08.38 (New York, 2019)Herzogenaurach Half 2021 – 11th (65.59), New York 2019 – 3rd (2.08.38)
Noah DroddyUSA2.09.09 (Marathon Project, 2020)Cherry Blossom 10 Mile – 13th (47.47)Marathon Project 2020 – 2nd (2.09.09)
Mohamed El AarabyMorocco2.09.16 (Chicago, 2018)Tokyo Olympics – 11th (2.12.22), Siena 2021 – 24th (2.10.06)
Jared WardUSA2.09.25 (Boston, 2019)USA 20k 2021 – 16th (61.21), London 2020 – 17th (2.12.38)
Benjamin PreisnerCanada2.10.17 (Marathon Project, 2020)Tokyo Olympics – 46th (2.19.27), Marathon Project 2020 – 8th (2.10.17)
Akira TomiyasuJapan2.10.29 (Lake Biwa, 2021)Lake Biwa 2021 – 46th (2.10.29)
Jose Luis Santana MarinMexico2.10.54 (Lima, 2019)Tokyo Olympics – 56th (2.21.32) S7 Half 2021 – 2nd (62.57)
Ryan Vail USA2.10.57 (London, 2014)US Olympic Trials 2020 -DNF
Thijs NijhuisDenmark2.10.57 (Sevilla 2020)Tokyo Olympics – 70th (2.26.59), Enschede 2021 – DNF
Nathan MartinUSA2.11.05 (Marathon Project, 2020)Marathon Project 2020 – 9th (2.11.05)
Matt LlanoUSA2.11.14 (Berlin, 2019)Atlanta Half 2021 – 3rd (64.19), US Olympic Trials 2020 – 38th (2.17.22)
Patricio Castillo Mexico2.11.24 (Valencia, 2020)Trial of Miles Half – 1st (62.15), Valencia 2020 – 39th (2.11.24)
Elkanah KibetUSA2.11.31 (Chicago, 2015)USA 10 Mile 2021 – 9th (47:39)
Temesgen HabtemariamEthiopia2.11.42 (Cologne, 2013)Bermuda Half 2021 – 3rd (70:03)
Kibiwott KandieKenyaDebutIstanbul Half 2021 – 1st (59:35), Valencia Half – 1st (57.32)
Teshome MekonenEthiopiaDebutNYRR 10k 2020 – 1st (29.23)
Ben True USADebutUSA 20k 2021 – 1st (59:53)

Who are the favourites for the New York City Marathon women’s race?

In my eyes there is a pretty nailed on favourite when it comes to the women’s race, with the New York Road Runners having pulled off a huge coup to get her on the start line.

Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir is one of the greatest half marathon runners in history. Twice a World Champion over the distance (2016, 2020), she is also the world record holder for a women’s only race (65:16). With her win in Valencia to move herself to fifth (2.17.16) on the all-time marathon list and her dominating win over Brigid Kosgei in Tokyo she may well become one of the finest marathon runners in history too. A win in New York would add to that cause. If she has recovered from Tokyo and has a good day, she should win. For a run down on her fascinating emergence to the top of distance running, read our feature here.

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Jepchirchir’s main challengers

Helalia Johanes is a bronze medalist from Doha and was third behind Jepchirchir in Valencia. The Namibian was eleventh in Tokyo and will be towing the start line for her 31st marathon. Expect a consistent performance from the 41-year-old.

Ruti Aga‘s best was a second place in Berlin in 2018 and she won Tokyo in 2019. That said recent outings have been less impressive for the Ethiopian with her best result since then a seventh place finish in Valencia (2.20.05). Aga is still young (27) and could find herself in the mix once more.

Aga’s compatriot Ababel Yeshnaneh is yet to get get the best out of herself over the marathon distance but comes with huge pedigree over the half. In 2020 she broke the world record in winning the RAK half (64.31) and was third and fifth in Delhi and the World Half that year respectively. Her most recent outing was a DNF in Hengelo at the Ethiopian 10,000m Olympic trials.

This will be Yeshnaheh’s fourth marathon after winning in Abu Dhabi (course was short but 2.20.16 in 2018), sixth in Tokyo in 2019 (2.24.02) and second in Chicago later that year (2.20.51). If she gets it together she could yet be Jepchirchir’s greatest challenge.

The US assault

For me the US challenge will centre itself around three athletes. Emily Sisson is stepping up after competing the Olympic 10,000m where she finished 10th. She went into that race with hopes of a much higher finish and has already showed herself adept at the marathon distance. Sisson was sixth in London in 2019 on debut (2.23.08) and may benefit from not having ran a brutal Olympic marathon.

Molly Seidel‘s bronze in Tokyo was a phenomenal achievement in a world class field. To run 2.27.46 in such conditions suggests her 2.25 best is vulnerable but the main question will be how she has managed the post Olympic comedown. Her most recent outing was a seventh place finish at the Great North Run (71.55). If she is over Tokyo she may find herself in the mix or at least in contention for a big personal best. As a reminder this is only her fourth marathon, which makes her Olympic bronze all the more impressive.

The final genuine challenge I see coming from Desiree Linden. The world 50k record holder showed some form in breaking three hours for the distance which suggests an improvement on the 2.29.03 she ran in the Olympic trials in Feb 2020. If conditions are difficult she will hope for a repeat of her Boston triumph from 2018. This would be even more impressive given she is racing there on 11th October and then aiming to repeat in New York.

The outsiders

Nancy Kiprop was fourth in the last edition of New York (2019) when she ran 2.26.21. That year she also won Vienna (2.22.12). Her most recent outing was a DNF in Nagoya in 2020.

Kellyn Taylor of the USA impressed in the Marathon Project (2.25.22) and at the Grandma’s marathon in 2019 (2.24.29). Her experience could see her challenge for top American honours.

Who are the favourites for the New York City Marathon men’s race?

For my money there are three standouts all with different merits.

Heading up the field a certain Kenenisa Bekele only seven weeks after his third place in Berlin (2.06.47). Bekele suffered after a suicidal early pace from the head of the field but showed decent shape to finish third. This will be his best bet of a marathon major since his 2019 Berlin triumph. As a reminder Bekele’s marathon career has gone as follows:

  • 2014 – Paris 1st (2.05.04) Chicago 4th (2.05.51)
  • 2015 – Dubai DNF
  • 2016 – London 3rd (2.06.36) Berlin 1st (2.03.03)
  • 2017 – Dubai DNF, London 2nd (2.05.57) Berlin DNF
  • 2018 – London 6th (2.08.53)
  • 2019 – Berlin 1st (2.01.41)
  • 2020 – London DNS
  • 2021 – Berlin 3rd (2.06.47)
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Abdi Nageeye heads to New York on the back of Olympic silver. How he figures in New York could depend on what type of race it is but if the pace dips he has a strong chance as a championship performer.

The most exciting of the lot, however, is the debut of World Half Marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie. The Kenyan’s sole blip in recent years is a second place to Jacob Kiplimo in the World Half but he is otherwise faultless. If he can carry anywhere near his half-marathon form (57.32) to the full distance he is the man to beat.

The outsiders

Ghimray Ghebreslassie is a World Marathon champ from 2015 as well as the New York winner in 2016. Despite running a personal best in Siena this year that seems a bit of a red herring. It was his first major attempt in the new shoes. He DNF’d in his two marathon appearances in 2018, was out the whole of 2019 and was only tenth in Siena. But if he has shaken off those injury troubles and Siena acts as a bit of a rust-buster then he may well challenge.

Albert Korir‘s sole appearance since 2019 was in the Eldoret City Marathon (10th, 2.13.53) in a race for into which it’s hard to read too much . The Kenyan won in Ottawa and Houston in 2019 and was second to Kamworor in New York (2.08.36). He could figure once more.

A debut for Ben True

It will be interesting to see how Ben True’s goes in his marathon debut. The Diamond League winner in New York in 2015 (over 5000m) impressed on his most recent outing in the USA 20k champs, albeit in a less than world class time (59:53).

Our predictions

The women’s race:

  1. Peres Jepchirchir
  2. Emily Sisson
  3. Ababel Yesnaneh

The men’s race:

  1. Kibiwott Kandie
  2. Kenenisa Bekele
  3. Abdi Nageeye

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Featured image “New York Marathon 2013” by jaroslavd is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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