By DOUG FEINBERG – AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – The New York City Marathon women’s record, which has stood for 20 years, could go down on Sunday with one of the strongest areas together in the history of the race.
Sharon Lokedi, reigning champion, watches defend its title against a stellar group of women that includes Boston Marathon champion Hellen Obiri, Olympic gold medalist and New York 2021 champion Peres Jepchirchir and former marathon world record holder Brigid Kosgei.
“It was very life-changing,” Lokedi said of winning last year. “Excited to be back here again.”
She will receive additional support from her mother, who flew to New York from Kenya and will be waiting at the finish line in Central Park.
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They will all be aiming for the $50,000 bonus if they can beat the NYC event record of 2:22:31 set by Margaret Okayo in 2003. Obiri won the Boston Marathon in April, lowering her personal best to 2:21:38.
“The pitch will be very strong when I’m with them,” Kosgei said.
Lokedi won in her marathon debut last year, taking the New York laurel wreath in 2:23.23. She pulled away in the last two miles of the race, which was won in unseasonably warm temperatures in the 70s. It was one of the hottest days in the history of the race since the marathon moved to November in 1986.
Temperatures on Sunday are expected to be in the high 50s, much better for the 50,000 runners expected to start the race.
“I’m glad it’s going to be cooler,” Lokedi said.
The four Kenyans have a chance to win the race. Many American runners likely won’t be in contention as the US Olympic marathon trials are three months away. Kellyn Taylor and Molly Huddle are the top US runners in the race, returning after giving birth to daughters in 2022. Huddle finished third at the 2016 NYC Marathon in her debut.
“We have a very strong group,” Taylor said. Their respect is light years ahead of me. But the beauty of New York is that you can put all that aside and whatever happens that day can.”
The current women world record is 2:11:53, set by Ethiopia’s Tigist Assefa at the Berlin Marathon in September.
While the men’s field may not have the star power of the women’s side, there is still plenty of intrigue. Defending champion Evans Chebet and two-time winner Geoffrey Kamworor pulled out of the race a few weeks ago, leaving it wide open.
World Championship medalists Maru Teferi of Israel and Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia could win the race, along with 2021 New York Marathon champion Albert Korir. Also there is marathon newcomer Edward Cheserek, who moved to the US in 2010 and won 17 NCAA titles in his college career.
Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola hopes to improve on his fourth consecutive place in 2018-19. He finished third in the 2022 Toyko Marathon and this year’s London Marathon. He is looking for his first major marathon victory.
The New York City Marathon serves as the US Paralympic Trials, and up to four wheelchair racers will be the first athletes in all sports to make a team for the Paris 2024 Games.
The top two Americans will qualify for the men’s and women’s NYC Marathons, provided they record a minimum qualifying time since last October and are ranked high enough.
Susannah Scaroni has already posted that time and ranking.
“It would mean a lot. Thank you very much,” she said. “I would love to make the team in one of those two slots on Sunday. It would be incredible to know I’m going to the Paralympics.”
Daniel Romanchuk is an eight-time major winner, most recently in Boston in 2022. He has consistently been the best American in the major, only surpassed by Marcel Hug of Switzerland, who dominated the sport.
The New York Police Department will implement heightened security measures for the marathon.
“As tensions rise around the world, there is growing concern about the impact it will have here at home,” said NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban. “There are no credible or specific threats to the marathon or our city at this time. But that said, we will still implement a comprehensive security plan.”
There have been many protests in New York City since the start of the Israel-Hamas war last month.
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