It was around Mile 21, with a 16-second lead, when Ghirmay Ghebreslassie glanced over his left shoulder and motioned to Lucas Rotich, in second place. He waved his hand, as if to say “come on.” At that point, there was little doubt Ghebreslassie would win his first New York City marathon. He just wanted his constant companion close by.
Ghebreslassie, 20, from Eritrea, took a strong lead in the 20th mile and held on to win in 2:07:51. Rotich, who was with Ghebreslassie almost every step of the way, did drop back in the end, but still came in second, in 2:08.53. Ghebreslassie is the youngest male finisher in New York marathon history.
He ran a pace of 4:31, smiling and gesturing at the crowd as he broke the tape. When he won, he took his flag, ran back and high-fived Rotich as he finished.
Ghebreslassie is something of a distance running prodigy, representing Eritrea in the Rio Olympics, finishing fourth in 2:11.04. His time Sunday was a personal best, eking past his finish at the London Marathon earlier this year, where he finished in 2:07.46.
Defending marathon champion Stanley Biwott dropped out of the marathon at about the nine-mile mark with a right calf strain. It’s only the second time he’s dropped out of a competitive race, but also the second time this year. He was forced to tap out at the Rio Olympics at the 35-kilometer mark, when he was given the wrong water mixture and suffered from stomach pain. American favorite Dathan Ritzenhein also dropped out – he at the 19-mile mark – with a right-heel injury.
“I feel very upset since I came to New York to defend my title,” Biwott said in a statement “I had a calf problem three weeks ago but I went through treatment and I felt ready to defend my title, but at km 15 I had to realize that I could not make it to the finish.”
Marcel Hug won the men's wheelchair division race in 1:35:49, .06 ahead of Kurt Fearnley.