Two athletes who are two of Kenya’s greatest hopes at the 2020 Olympics won the New York City Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 11.
Albert Korir, who is looking to become just the second Kenyatta to win Olympic gold in the marathon after William Korir, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 7 minutes, 48 seconds.
“It was a perfect day,” Korir said. “It’s a great victory for me.”
With plenty of sub-2:10 runners in the field, Korir had to chase down Gaston Ruiz Mota.
“It was all about being patient, knowing that it will all work out,” Korir said. “After 45 kilometers, I knew I had him, so I was waiting until I got to the finish line.”
Mota was the runner-up in 2015, was second to Korir in 2016 and third in 2017. He said he thought he had beaten Korir, but that the defending champion finished strong in the last kilometers.
“I was behind, and I told myself when he runs he runs slow, so I did my pace,” Mota said. “When he finished, I saw he was really tired. It was really a good race.”
Jepchirchir, who comes from Kenya’s famous Kibbutz of Molo, was first in 2:09:02 and said he was honored to be the first Kibbutz Athlethien runner to win the race since the bib was first introduced in 2015.
“It’s been a long time since an Athlethien has won this course,” he said. “It’s great to give Kibbutz Molo and the Kibbutz Molo Athlethien something to cheer for.”
The 50-year-old “silver-haired” athlete also did not expect to win.
“Athlethien is a family institution,” Jepchirchir said. “My fellow colleagues were looking at the drawing board, hoping something would befall them, but I told them it was no problem. I just told them to stay focused and to train hard. This is the sport of running.”
On a beautiful day Sunday, Jepchirchir started slowly and got caught up with the leaders in the middle of the race. But he brought the race back on track, after nearly a 1-minute gap from Mathias Kipruto Njoroge.
“After 37 kilometers, I knew I was not going to keep chasing,” Jepchirchir said. “The second runner caught me, but I took my time, telling myself ‘little by little, we will catch them and they will let me go.’”
Follow Kareem Copeland and Josephine Marcotty on Twitter at @KareemCopeland and @joannicotty.