As athletes gear up for Sunday’s New York City Marathon, falling world records have brought new attention to the distance event after a blockbuster year.
Ethiopian Tigst Assefa shattered the women’s marathon record in Berlin in September, lopping more than two minutes from the previous best, with a time of two hours 11 minutes and 53 seconds.
Days later Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum beat compatriot Eliud Kipchoge’s world record mark on the men’s side with a stunning win in two hours and 35 seconds in Chicago.
While another benchmark is unlikely to be surpassed on Sunday — New York’s hills stand in contrast to the flatter courses of Berlin and the Windy City — the falling records have brought an extra buzz.
“What’s happening in the sport globally right now with these super fast times … it does bring this interest and attention to (the sport),” said Sam Grotewold, the general manager of professional athletes with New York Road Runners.
“Women running 2:11 in the marathon — something we never thought we’d see. That’s a guy’s time. I do think it brings this level of interest and sort of awe to watch what’s happening in the sport right now.”
The expected 16-person women’s elite field is among the smallest in recent memory, according to Grotewold, but what it lacks in quantity it has in quality.
The Kenyan former world record-holder Brigid Kosgei will make her Big Apple debut after five previous major wins, while her compatriot Sharon Lokedi will defend her New York title.
Rounding out a fearsome Kenyan foursome are Peres Jepchirchir, who won in Central Park months after picking up Olympic gold in Tokyo, and Boston Marathon champion Hellen Obiri.
Undaunted, Lokedi said the strength of the competition has only made her more excited to return to New York.
“It’s nice when you have all those people — like, you all want to win and all want to get the best out of it,” she told reporters on Thursday. “So it’s good to be in that group.”
Kenyan Albert Korir, who won in 2021, Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands and last year’s second-place finisher, Shura Kitata, are among the highlights on the men’s side, along with the 2022 world champion Tamirat Tola.
Ethiopian Tola ran 2:03:39 in Amsterdam two years ago and said he has already set his sights on the men’s world record.
“Maybe this year, no,” said Tola, who is on the hunt for his first marathon major title in New York. “Maybe next year — if I’m not selected for Olympics — I am trying (for) the world record in Berlin.”