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In her NYC Marathon debut, a Kenyan rookie beat a Kenyan superstar

Posted at 1:12 PM, Nov 03, 2019

The rookie took down the rock star in Sunday's New York City Marathon.

Joyciline Jepkosgei ruined esteemed countrywoman Mary Keitany's chance at a fifth women's title in the contest, but all kudos went to Kenya, as Keitany came in second, and Geoffrey Kamworor won the men's division, his second NYC Marathon victory.

"My strategy I had planned was to finish the race strong," Jepkosgei said in a statement. "But in the last kilometers, I saw that I was approaching the finish line and I was capable of winning."

The world record holder in the half marathon, Jepkosgei finished first among thousands of competitors with an unofficial time of two hours, 22 minutes and 38 seconds, the second-fastest ever in the women's open division, according to the New York City Marathon.

First-ever marathon

Though Jepkosgei has been running professionally since only 2015, she's already compiled an impressive catalog of accomplishments: She's collected silver medals at the 2017 World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia, Spain, earned a bronze medal in the 2016 African Championships and set world records with her times in the half marathon, 10-kilometer, 15-kilometer and 20-kilometer races.

In March, during her first trip to the United States, she won the NYC Half.

Coached by her husband, the 25-year-old mother of one planned to make her marathon debut in Hawaii in December but withdrew after twisting an ankle. Sunday thus marked her maiden marathon.

To win the 2019 race, Jepkosgei had to overcome the dominance of Keitany, who since 2014, had won every New York City Marathon women's title with one exception: In 2017, she finished second to the United States' Shalane Flanagan.

At the 20-mile mark, the Kenyans were a second apart, but Jepkosgei found the will to outpace her competitor by almost a minute over the last 6.2 miles. Keitany finished 54 seconds behind Jepkosgei. It marked the sixth straight NYC Marathon in which Keitany has finished in the top two.

Kamworor medals for fourth time

Kamworor, the men's champ and unofficial world record holder in the half marathon, finished Sunday's race in two hours, eight minutes and 13 seconds. Kenya's Albert Korir finished 23 seconds later.

Last year's men's winner, Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa, dropped out at mile seven.

"From the start of the race, I was feeling okay," Kamworor said in a news release. "I was comfortable. I prepared very well to run this marathon. Throughout the last few meters, the pace was somewhat high, and it wasn't a problem for me. That's when I decided to pull away."

He, too, has enjoyed success in recent years. In addition to winning the New York City Marathon in 2017, he placed second in 2015 and third last year.

Previously, Kamworor won junior and senior titles in the World Cross Country Championships, and has four gold medals from the World Half Marathon Championships. In 2013, he was included in the documentary, "The Unknown Runner."

The 26-year-old gained an appreciation for running long distances as a youngster, trotting 5 kilometers to and from school every day, his NYC Marathon biography say s.

"He was a hard-working student with aspirations of one day becoming a lawyer, and he was accepted to a college in the U.S. to study law, but instead decided to focus his career 100 percent on athletics," the bio says.

Back home in Kenya, he trains daily with Eliud Kipchoge, who in October became the first person to run 26.2 miles in under two hours , though the time is considered unofficial.

Jared Ward was the fastest American in Sunday's race with a time of two hours, 10 minutes and 45 seconds, while the fastest American woman was Desiree Linden with a time of two hours, 26 minutes and 46 seconds.

Kenya rides wave of success

This year's race, its 49th annual running, featured more than 50,000 competitors representing at least 125 nations.

The race began on Staten Island. Runners crossed the Verranzzano-Narrows Bridge and ran through Brooklyn and Queens before dipping into Manhattan en route to the Bronx. The course then doubled back to the finish line in Manhattan, located in Central Park.

Top prizes of $100,000 await Jepkosgei and Kamworor. Ward and Linden will both take home $25,000.

The wheelchair division saw repeat champions in Manuela Schar of Switzerland, who claimed her third straight title in New York, and Daniel Romanchuk, who became the first American (and youngest winner) to conquer the 2018 race.

The pair will take prizes of $25,000 each.

Kenya's success comes three weeks after the country's Brigid Kosgei and Lawrence Cherono finished tops in the Chicago Marathon. In that race, Kosgei shattered the women's world record by 81 seconds .

Schar and Romanchuk also defended their titles last month in Chicago.