Abel Kipchumba of Kenya and Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal win 2024 United Airlines NYC Half

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2024 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved


NEW YORK (17-Mar) — Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal and Kenya’s Abel Kipchumba won this morning’s hilly and chilly United Airlines NYC Half in 1:09:09 and 1:00:25, respectively. 

Grøvdal, 33, a three-time European Athletics cross country champion, became the first European woman to win the race since Britain’s Mara Yamauchi in 2010.  Kipchumba, 30, last November’s B.A.A. Half-Marathon champion in Boston, was the race’s ninth Kenyan male champion over its 17-year history.  Both athletes won $20,000 in prize money.

WOMEN EASE INTO THE PACE

The two dozen women in the elite field were in no hurry to establish a fast pace when the race set off from Prospect Park in Brooklyn just after sunrise.  Calli Thackery of Great Britain, recently named to her country’s Olympic Marathon team, was the early leader and a pack of seven went through the 5-K checkpoint in a gentle 17:07. 

Grøvdal was in that pack along with Kenya’s Gladys Chepkurui, Edna Kiplagat and Cynthia Limo; the Netherland’s Diane Van Es; and Switzerland’s Fabienne Schlumpf.  The two top Americans, Des Linden and Jenny Simpson, were five seconds back.

Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal wins the 2024 United Airlines NYC Half
Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal winning the 2024 United Airlines NYC Half (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

The next five kilometers would be critical.  As the leaders ascended the Manhattan Bridge to cross the East River, the pace became too difficult for Thackery, Van Es and Schlumpf who all slid back.  At the 10-K mark on the Manhattan side (33:26) the race was down to four: Grøvdal, Chepkurui, Kiplagat, and Limo.

Read More: Marathon Majesties Set to Shatter Women’s Record in London Marathon 2024 Showdown?

Limo, the reigning Honolulu Marathon champion, was next to lose contact after Chepkurui pushed the pace up the FDR Drive along the East River. By 15-K, Limo was nearly 20 seconds behind and would finish a distant fourth in 1:11:54.

But Grøvdal was also hurting.  In the tenth mile (17th kilometer) as the race went up Seventh Avenue past Times Square, Grøvdal began to lose contact with Chepkurui and Kiplagat.  It looked like she would finish third for the second year in a row.

“I was so tired then,” Grøvdal told reporters.  “Just thinking, it’s third this year also.  But then, I don’t know.  I just tried to don’t get the gap too big.  Suddenly, I was just behind them again.”

The final seven kilometers of this race are particularly tough.  The race climbs about 30 meters from 15-K to the finish, and the finish straight itself is uphill.  Grøvdal knew the course well and was ready.

“Then something in me just, OK, now it’s the finish,” Grøvdal explained.  “It’s 3-K left, so I was planning to have a strong finish the last 2-K and I did that.”  She added: “I just went for it.”

By the 20-K mark in Central Park (1:05:45), Grøvdal had six seconds on Chepkurui and 22 seconds on the 44 year-old Kiplagat, twice the world marathon champion.  Kiplagat would finish third in 1:09:46, and Chepkurui had to settle for second in 1:09:27.  Grøvdal got to enjoy her final run up to the finish tape and waved to the crowd as she ran.

“It’s up there,” Grøvdal said when asked how today’s victory compared with the other important wins in her long international career which began when she was just 15 years-old.  “I have three European golds.  They are big, but I think this is right around that one.”

Susannah Scaroni 2024 Airlines NYC Half
Susannah Scaroni winning her second consecutive United Airlines NYC Half (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

Simpson, who failed to finish the USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon last month in Orlando, was the top American in sixth place in 1:12:06.  She said that today’s race broke her bad mood about not finishing in Orlando and gave her confidence as she continued her training for next month’s Boston Marathon.

“I’ve just been so down on myself the last few weeks; it’s just been really hard,” Simpson said.  “I think today was the perfect example, like, I just kind of like, I love New York, I love racing, I’m just going to go and have a really hard long run.  When I got into the last 5-K I thought, man, I feel really good!  So, it was like a glorified long run with a 5-K race at the end.”

Simpson ran much of the race with 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden, who was the second American (ninth overall) today in 1:12:39.  Like Simpson, Linden is also running Boston.

KIPCHUMBA BATTLES WITH TALBI

The men’s race began much more aggressively than the women’s.  By the 5-K mark (14:23) Kipchumba and Morocco’s Zouhair Talbi had already reduced the lead pack to four.  Along for the ride were two Olympic steeplechasers, American Hillary Bor and Eritrean Yemane Haileselassie. 

The four stayed together through 10-K (28:38), but then Kipchumba and Talbi began to trade surges.  That kind of racing was too punishing for Haileselassie, who drifted off the pace.  Bor, running in just his first half-marathon, hung on.

Geert Schipper - United Airlines NYC Half
Geert Schipper of the Netherlands winning his first United Airlines NYC Half (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

“I wanted a fast race and I think the same for him,” said Talbi, who is observing Ramadan and had to fast in the days leading up to today’s race.  “He (Kipchumba) wanted to push… so both of us keep pushing from the start.  I pushed until the end, basically.”

By 15-K (42:54) Bor was 12 seconds back and Haileselassie was 32 seconds in arrears.  It would be either the Kenyan or the Moroccan who would take the victory today.  Kipchumba was determined and recognized Talbi as a formidable opponent.

“Today was not easy,” Kipchumba told Race Results Weekly.  “The guy was strong.”

Kipchumba finally shook off Talbi in the race’s final stages, leading by 10 seconds at 20-K (57:18) and, ultimately, 17 seconds at the finish.  His time of 1:00:25 was the fastest since 2017 when the race was held on a different –and much easier– course from Central Park to lower Manhattan.

“I tried my best; I won the race,” Kipchumba said.  “(With) three kilometers remaining I said it’s time to win.”  

Talbi was second in 1:00:41, and Haileselassie passed Bor in the final kilometer to take third in 1:01:37 to Bor’s 1:01:47.  Another American, Reed Fischer, rounded out the top 5 in 1:03:06.

WHEELCHAIR RACES WERE RUNAWAY AFFAIRS

Both wheelchair champions, American Susannah Scaroni and Dutchman Geert Schipper, cruised to victory.  Scaroni, who also won last year, was clocked in 53:50, nearly five minutes ahead of compatriot Tatyana McFadden (58:42).  Schipper’s time of 48:43 was more than three minutes ahead of second place Evan Correll (52:06).

“I’m still shocked,” Scaroni told Race Results Weekly, still sitting in her black carbon Honda racing chair.  “It was a great day.  I tried to give it everything I had.”

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