2023 Major Marathon Review: A Look Back At This Year’s Biggest Moments

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As runners crossed the line of the New York City Marathon, it marked the end of the final 2023 Abbott Major Marathon. From course records to surprise upsets to world records, there was no shortage of excitement across the major marathons this year.

In this article, we’re going to take a look back at all the big moments the 2023 major marathons brought.

Tokyo Marathon

The Tokyo Marathon was the first major marathon of the year, and its 16th edition took place on March 5, 2023. 

The race ran at full capacity for the first time in four years, mostly as a result of COVID-19, and saw over 38,000 runners take to the streets of the nation’s capital. 

On the women’s side, Rosemary Wanjiru of Kenya claimed victory in only her second-ever marathon, finishing in 2:16:28.

The men’s race was quite relaxed through the first half, but the pace surged towards the end.

It came down to a thrilling three-way sprint where Ethiopia’s Deso Gelmisa prevailed with a time of 2:05:22.

Canadian runner Cam Levins made headlines as he broke the North American record in the marathon. Levins placed fifth and ran a time of 2:05:36, which would be his second Canadian record after running 2:07:09 at the 2022 World Athletics Championships.

Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon is arguably one of the most iconic races in the world. With thousands of runners yearning to qualify for the April race each year, only a select group makes it to the start line. 

This year’s elite field was touted as the most accomplished and fastest in Boston history.

The men’s race saw a clear favorite in world record holder Eliud Kipchoge.

However, in a major upset, defending Boston Marathon champion Evans Chebet was able to claim his third consecutive major marathon title, defeating the great Kipchoge.

A surge in pace around mile 19 was where Kipchoge began to fall from the lead pack. Chebet finally pulled away from the remaining runners in the lead with less than a mile to go to claim victory in 2:05:54.

The women’s race saw another jaw-dropping victory when Hellen Obiri of Kenyan crossed the line first in 2:21:38, 12 seconds ahead of the second-place runner Amane Beriso.

It was Obiri’s second marathon ever and a last-minute decision to race, but it ended up being one of her greatest victories.

The Boston Marathon also became a trailblazer event as it debuted a nonbinary division for the first time in its 127-year history.

The division comes after advocates from the nonbinary running community wrote an open letter for race organizers and policymakers to take steps toward gender inclusivity in trail and ultra running.

Kae Ravichandran was the first-ever winner of the nonbinary division at the Boston Marathon after crossing the line in 2:38:57.

London Marathon

The London Marathon was the beginning of a series of thrilling events that would come over the next three major marathons.

In just his second marathon ever, 23-year-old Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya won the London Marathon after running the second-fastest marathon in history.

Kiptum crossed the line in 2:01:25, just 16 seconds off the world record held by Eliud Kipchoge of 2:01:09.

Not only did Kiptum break the course record and clock the second-fastest marathon ever, but his second half-marathon split of 59:45 is the second-fastest back half of a marathon ever.

The women’s race saw Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands take a shocking win in her debut career marathon against one of the strongest women’s fields to date. 

It was the first time reigning Olympic Champion Peres Jepchirchir was defeated in the marathon, as she took home the bronze medal.

Hassan used her track speed to out-sprint the competition and clocked a 2:18:33.

The London Marathon served as a precursor for exciting things to come later in the season.

Berlin Marathon

The 2023 Berlin Marathon was a historic day.

On the women’s side, Tigst Assefa demolished the world record. In only her third marathon ever and first race of 2023, Assefa surged to an early lead and showed no signs of letting up.

Assefa ran an unthinkable 2:11:53 and took over two minutes off Brigid Kosgei’s 2019 world record of 2:14:04.

Assefa’s improvement since her debut marathon in March 2022, where she ran 2:34:01 in Saudi Arabia, has been astonishing.

Assefa’s performance also put Adidas’ super shoe, the ultra-light Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1, on the map. The $500 single-use shoe became known as “the world’s fastest shoe,” but that title wouldn’t last too long.

In the men’s race, Eliud Kipchoge was looking to make history. He made his intentions clear from the gun that he was going for his own world record.

However, his efforts did not come to fruition as he was unable to maintain his pace at the back end of the race. 

Running the eighth-fastest marathon in history, a 2:02:42, Kipchoge took his fifth victory in Berlin, a historic moment in and of itself.

Chicago Marathon

The Chicago Marathon set the perfect stage for a record-setting day in early October, with stacked elite fields and near-perfect weather conditions.

One of the biggest moments in marathon running this year was Kelvin Kiptum’s world-record run at the Chicago Marathon.

At just 23 years old, Kiptum took down the world record in his third marathon ever. Kiptum crossed the line in Chicago in 2:00:35, taking down the previous record of 2:01:09 set in 2022 by Eliud Kipchoge by 34 seconds.

This is also when Nike would enter the battle for the “world’s fastest shoe,” as they revealed their Nike Alphafly Next% 3. The unreleased shoe quickly took some of the spotlight from Adidas, and the battle of the super shoes began.

The winner of the women’s race, Sifan Hassan, would also make headlines for her performance while wearing the Nike prototype.

Hassan, a versatile track runner, took her second major marathon win of the year after winning the London Marathon six months earlier alongside Kiptum.

Hassan won the Chicago Marathon in a time of 2:13:44, which was less than two minutes slower than the new world record set by Tigst Assefa just weeks earlier. This time would also go into the history books as the second-fastest women’s marathon time ever.

Hassan managed to beat out another decorated field as she did in London, which included two-time Olympic Champion Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya.

The Chicago marathon also had a slew of American masters records fall, including Des Linden taking down Deena Kastor’s previous record of 2:27:47 after finishing the race in 2:27:35.

New York City Marathon

The final Abbott Major Marathon, the New York City Marathon of the year, took place this past weekend in the Big Apple.

2022 World Marathon Champion Tamirat Tola of Kenya set a new course record after a convincing solo win of 2:04:58, two minutes ahead of second-place runner Albert Korir.

The win at the NYC Marathon was redemption for Tola after a disappointing result at the World Athletics Championships, where he was unable to defend his title after dropping out of the race, citing stomach issues.

The women’s race came down to a gripping sprint finish. Hellen Obiri would edge out her competitors, taking her second major marathon victory of the year after prevailing at the Boston Marathon earlier this year.

Obiri tapped into her track speed and crossed the line at the NYC Marathon, her third career marathon, in 2:27:23.

It was an enthralling year at the 2023 Abbott World Major Marathons, with countless records being broken and surprising upsets around every corner.

The upcoming Olympics in 2024 will surely bring runners to the major marathons in top form, and perhaps we will see further records come falling.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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