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Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal breaks Third Place Streak At United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

Abel Kipchumba edges out Houston Marathon winner Zouhair Talbi

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Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal from Norway and Abel Kipchumba from Kenya emerged victorious in this morning’s challenging United Airlines NYC Half, clocking in at 1:09:09 and 1:00:25, respectively. 

Grøvdal, a distinguished three-time European Athletics cross-country champion, made history by becoming the first European woman to claim victory in the race since Mara Yamauchi of Britain in 2010. 

Meanwhile, Kipchumba, the reigning B.A.A. Half-Marathon champion from last November in Boston, became the ninth Kenyan male champion in the event’s 17-year history.

Both athletes earned a prize of $20,000.

Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal breaks Third Place Streak At United Airlines NYC Half Marathon 1

Elite Women’s Race

The elite women’s field, consisting of about two dozen participants, took a measured approach as they commenced the race from Prospect Park in Brooklyn under the early morning sky. 

Leading the pack was Great Britain’s Calli Thackery, recently named to her country’s Olympic Marathon team. A group of seven trailed closely behind, passing the 5-K checkpoint in a relaxed 17:07. 

Among them were Grøvdal, along with Kenya’s Gladys Chepkurui, Edna Kiplagat, and Cynthia Limo; Diane Van Es from the Netherlands; and Switzerland’s Fabienne Schlumpf.

Not far behind were the top American contenders, Des Linden and Jenny Simpson, trailing by a mere five seconds.

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The subsequent five kilometers proved pivotal. As the leaders ascended the Manhattan Bridge to cross the East River, the pace proved too demanding for Thackery, Van Es, and Schlumpf, who fell behind. 

By the 10-K mark on the Manhattan side (33:26), the lead pack was reduced to four: Grøvdal, Chepkurui, Kiplagat, and Limo.

Limo, the reigning champion of the Honolulu Marathon, soon lost her pace after Chepkurui increased the tempo along the FDR Drive by the East River. By the 15-K mark, Limo trailed by nearly 20 seconds, ultimately finishing fourth in 1:11:54.

However, Grøvdal also faced challenges. 

In the tenth mile (17th kilometer), as the race progressed up Seventh Avenue past Times Square, Grøvdal began to lose ground against Chepkurui and Kiplagat. It seemed she would secure third place for the second consecutive year.

“At that point, I was exhausted,” Grøvdal recounted to reporters. I was just thinking, it’s going to be third place again this year. But then, I don’t know, I just tried to keep the gap from widening too much. Suddenly, I found myself right behind them again.

Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal breaks Third Place Streak At United Airlines NYC Half Marathon 2

The final seven kilometers of the race presented significant obstacles. The course ascends approximately 30 meters from the 15-K mark to the finish line, and the finish is straight uphill; Grøvdal was well aware of the challenge ahead.

“Then something within me just clicked, and I thought, ‘Okay, now it’s time for the finish,” Grøvdal explained. “With just 3-K left, I planned to push hard in the final 2-K, and that’s exactly what I did.” She added, I simply went for it.

By the 20-K mark in Central Park (1:05:45), Grøvdal had a six-second lead over Chepkurui and a 22-second lead over 44-year-old Kiplagat, a two-time world marathon champion. Kiplagat finished third in 1:09:46, while Chepkurui settled for second place in 1:09:27

Grøvdal savored her final stretch towards the finish line, acknowledging the cheering crowd as she approached.

“This victory ranks up there,” Grøvdal expressed when asked to compare today’s triumph with other significant victories throughout her extensive international career, which began at the age of 15. “I have three European gold medals, which are significant, but I believe this victory is right up there with them.”

Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal breaks Third Place Streak At United Airlines NYC Half Marathon 3

Simpson, who faced disappointment after failing to finish the USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon last month in Orlando, emerged as the leading American, finishing in sixth place with a time of 1:12:06. 

She revealed that today’s race helped lift her spirits after her setback in Orlando and gave her confidence as she continued preparing for next month’s Boston Marathon.

“I’ve been quite hard on myself in recent weeks; it’s been a challenging period,” Simpson admitted. “I think today was a perfect example of just going out there, enjoying the race in New York, and treating it like a demanding long run. As I approached the final 5-K, I realized, ‘Wow, I feel really good!’ So, it felt like a prolonged tough run with a 5-K race to cap it off.”

Simpson shared much of the race with Des Linden, the 2018 Boston Marathon champion, who finished as the second-highest American and ninth overall with a time of 1:12:39. Like Simpson, Linden is also gearing up for the Boston Marathon.

Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal breaks Third Place Streak At United Airlines NYC Half Marathon 4

Men’s Elite Race

The men’s race began at a more aggressive pace than the women’s event. 

Kipchumba and Morocco’s Zouhair Talbi had already forged ahead by the 5K mark, coming through in 14:23 and reducing the lead pack to just four runners. Joining them were two Olympic steeplechasers, American Hillary Bor and Eritrean Yemane Haileselassie

The quartet maintained their positions through the 10K mark, coming through in 28:38, after which Kipchumba and Talbi initiated a series of surges. Haileselassie struggled to keep pace and eventually fell behind, while Bor, competing in his first half-marathon, tenaciously clung to the leaders.

“I sought a fast-paced race, and I believe my counterpart had a similar intention,” Talbi remarked, referring to Kipchumba. “We both pushed each other from the outset, and the intensity continued until the end.”

Coming across the 15K mark in 42:54, Bor trailed by 12 seconds, with Haileselassie lagging 32 seconds behind.

Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal breaks Third Place Streak At United Airlines NYC Half Marathon 5

The battle for victory unfolded between the Kenyan and the Moroccan through the back end of the race.

“Today’s race was a grueling test,” Kipchumba confessed to Race Results Weekly. “My competitor proved to be a formidable force.”

Kipchumba ultimately surged ahead of Talbi in the closing stages of the race, extending his lead to 10 seconds at the 20K mark, which he came through in 57:18, and ultimately crossing the finish line with a 17-second advantage. 

His winning time of 1:00:25 marked the fastest finish since 2017 when the race followed a different and notably easier course from Central Park to lower Manhattan.

I gave my all, and I emerged victorious, Kipchumba declared. “With three kilometers remaining, I knew it was time to seize the win.”

Talbi secured second place with a time of 1:00:41.

You can find the full race results below:

Elite Women’s Results

  1. Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal – 1:09:09
  2. Gladys Chepkurui – 1:09:27
  3. Edna Kiplagat – 1:09:46
  4. Cynthia Limo – 1:11:54
  5. Diane van Es – 1:12:03
  6. Jenny Simpson – 1:12:06
  7. Cali Thackery – 1:12:09
  8. Fabienne Schlumpf – 1:12:21
  9. Des Linden – 1:12:39
  10. Jacqueline Gaughan – 1:12:47

Elite Men’s Results

  1. Abel Kipchumba – 1:00:25
  2. Zouhair Talbi – 1:00:41
  3. Yemane Haileselassie – 1:01:37
  4. Hillary Bor – 1:01:47
  5. Reed Fischer – 1:03:50
  6. Kenenisa Bekele – 1:03:59
  7. Matthew Baxter – 1:04:12
  8. Zerei Kbrom – 1:04:31
  9. Tomonori Yamaguchi – 1:04:36
  10. Clayton Young – 1:05:35
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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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