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Blockbuster Group of Professional Athletes to Lead the Way Through New Course at 2018 United Airlines NYC Half on Sunday, March 18

February 27, 2018 at 5:00am

New York, February 27, 2018—Last year’s runner-up Emily Sisson and 2016 champion Stephen Sambu, as well as three-time defending champion and event record-holder Ernst van Dyk and reigning champion Susannah Scaroni in the wheelchair division, will return to New York City on Sunday, March 18 to race the brand new United Airlines NYC Half course. The 2018 United Airlines NYC Half will also feature a blockbuster group of American men in the open division and five former champions in the wheelchair division, with an expected 22,500 total finishers from more than 80 countries.

The professional athlete field, announced earlier Tuesday via the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half Kickoff Show on Facebook Live, will feature athletes from 15 different countries. The field includes nine Olympians and 10 Paralympians racing on a completely redesigned course, featuring iconic landmarks and neighborhoods from Prospect Park in Brooklyn to Central Park in Manhattan, including the Manhattan Bridge, Chinatown, Grand Central Terminal, and Times Square.

Sisson, 26, set an American debut record with her 1:08:21 runner-up performance at last year’s United Airlines NYC Half, finishing only two seconds behind her training partner Molly Huddle. At the IAAF World Championships last summer, Sisson once again finished one place and two seconds behind Huddle—this time in the 10,000 meters. As a two-time NCAA champion at Providence College, she earned 10 NCAA All-American honors during her college career and set the NCAA indoor record for 5000 meters (15:12.22). She will race the United Airlines NYC Half as an NYRR Team for Kids Ambassador.

Sambu, 29, won the 2016 United Airlines NYC Half after a third-place finish in 2014 and a photo-finish second place in 2015. In 2016, the Kenyan made his marathon debut at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, where he placed fifth in 2:13:35. He followed that with another fifth-place run last October, albeit with a time that was nearly two-and-a-half minutes faster. Sambu graduated from the University of Arizona, where he was a nine-time NCAA All-American. He’ll face a blockbuster group of Americans, including four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, two-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, American 5K record-holder Ben True, and last year’s top American finisher in the race, Chris Derrick.

Van Dyk, 44, is the three-time defending United Airlines NYC Half champion in the men’s wheelchair division, having lowered his own event record from 47:37 to 47:28 in last year’s race.  He is also a two-time New York City Marathon champion, having won in 2005 and 2015, and a 10-time Boston Marathon champion. He has competed for South Africa at every Paralympics since 1992, finishing sixth in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Marathon while also winning a gold medal in the 60-kilometer handcycling road race, prevailing in a close finish over former Formula One driver Alex Zanardi.

Scaroni, 26, won her first NYRR race last year, taking the tape at the United Airlines NYC Half in 55:06 to also record her fourth consecutive top-three finish in the event. She followed her win in New York with a third-place performance at the Boston Marathon, finishing in a five-minute personal best in 1:33:17. The two-time Paralympian placed seventh at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Marathon, finishing only two seconds back of a podium position. She trains with the University of Illinois wheelchair athletics program, along with fellow United Airlines NYC Half entrants, five-time New York City Marathon champion Tatyana McFadden and two-time New York City Marathon champion Amanda McGrory. The trio will be challenged by Switzerland’s Manuela Schär, who won four Abbott World Marathon Major races in 2017, including the TCS New York City Marathon, and who is fresh off a 2018 Tokyo Marathon victory.

In 2014, the NYC Half became the first major half-marathon to add a professional wheelchair division with significant prize money. To commemorate its fifth year, five of the six athletes who have won titles in the professional wheelchair division will be returning to race the new course, including: Josh George (2014), Manuela Schär (2015), McFadden (2016), Scaroni (2017), and van Dyk (2015-2017).

Additionally, since 2012, NYRR has held an official partnership with the Ageo City Marathon, in which the top two Japanese collegiate finishers from the event’s half-marathon are invited to run the United Airlines NYC Half the following spring. This year, Komazawa University’s Kei Katanishi, the gold medalist at the 2017 World University Games half-marathon, and teammate Shogo Ise earned their invitations to run in the open division of the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half.

Top Professional Runners – Men 


Half-Marathon PB



Wilson Chebet, KEN




Dathan Ritzenhein, USA




Teshome Mekonen, ETH




Abdi Abdirahman, USA




Shadrack Biwott, USA




Noah Droddy, USA




Soifiane Bouchikhi, BEL




Shogo Ise, JPN




Kei Katanishi, JPN




Chris Thompson, GBR




Ben True, USA




Chris Derrick, USA




Scott Fauble, USA




Matt Llano, USA




Haron Lagat, USA




Tim Ritchie, USA




Top Professional Runners – Women


Half-Marathon PB



Mamitu Daska, ETH




Buze Diriba




Vivian Cheruiyot, KEN




Emily Sisson, USA




Caroline Rotich, KEN




Aliphine Tuliamuk, USA




Betsy Saina, KEN




Karoline Grøvdal, NOR




Madai Perez, MEX




Serena Burla, USA




Desiree Linden, USA




Allie Kieffer, USA




Liz Costello, USA




Roberta Groner, USA




Top Professional Wheelchair Athletes – Men 


Half-Marathon PB



Ernst van Dyk, RSA




Simon Lawson, GBR




Rafael Botello, ESP




Josh George, USA




Daniel Romanchuk, USA




Brian Siemann, USA




Steven Smith, USA




Top Professional Wheelchair Athletes – Women


Half-Marathon PB



Amanda McGrory, USA




Katrina Gerhard, USA




Tatyana McFadden, USA




Susannah Scaroni, USA




Manuela Schär, SUI




Arielle Rausin, USA




In addition to the 22,500-plus runners covering 13.1 miles, the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half will host 1,000 youth runners—including those from Rising New York Road Runners, NYRR’s flagship youth program—for the fourth consecutive year in a free 1500-meter race that starts and finishes in Times Square. Participants ages 8-18, including youth wheelchair racers, will have the opportunity to dash through Times Square in an out-and-back 1500-meter race alongside some of the world’s top professional athletes and half-marathoners of all ages in pursuit of new personal bests.

The event will be broadcast live in the New York area on WABC-TV, Channel 7, nationally on ESP3 via WatchESPN, and will be shown internationally via a variety of global broadcast partners.

The United Airlines NYC Half is one of seven races – from the mile to the marathon – organized by New York Road Runners, which features invited professional athlete fields and makes up the NYRR Pro Racing Series. The NYRR Pro Racing Series also includes the NYRR Wanamaker Mile, United Airlines NYC Half, UAE Healthy Kidney 10K, NYRR New York Mini 10K, New Balance 5th Avenue Mile, USATF 5K Championships, and the TCS New York City Marathon.

Media interested in applying for credentials to cover the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half can email Matt Singer at with their coverage plans.


“We are excited to welcome a world-class group of athletes who will inaugurate our new course for the United Airlines NYC Half, which showcases some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks and historic neighborhoods. Our American field is arguably the best we’ve had in the history of the race, and they’ll be challenged by some of the best international athletes in the sport. From the first runner to the final finisher, there are so many great runners for fans to follow in-person along the course or by watching the TV broadcast or live stream. Some of our professional athletes to keep an eye on are Emily Sisson, who’s looking to build on her runner-up finish in her half-marathon debut last year, and Ernst van Dyk, who will be going for a record fourth consecutive victory as we celebrate the fifth year of our professional wheelchair division.”
-Peter Ciaccia, president of events for New York Road Runners and race director of the TCS New York City Marathon

“I’m excited for the challenge of a new course at the United Airlines NYC Half, and to visit Brooklyn for the first time at the start of the race. Having won the event two years ago, I’m eager for another top finish and to lead the way through Central Park in hopes of becoming the second athlete on the men’s side to win the race twice.”
-Stephen Sambu, 2016 United Airlines NYC Half Champion

“New York City never makes it easy, but always makes it worth it. I'm so pumped to have been able to compete in the pro wheelchair division since its beginning, and getting to join this year and celebrate the fifth anniversary is so special. The women's field continues to strengthen each year, and I know this year's race will be an incredible one, so I am just really excited to get out there and give it everything I have.”
-Susannah Scaroni, 2017 United Airlines NYC Half Champion

“I am very excited to come back and race the United Airlines NYC Half this year. I had an amazing experience last year, and I gained a ton of confidence from it going into my track season. It really set the tone for an incredible 2017.”
-Emily Sisson, 2017 United Airlines NYC Half Runner-Up

“I’m incredibly excited to be coming back to United Airlines NYC Half. In a very short space of time, this race has established itself as a main feature on our annual calendar, and every year it’s growing from strength to strength. I’m so looking forward to the new course and to perhaps look for a faster time in my attempt to defend the title for a record-setting fourth consecutive time. I know I’ll be looking at a serious challenge coming from Daniel (Romanchuk) and Josh (George), as they will be looking for a U.S. victory. I’ve been working hard building up to this season, and I look forward to another great show, as only New York Road Runners can do it.”
-Ernst van Dyk, Three-Time Defending United Airlines NYC Half Champion

Categories: Half Marathon News

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