The 2019 United Airlines NYC Half, run on a new course with a record 24,000+ finishers, saw new champions score convincing wins despite the return of all four of the event’s 2018 winners.
The surprise men’s open champion, Belay Tilahun of Ethiopia, triumphed after passing Daniel Mesfun of Eritrea in the race’s final mile and breaking the tape in 1:02:10. Mesfun finished second in 1:02:16 and American Paul Chelimo rounded out the top three in 1:02:19 in his half-marathon debut.
In the women’s open race, half-marathon world record-holder Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya gave a command performance, finishing in 1:10:07, a minute in front of runner-up Mary Ngugi, also of Kenya, and defending champion Buze Diriba of Ethiopia in third place, both timed in 1:11:07.
Tilahun was a relative unknown coming into this race and wore a non-elite number. He steadily reeled in Mesfun, who had run aggressively from the early miles, and overtook him on Central Park’s rolling hills just about half a mile before the finish.
Jepkosgei, whose world-best time for the distance is 1:04:51, pulled away in the sixth mile today as the lead pack descended off the Manhattan Bridge onto Chinatown and continued to steadily gain ground. “I feel very happy,” she said. “The course was hard and the cold weather was a challenge. My plan was to maintain my pace to the finish. I did that and there was nobody close behind me.”
The men’s wheelchair-division race saw Daniel Romanchuk of the United States turn back challenges from defending champion Ernst van Dyk of South Africa to cross the line first in 51:35, with van Dyk second in 52:08 and American Aaron Pike third with the same time.
“This is a wonderful morning,” said Romanchuk, the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon champion who captured his first United Airlines NYC Half win today at age 20 to become the youngest-ever event champion. “To be able to push with people like Aaron and Ernst is always incredible. It’s early in the season and I’m very happy with how things are going.”
In the women’s wheelchair division, American Tatyana McFadden won her first race in New York City since 2016 in convincing fashion, posting a time of 57:18. Defending champion Manuela Schär of Switzerland was second in 57:27 and American Susannah Scaroni captured third in 58:51.
“I’m feeling so much better,” said McFadden, a five-time New York City Marathon champion and 17-time Paralympic medalist. The 2016 United Airlines NYC Half champion, she was sidelined with blood clots for much of 2017 and spent 2018 returning to form. “Everything is coming together,” she added. “I love the climb at the beginning and I love the climb at the end. I went hard from the beginning and I felt really, really great and I’m very happy.”
The day was one of triumph for Americans, as it marked the first time the race crowned an Americans as both the men’s and women’s wheelchair division champions on the same day, and also saw Americans capture places three through 10 in the men’s open division and five of the top 10 spots in the women’s open division.
Chelimo, the top American finisher, took silver in the 2016 Rio Olympic 5000 meters and took the national title on the roads at that distance last November when he won the USATF championship at the Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5K.
Following Chelimo today and taking fourth place overall in 1:02:33, 2016 Rio Olympic marathoner Jared Ward of the United States was thrilled by the slew of strong American performances. “It was a really cool opportunity to get with a lot of the best Americans,” he said. “It was fun running with the pack, and there was a lot of chatter back and forth.”
Emma Bates, the top American women’s open-division finisher, finished fourth overall in 1:11:13, just over three months after capturing the 2018 USATF marathon championship last December. She was followed by compatriot Des Linden, the reigning Boston Marathon champion who was using the United Airlines NYC Half as a tune-up for her title defense next month. “I don’t think I’ve had a performance as good as this in New York in terms of competing and really engaging,” said Linden, a crowd favorite in NYC who placed sixth at the 2018 2018 TCS New York City Marathon. “It was a really positive step as I approach these last few weeks before Boston.”
The professional athlete field included nine Olympians and nine Paralympians, with 21 athletes using the race as a tune-up for the Boston Marathon.