2023 New York City Marathon Preview: Athletes, Storylines To Watch

By David Melly

November 1, 2023

What a year it’s been for the marathon – and it’s not even over yet. The final chapter of the 2023 Abbott World Marathon Majors series hits the five boroughs this Sunday, as the TCS New York City Marathon kicks off its 52nd edition.

The bridges, hills, twists, and turns of the course running through the Big Apple mean that record-setting times are rare, but instead, the fans get something even more fun: good ol’ fashioned racing. The highlight of last year’s race was surely the battle for the women’s title, where debutante Sharon Lokedi slugged it out with Gotytom Gebreslase and Lonah Salpeter over the final miles of the race to come away with a narrow seven-second win in her first-ever marathon. Lokedi is back to defend her title – more on that below – but unfortunately, 2022 champ Evans Chebet and two-time champ Geoffrey Kamworor both withdrew from the race a few weeks earlier. As a result, the hunt for the men’s title is wide open, and who winds up with top American honors is anyone’s guess.

Sharon LokediSharon Lokedi

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

The action gets underway Sunday, November 5 at 8:40am for the pro women and 9:05am for the pro men (don’t forget; the clocks turn back as Daylight Saving Time ends in the U.S.!). The race will be broadcast on ESPN2 in the U.S. from 8:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Full information on how to watch can be found here.

To follow the elite action (as well as your friends and family), you can find live results and tracking information here or on the TCS New York City Marathon App. If you want to track CITIUS founder Chris Chavez for his race, he’s bib No. 12307.

To kick-off the marathon weekend, we’ll be hosting a three-mile shakeout run in Central Park on Saturday, November 4, in partnership with Under Armour and the Release Recovery Foundation. The first 200 runners to RSVP and check-in on-site (at the Great Lawn) will receive an Under Armour Rival Fleece Crewneck. You can RSVP here.

On Sunday morning, tune in for the New York City Watch Party on the CITIUS MAG YouTube channel as Kyle Merber, Dana Giordano and Eric Jenkins share their reactions, takes and provide you with live splits + analysis all throughout the morning. We’ll start the stream at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Without further ado, here are the top storylines and athletes to watch for at the 2023 NYC Marathon:

Peres JepchirchirPeres Jepchirchir

Justin Britton / @JustinBritton

Heavy Hitters Assemble As Lokedi Tries For Two

It’s already hard enough to defend your title at the World Marathon Major, but the field assembled here to take on reigning champ Sharon Lokedi of Kenya is formidable, to say the least. Former world record holder and fellow Kenyan Brigid Kosgei, the third fastest woman of all time and a five-time WMM champ, is making her New York debut. Reigning Olympic champ, 2021 NYC champ, and 2022 Boston champ Peres Jepchirchir is looking for her second major win of the fall after claiming her third World Half Championship title in Latvia. And two of the best to ever do it on the track, Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey and Colorado-based Kenyan Hellen Obiri, are looking to expand their marathon resumes.

Obiri only finished sixth here in her debut last year, but she’s since gone on to win the 2023 Boston Marathon in her second try at the distance and has to be considered at least a co-favorite. Kosgei, Lokedi, and Jepchirchir have all reported varying degrees of injury struggles in the last year, but of that trio, Jepchirchir is probably the best off, as she was able to finish 3rd in London at what she called “75 percent capacity” and is coming off a big sprint victory in the World Half Marathon Championships (UPDATE: Jepchirchir is now a “maybe” for Sunday’s race, as she told CITIUS in the pre-race press conference that she pulled her calf in her final workout earlier this week and is taking it day-by-day). Gidey, who faded late in her debut in Valencia last year but still clocked the fastest marathon debut ever at 2:16:49, probably has the highest upside of anyone in the field. She holds the world records at 10,000m and the half marathon, and is still the only woman in history to break 63 minutes at the latter distance. But her track credentials and prancing stride may not translate perfectly to the hills of Central Park, even as she figures out the 26.2 distance more and more.

It’s also worth mentioning that the ageless wonder, 43-year-old Edna Kiplagat, is back in action after finishing fourth last year along with WMM stalwarts Mary Ngugi and Viola Cheptoo. Don’t be surprised if patience and experience play a major factor in the latter half of the race and some of the runners with less shiny PRs but more on-course experience come out on the podium.

Abdi NageeyeAbdi Nageeye

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

After Several Scratches, Men’s Title Is Up For Grabs

It’s hard to remember the last time a men’s race at a World Marathon Major seemed so open. With an Olympic year looming, we’re not totally surprised to see some of the big names playing it safe and pulling out of the race to preserve their health, but the result is that the biggest stars and safest bets aren’t toeing the starting line. 2021 champ Albert Korir of Kenya and 2022 runner-up Shura Kitata of Ethiopia have the strongest and most recent claims to dominance on the New York course and will hope their experience pays off. The fastest man in the race by PB is Ethiopian Tamarit Tola, a late addition who’s gone 2:03:39 and won the World Championships marathon in 2022, but who most recently dropped out of Worlds in Budapest mid-race. Somali-born Dutchman Abdi Nageeye also has a strong championship-style racing record, with an Olympic silver medal, third-place finish in New York last year, and victory at the 2022 Rotterdam Marathon to his name.

Intriguingly, the fourth-fastest man in the race by personal best is Canadian Cam Levins, coming off the best marathon of his career this past spring with a fifth-place finish and national record of 2:05:36 in Tokyo. No Canadian athlete has ever won any of the 51 previous New York City Marathons, so although it would be something of a surprise to see Levins come out with the victory, the possibility is tantalizing and a podium finish is certainly within his reach.

Molly HuddleMolly Huddle

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

Moms Ride The Comeback Train

If you like to cheer for really fast moms, this is the race for you. Two of the brightest stars on the U.S. road circuit are racing their first marathons since giving birth: NAZ Elite’s Kellyn Taylor and Saucony’s Molly Huddle both had daughters in 2022 and have been methodically working their way back into road racing over the past several months. Taylor is no stranger to New York, having finished in the top 10 three different times, most recently claiming sixth in 2021 in 2:26:10. Huddle, a formidable road racer across a wide range of distances, has not quite hit the top of her bounce at 26.2 and hasn’t contested a marathon since dropping out of the 2020 Olympic Trials. But she debuted here in NYC in 2016, finishing third in 2:28:13 – one of her strongest performances at any distance.

Both Taylor and Huddle will be looking to solidify their names on the list of potential Olympic contenders heading into next year’s Trials. A top-10 finish here would make a compelling argument that they deserve to be in the conversation. Compared with Chicago, the early-November date of NYC does make the turnaround tough, but both runners are about as experienced as it comes in terms of training cycles and surely have accounted for a balanced approach as they juggle consecutive marathon buildups.

Futsum ZienasellassieFutsum Zienasellassie

Justin Britton / @JustinBritton

Futsum’s Second Act Continues In New York

30-year-old Futsum Zienasellassie has had quite the running journey, moving from his native Eritrea to Indiana in high school, winning Nike Cross Nationals in 2011, putting together a strong collegiate career at Northern Arizona University, then having a bit of an up-and-down pro career. Now in his second stint with NAZ Elite (he joined in 2017, leaving after one year, and re-joined in 2022), he has found his footing in the marathon, winning the 2022 California International Marathon (also the USATF Marathon Championships) in his debut, then improving his PB to 2:09:40 at the Rotterdam Marathon this past spring. He and longtime road warrior Elkanah Kibet are the only two U.S. entrants with PBs under 2:10, and with Kibet turning 40 in June, Zienasellassie has to be considered the favorite for top-American honors.

Don’t count Kibet out, however: he’s coming off a 2:10:43 ninth-place finish in Prague earlier this year and ran his 2:09:07 PB at age 38 in Boston only one season ago. Kibet also has strong NYC credentials, finishing as high as 4th in 2021. He’ll be joined by a number of other American runners with top-10 potential, like Reed Fischer (10th in NYC last year) and Nathan Martin (8th in 2021). If Zienasellassie keeps trending in the right direction, he’ll be the man to beat and could even factor into the top-five or top-three conversation, but he’ll have to take down several of his more experienced countrymen in the process.

Ed CheserekEd Cheserek

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

How Will King Ches Fare Over 26.2?

One of the most intriguing names on the entry list is Futsum’s former collegiate rival, 17-time NCAA champ Edward Cheserek. Coming out of college, “King Ches” was thought of as a safe bet to make a splash on the Kenyan running scene – or, had his bid at U.S. citizenship been successful, its American counterpart – but he’s yet to compete at a World or Olympic championship. While he’s set personal bests of 13:04.44 at 5000m and 27:42.69 at 10,000m as a professional, he hasn’t quite translated his blistering kick from college to the same winning record in the pro ranks. Cheserek has run a few strong half marathons in his career, including a 60:37 runner-up finish at the NYC Half in 2022, but it wasn’t until this fall when whispers of “the King is back” started in earnest.

In September, Cheserek won the Copenhagen Half in 59:11, taking a full minute off his previous personal best and getting more than a few people chattering about his potential in a marathon debut. After all, it worked out great for his fiancée, Sharon Lokedi, in New York last year, so why couldn’t the same formula work for Ches?

It would be a surprise to see Cheserek vying for the win, but similarly, few were expecting Lokedi to be a major contender at this race last year. A top-10 finish and strong marathon debut would be a major moral victory in and of itself for the Skechers-sponsored runner who hasn’t quite had a signature professional performance yet. And it could certainly signify a coming Renaissance for the former Oregon star at a new distance.

Weini KelatiWeini Kelati

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

U.S. 5K Runners Vie For National Titles

Don’t forget: the high-quality racing isn’t just happening on Sunday this weekend. A motley crew of track stars winding down their seasons and road-racers at the cusp of a buildup will take Central Park by storm Saturday at 8:30am for the Abbott Dash to the Finish 5k, which doubles as the USATF 5km road championship.

On the women’s side, Weini Kelati and Keira D’Amato will look to add another U.S. road title to their already-crowded trophy shelves, but they’ll have to contend with the likes of Abbey Cooper (14:52 PB on the track), Ednah Kurgat (coming off a bronze medal in the 10,000m at the Pan Am Games), and Rachel Smith (née Schneider, coming off giving birth to her first child in April). But the fastest 5000m PB in the field belongs to steeplechaser Courtney Frerichs at 14:48.75, looking for some measure of redemption after a rough 2023 steeple season. Kelati won this race in 2021 and 2022 and has shown no signs of slowing down, so she’s gotta be the betting favorite.

On the men’s side, God help the long-distance lads as they try to outlast the footspeed of Olympic 1500m champ Matthew Centrowitz and 12:51 man Woody Kincaid. Steeplechaser Isaac Updike is looking to keep his breakout season going as well, and if the race stays packed up late, 3:34 1500m runner Vincent Ciattei may be a threat. But the man with the best road 5km win this year has to be Very Nice TC’s Morgan Beadlescomb, who won the BAA 5k way back in April and has the special mix of miler speed and 5k strength that seems to work out well at the “short road” events. With 2022 champ Abdihamid Nur absent, one way or another there will be a new national champion crowned in this one.

David Melly

David began contributing to CITIUS in 2018, and quickly cemented himself as an integral part of the team thanks to his quick wit, hot takes, undying love for the sport and willingness to get yelled at online.