Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo race at the World Half Marathon Championships (© Dan Vernon)
Global gold medallists Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo will renew their rivalry in the men’s race, while Hellen Obiri will go up against Senbere Teferi and Molly Huddle in the women’s race when the United Airlines NYC Half takes place on Sunday (19).
Cheptegei is an Olympic and world champion on the track, with world 5000m and 10,000m records to his name, while his Ugandan compatriot Kiplimo is the world half marathon and cross country gold medallist, who set the world half marathon record of 57:31 in Lisbon in 2021.
Four weeks after their clash at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 23, where Kiplimo got gold and Cheptegei bagged bronze, the pair will meet again. Their career head-to-head record stands 8-2 in Cheptegei’s favour, but seven of those wins for Cheptegei were achieved on the track. They have one cross country victory apiece – Cheptegei winning the 2019 world title ahead of silver medallist Kiplimo, and Kiplimo claiming this year’s crown – while Kiplimo finished on top in their only other half marathon clash so far when he won the 2020 world half marathon title in Gdynia, where Cheptegei finished fourth.
Add in the undulating New York course that takes athletes from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and Sunday’s event offers another intriguing match-up.
“I’m very excited for my first race in New York City,” said Cheptegei, who will be contesting the second half marathon of his career after his 59:21 run in Gdynia. “One of the primary goals for 2023 is to defend my 10,000m gold medal from the World Championships, and this half marathon is an important part of those preparations.
“There's so much running history in New York, and the city has seen so many champions battling it out in iconic races. I want to add to that history.”
Kiplimo added: “It will be my USA road racing debut, and I will try hard to become the first champion from Uganda. My gold medal from the World Cross Country Championships shows that everybody will need to be at their best to beat me. I have been told that the NYC Half course is difficult, and a record may not be possible, so I will focus on being the first across the finish line in Central Park.”
Joining them on the start line will be USA’s two-time Olympic medallist and 2017 Chicago Marathon winner Galen Rupp and his compatriot Teshome Mekonen, Kenya’s Kennedy Kimutai and Edward Cheserek, and Morocco’s Mourad Maroufit.
In the women’s race, Ethiopia’s Teferi returns to defend her title against USA’s three-time winner Huddle and Kenya’s two-time world 5000m champion Obiri.
Teferi broke Huddle’s event record last year when she won in 1:07:35 and the 27-year-old returned to Central Park three months later to claim victory in the New York Mini 10K. The 2015 world 5000m silver medallist set a women-only world record of 14:29 for 5km in Herzogenaurach in 2021 and her half marathon best is 1:05:32 from Valencia in 2019.
Like Cheptegei and Kiplimo, Obiri was also in action on 18 February but instead of defending her title at the World Cross Country Championships, the 33-year-old was racing for victory at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon, where she set her PB of 1:04:22 last year. She ran 1:05:05 to win this year's race and is back on the roads again.
Huddle returns to the NYC Half for the first time since claiming her third consecutive victory in 2017. The former US record-holder finished fifth at the Houston Half Marathon in January, nine months after giving birth to her daughter.
“In a lot of ways, my three straight wins at the United Airlines NYC Half really began my transition to full-time road racing,” she said. “I’m excited to return to the race for the first time in six years, with a different mindset towards training and racing since the birth of my daughter.
“I’m inspired to teach her the value of hard work and resilience, and where better to do that than the city that has seen some of my career’s greatest successes?”
The line up also features USA’s 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden, Kenya’s Irine Cheptai and Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli-Grovdal.