New York City Marathon 2021: Top things to know about course, Shalane Flanagan, Peres Jepchirchir, and Kenenisa Bekele

Shalane Flanagan targets sixth marathon in six weeks; Olympic champion marathoner Peres Jepchirchir and three-time Olympic gold medallist Kenenisa Bekele among the big name entries

By Evelyn Watta
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

The New York City Marathon is back after a break due to the pandemic. The elite road running field in 2021 is packed with top long-distance American talent - including the legendary Shalane Flanagan. Plus, Olympic champions from the athletics track.

Peres Jepchirchir and Kenenisa Bekele lead a star-studded elite entry for the 50th edition of the New York City Marathon on Sunday 7th November.

Jepchirchir took time to rest after her superb race in Japan, where she won gold on her Olympic debut, and is hoping she can end the year with another major title in her first attempt in New York.

Unlike the Kenyan, who has had some 13 weeks to rest, Bekele will be running his second autumn marathon after racing in Berlin on September 26 where he finished third.

It will also be the Ethiopian legend’s first race ever in New York.

The New York City Marathon is the fifth World Marathon Major - after Berlin (September 26), London (October 3), Chicago (October 10), Boston (October 11) - held over a six-week period this autumn. The final race in the series, in Tokyo, was postponed from October 17th to March 6th 2022.

Another returning champion is U.S. long-distance legend Shalane Flanagan, the 2017 winner, who continues her ambitious chase of running six marathons within a six-week span.

The first American woman to win the New York marathon in 40 years is on to her last race after completing Tokyo (virtual run), Boston, Chicago, London, and Berlin, all under three hours.

Here’s your ultimate guide to the top athletes to watch out for in New York, the route course, and the schedule.

Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya winning marathon gold at Tokyo 2020
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Peres Jepchirchir aiming high after Olympic gold

Peres Jepchirchir has been in stellar form over the last two seasons, and will be hoping to wrap up the year on a high.

“2021 has already been a magical year, and I am excited that it is not yet over,” Jepchirchir said in a New York Road Runners press release.

“The excitement in Kenya around my performance in the Olympic Games has been very high, and I know that a victory in New York will mean so much to the people of Kenya.”

She claimed Olympic gold in on the course in the Japanese city of Sapporo, to add on to her two record World half marathon titles, the last of which she won in 2020.

Tegla Loroupe, Paula Radcliffe, and Lornah Kiplagat are the only women to win more than one half marathon world title.

With a personal best of 2:17:16, Jepchirchir is also the fastest of the women’s field in New York.

The Kenyan will be joined by compatriots Nancy Kiprop, who was fourth the last time the race was held in 2019, and Viola Lagat, the younger sister of five-time Olympian Bernard Lagat.

Ethiopia’s pair of Ruti Aga, the 2019 Tokyo Marathon champion and 2019 Chicago Marathon runner-up Ababel Yeshaneh have their eyes on the podium.

Watch out for the surprise Tokyo 2020 marathon medallist, Molly Seidel of the USA, who took bronze in her third marathon race ever.

The other American from the Olympic team Sally Kipyego will also make a return to top-level competitive running after the Games. It will be her third race in New York after finishing second in 2016 while four weeks pregnant.

New York City Marathon 2021: Eyes on Kenenisa Bekele

After coming short of his world record goal at Berlin, Kenenisa Bekele has now trained his focus on winning in New York in his first attempt.

“I am proud of the many accomplishments in my career, but I have never had the opportunity to compete in the TCS New York City Marathon,” the four-time Olympic medallist said, according to marathon organisers.

“I am excited that 2021 will be the year for me to make my attempt in New York. Some of my greatest success [have] come in cross-country running, and I am told that the hills and turns of New York reward athletes with the strength that comes from running cross-country. I will do my best to join that great list of New York City champions.”

The other Olympic medallist yearning for top honours on November 7 is Abdi Nageeye.

The Somali-born Dutch runner is buoyant on the back of the Olympic silver behind the great Eliud Kipchoge in Sapporo.

“My target is to win. I really believe now that I'm good in the race where you have this championship field, where you aim for the podium. I have good sprints and confidence,” he told Olympics.com.

Previous course experience should count for Kenya’s Albert Korir and Ethiopia’s Girma Bekele Gebre, second and third respectively in 2019, as well as the 2016 champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea.

New York City Marathon 2021: The course

The New York City Marathon course runs through the five boroughs of the city.

The race that was originally contested in loops around Central Park, has greatly evolved and is considered one of the largest marathons in the world with over 50,000 finishers.

Competitors usually begin on Staten Island, in Fort Wadsworth, and run through Brooklyn, then into Queens before reaching Manhattan.

The runners then pound the pavement in the Bronx before heading back in Manhattan and Central Park for the finish located outside Tavern on the Green.

Runners cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge towards Brooklyn at the start of the  New York City Marathon in 2011
Picture by 2011 Getty Images

The New York Marathon 2021 schedule

The first starters will be the elite Wheelchair Races from 8:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (13:00 UTC/GMT), and then the elite women's race at 8:40 a.m. EST. The elite men’s race is scheduled for 9:05 am (14:05 UTC).

NOTE: The time zone for New York and the U.S. East coast changes by 1 hour from Eastern Daylight Time (UTC-4) to Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5) at 02:00am on the morning of the marathon.

8:00 a.m. — Professional wheelchair division

8:22 a.m. — Handcycle category and select athletes with disabilities

8:40 a.m. — Professional women’s open division (Elite women)

9:05 a.m. — Professional men’s open division (Elite men)

9:10 a.m. — Wave 1

9:55 a.m. — Wave 2

10:40 a.m. — Wave 3

11:20 a.m. — Wave 4

12:00 p.m. — Wave 5

How to watch the New York Marathon in 2021 via TV and online streaming

The Marathon will be broadcast around the world.

Full coverage details for the U.S. and international regions can be found here.

Runners wait at the starting line prior to crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the start of the New York City Marathon in 2015
Picture by 2015 Getty Images

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