New York City Marathon 2003 - Women's Race
Any number of women were in contention for this year's 2003 NYC Marathon:
Joyce Chepchumba, the defending champion; Margaret Okayo who set the course record here in 2001; Lornah Kiplagat who had the added incentive of a $100K bonus if she could win this race after winning the New York Mini road race in June and also set her PR earlier this year and is said to be in great shape; Lyubov Denisova who was second at Boston this year and second in last year's NYC Marathon; and of course Catherine Ndereba, the former world record holder and current world marathon champion. Rounding out the field are Ludmila Petrova and Susan Chepkemei and Adriana Fernandez, women who probably could not win this race, but could be in the top three or five.
In a practice begun just last year, the women started their race at 9:35AM, 35 minutes before the main start - providing a women's-only elite race. The temperature at the start was 61 degrees, just a bit warm, the sky was a bit overcast and virtually no wind - not bad for a marathon.
From the beginning, the women were on course record pace. The pack remained large and the women pacesetters were doing their job. Through mile 6, the women's field remains large: 9 women (two pacemakers: Leah Malot, Olga Romanova who will not finish the race and women who would be top finishers: Margaret Okayo, Lornah Kiplagat, Adriana Fernandez, Helena Javornik, Catherine Ndereba, Ludmila Petrova and Firaya Sultanova-Zhdarova a masters runner) just behind this group followed are Marla Runyan and Joyce Chepchumba - running together just away from the pack.
At a water station between mile 7 and 8, Marla Runyan and Catherine Ndereba have a slight bump and lose some time. Apparently Ndereba had picked up the wrong water bottle, then stopped to find her bottle and Runyan collided with a stopped Ndereba. Neither appears to be injured, but they have lost some time.
At mile 9, the group remains essentially the same as it has over the previous miles. Ndereba has moved up and regained the group. Marla Runyan is perhaps 100 yards behind the pack, still trying to make her way back to it. The women remain on pace for a course record.
By mile 11, the pack is breaking apart slightly. Six women are running in the front. The two pacemakers lead, doing their job well. Following the pacemakers are Margaret Okayo, Ludmila Petrova, Firaya Sultanova-Zhdarova, Lornah Kiplagat - but the others mentioned above are just behind, they can easily rejoin the group. Marla Runyan has fallen further behind and is now running 150 yards behind and will not be able to regain the group.
By the halfway point, the pace is more than a minute ahead of record pace. Leah Malot continues in her job as pacemaker and is still followed by the same runners.
Coming off of the 59th Street bridge, the lead pack consists of six women. Margaret Okayo leads the runners looking very strong. She is followed by Lornah Kiplagat, Ludmila Petrova, Catherine Ndereba, Susan Chepkemei and Joyce Chepchumba.
Moving onto 1st Avenue, Margaret Okayo begins to move away. She turns to look behind and begins a push. She is followed by Lornah Kiplagat and Ludmila Petrova as the other runners begin to trail behind.
Mile 17: Further up 1st avenue, Petrova moves to the front to do some work as she, Kiplagat and Okayo move away. Of the other runners, only Catherine Ndereba retains contact is running just a few seconds behind, but remaining in striking distance.
Mile 19: With a slight wind and a fast pace, the women are spreading out. Okayo and Kiplagat are running to the front, Catherine Ndereba is running just behind them and Petrova is beginning to fall behind.
Mile 20 (1:49:36): Just before mile 20, over the Willis Avenue Bridge, Margaret Okayo is running strong in the front. She turns to look back to see where the other runners are - and it looks like she is planning a move. A report comes back that Marla Runyan has stopped, walked for 30 seconds, but is running again.
Moving into mile 21, Margaret Okayo is making her move. By mile 21 (1:54:38) she has a lead of 15 seconds over Lornah Kiplagat who is just ahead of Catherine Ndereba. Okayo is now 35 seconds ahead of the course record that she set in 2001 and her last mile was a 5:02.
Mile 24 (2:10:50) in Central Park, Margaret Okayo is alone and running with perfect form. Ndereba has moved strongly into second place, fifteen seconds behind Okayo and now ten seconds ahead of Kiplagat. Petrova is holding onto fourth place, one minute behind Kiplagat, but well ahead of Joyce Chepchumba.
With strong final miles, Okayo extends her lead to more than a minute and a half - over the last miles it was clear that she would set the course record. The only question was by how much.
Margaret Okayo wins in 2:22:31. Catherine Ndereba finishes second in 2:23:03 and Lornah Kiplagat is third in 2:23:43. All three have broken Okayo's previous course record of 2:24:21 set just two years before. Two Russians capture the fourth and fifth positions: Ludmila Petrova finishes in 2:25:00 and Lyubov Denisova finishes in 2:25:58.
The Women's Race, Mile by Mile:
Led by Silvia Skvortsova, the pacesetter, the lead women in a pack of 12 women runs through the half-marathon in a time of 1:14:54, more than one and one-half minutes slower than last year's time of 1:13:11. Cool temperatures, little wind... this should be a fast race, but it's not living up to this billing. Perhaps the women's-only race is causing the women to run a more strategic race as they watch each other and are waiting to move. Or, perhaps it's the fact that Margaret Okayo is not pushing the pace, and has actually been running behind the pack since mile 8.
Through the half marathon, the
At mile 17, the women's pack is breaking apart. Margaret Okayo makes the move to pull away and only two women move with her. Lornah Kiplagat and Ludmila Petrova move with Okayo. Catherine Ndereba looks tentative and is running just behind the group - making sure not to lose contact in case this is the break of the marathon. Joyce Chepchumba, Susan Chepkemei and Adriana Fernandez are following just behind, but
In interviews after the race, Okayo said that she looked forward to hopefully participating in the Olympics Marathon, and would be interested to see how she would do. Having won the world marathon championships just two months before, Catherine Ndereba said that she had no expectations for this race and was happy with her finish. Kiplagat admitted that she had been suffering from problems with her Achilles tendon and had missed a number of workouts and considered not coming to the race and was happy that she had recovered in time to run.
For their work and course record setting performances, Margaret Okayo was awarded $160,000 (+ a smart car), Catherine Ndereba earned $85,000 and Lornah Kiplagat earned $70,000.
Blow by blow coverage of the NYC Marathon 2003 races:
NYC Marathon 2003: Men's Race
NYC Marathon 2003: Women's Race
NYC Marathon 2003: The Wheelchair Race
Also, Complete Results of the NYC Marathon