Lelisa Desisa and Daniel Romanchuk were victorious in the men's elite division and men's wheelchair race at Sunday's TCS NYC Marathon. (270899)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

Lelisa Desisa shot a quick glance over his left shoulder, seeking assurances that his lead in the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon was secure at approximately 1,000 meters in front of the finish line at 67th Street in Central Park.

The 28-year-old Ethiopian had already separated himself from last year’s winner, Geoffrey Kamworor, at mile 25 with a dramatic rush after they ran closely bunched with a group of five, and then four, runners for the better part of the final 5 miles of the arduous 26.2 mile course through the five boroughs on a sunny, middle 50-degree day, ideal for long-distance running.

With Kamworor put away, Desisa’s lone remaining threat was his good friend, training partner and fellow Ethiopian, Shura Kitata, a prodigious 22-year-old who took second at the London Marathon in April. After winning the prestigious Boston Marathon twice (2013 and 2015) but falling short in New York, placing second to Wilson Kipsang of Kenya in 2014 and taking third last year, Desisa was determined not to squander another favorable opportunity. He seized the moment, capturing the title in 2:05.59, besting Kitata, who was second in 2:06:01 and Kamworor, who earned a spot on the post-race podium by coming in third at 2:06:26.

“Yeah, after Geoffrey dropped off, I [looked] backed because he’s a half marathoner and 10K runner,” said Desisa. “Maybe he will come at the finish line. I [thought] about that.”

Kamworor never made the kick Desisa felt was possible. Instead it was Kitata who posed the most concerning threat.

“Shura, I didn’t think he was following me,” Desisa recalled. “…I know him. He is a strong guy. And when we train together, he is a fighter. So as I [was] finishing my run, yes, I [was] very afraid of him.”

The men’s wheelchair also produced a compelling ending, one that saw the top three finishers just seconds apart. The race was also a historic one, as 20-year-old Daniel Romanchuk from Mount Airy, Md., became the first American to win the event and youngest ever, clocking a time of 1:36:21, holding off two-time defending champion and three-time winner Marcel Hug of Switzerland, who came in at 1:36:22, and 2010 NYC Marathon wheelchair champion David Weir of Great Britain, who took third place in 1:36:23.

“It’s an amazing experience to be able to win two major marathons in a row,” gushed Romanchuk, who was also victorious in the Chicago Marathon last month. “You never know what’s going to happen in a race until everyone’s crossed the finish line.”