Record 27,000 Runners Kick Off ‘24 Season in NYC Half Marathon

Beautiful running weather saw a record 27,000 runners turn out for the NYC Half Marathon that started in Prospect Park, crossed the Manhattan Bridge, up the FDR, through Time Square before finishing with a counter clockwise route in Central Park.The top Manhattanites in the 13.1 mile race were Ethan Koreff, in 23rd place overall in the men’s division and Alana Levy who placed 23rd in the women’s division.

| 23 Mar 2024 | 10:50

More than 27,000 runners traversed 13.1 miles on Sunday March 17, from the eastern edge of Prospect Park in Brooklyn to the southwest corner of Central Park, in the New York Road Runners Club 2024 United Airlines NYC Half marathon.

Conditions for the event were excellent, with temperatures near 50 degrees, with little wind, at the 7 AM start of the elite women’s field. The elite men’s field took off eighteen minutes later, with many waves of recreational runners following for two hours afterwards.

Reflecting the race’s international flavor, a Norwegian, Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal, having twice placed third in the event, won the women’s race, while a Kenyan, and NYC Half debutante, Abel Kipchumba, bested all men.

Although not noted in the event’s promotional material, the race’s start on Washington Avenue is a very short distance from the former site of Ebbets Field and many runners did their warmups on the streets that bordered the renowned stadium where innumerable Brooklyn Dodger greats—and some bums—played from 1913 to 1957.

Compared to the full marathon, 13.1 miles is a very manageable distance. Though runners, even elite ones can have an off day and suffer (as the great Ethiopian, Kenenisa Bekele, would today) it’s nothing like the carnage one sees after, say, the 20-mile mark of a full marathon.

With that in the mind, the women’s race began at a conservative pace. After a short loop up and back Flatbush Avenue, the race entered Prospect Park, passing a key landmark of the 1776 Battle of Long Island, Battle Pass, before exiting at Grand Army Plaza and proceeding down Flatbush Avenue towards downtown Brooklyn skyline and the Manhattan Bridge, which the runners crossed on the span’s upper level.

Compared to the prestigious and well-paying New York City marathon, the NYC Half is notably less competitive. Factor in the demands of an Olympic year, and it wasn’t shocking that both the men’s and women’s lead groups had been reduced to four runners each.

Taking a sharp right off the bridge, participants went east on what would soon be teeming Canal Street, then swung right again at Allen Street, which turns into Pike Street and ends at South Street.

Following a notably un-scenic stretch of construction barrels and road debris under the FDR Drive, the race entered the highway—which was closed to traffic in both directions—at Montgomery Street. Soon the course swung north at Corlears Hook, passing under the Williamsburg Bridge, and continuing its gently winding, hilly way—past Alphabet City, Stuy Town and Kips Bay—where it exited at 42nd Street. In the morning light, the Tudor City sign looked especially striking.

In the elite women’s race, the leaders were now down to three; in the men’s, just two.

The crowds too really picked up on the slow drag of 42nd Street, with the race passing the 10-mile mark around Third Avenue. Interestingly, there were no protestors evident here, just a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses information stands and various friends and family—including a notable Japanese contingent, and numerous others still in St. Patrick’s Day green or Irish flag tricolors—carrying signs of encouragement for their athletes: “Run, Harry, Run!”

Turning north at 7th Avenue, the race headed into Central Park, with a counterclockwise loop of rolling hills bringing runners to the finish near Columbus Circle. It was in these last sections the race winners were decided. For the women, 33-year-old Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal of Norway distanced herself from the 29-year-old Kenyan, Gladys Chephrui, to win in 1:09:09; or 5:17 pace. Offering hope to geezers, 44-year-old Kenyan Edna Kiplagat took third.

For the men, 30-year-old Kenyan Abel Kipchumba bested the 28-year-old Moroccan Zouhair Talbi, breaking the tape in 1:00:25; 4:37 pace. Yemane Haileselaassie, 26, of Eritrea placed third.

Among the race’s male participants, Ethan Koreff, 31, a former runner at SUNY Geneseo, was the first Manhattanite, taking 23rd place with a time of 1:09:03.

For the women, 34-year-old Alana Levy, a former cross-country and track runner at Cornell University led all New Yorkers, placing 16th with a time of 1:17:26. Pleased with her result, Levy posted the run to her Strava account with the exclamation, “Holy Smokes!!!!!”