(Updated with Video)
Firehiwot Dado wasn’t a favorite coming into the women’s race and victory seemed impossible with even a few miles left. But the Ethiopian made a stunning comeback for her first major marathon title.
Dado trailed London Marathon champ Mary Keitany by nearly 2½ minutes at the 15-mile mark but passed her with about a mile left. The 27-year-old Dado won in 2:23:15 — almost a minute better than her previous personal best.
“Because she’d been running so fast from the very beginning, I didn’t imagine that we’d catch her,” Dado said. “But when we did get closer and we saw her, I was very surprised and I was very happy.”
Fellow Ethiopian Buzunesh Deba, who lives in the Bronx and enjoyed vocal support, was second for her first podium finish at a major marathon, four seconds back. It was the second-closest women’s finish in the race’s history.
“I’m so happy when they’re cheering me,” Deba said. “I know the course — I train it two times a week in Central Park.”
Keitany was third, 23 seconds back. The Kenyan pulled away right from the start and was well under course-record pace for much of the race. But she faded badly over the final miles, feeling fatigue in her legs.
The Ethiopians made up 32 seconds on Keitany between the 23- and 24-mile marks. When they caught her, she glanced over at them and briefly burst back ahead. But after Dado made her move, Keitany couldn’t keep up, and Deba soon passed her too.
“Maybe if I come next year and my body will react OK, maybe no problem,” Keitany said. “I would run the same. I would not change.”
The Mutais still don’t know whether they’ll make the Olympic team or what the selection criteria will be. They may be competing with other Kenyan stars for just one spot. Abel Kirui is the two-time defending world champion, and Patrick Makau officially broke the world record in Berlin in September with a 2:03:38 — on a flat course with pace-setters.
“Maybe all of you can see the difference about the races which people are breaking one record,” Geoffrey Mutai said. “I don’t think if those people can come here and run here, if they can break the world record here.”
The 30-year-old Mutai earned $200,000 for winning and setting the course record. He’s the first runner to win Boston and New York in the same year since Rodgers Rop in 2002.
Dado took home $170,000. Emmanuel Mutai won a $500,000 bonus as the World Marathon Majors champ.
A record 47,438 runners started the race through the five boroughs.