On the morning of Sunday, November 5th, over 51,000 athletes toed the starting line of the 52nd New York City Marathon. While simply showing up to a marathon — a 26.2 mile race — is grounds for achievement, the feats of two competitors in particular shook up event history that day. With a time of 2:04:58, Ethiopian runner Tamirat Tola, 32, broke the previous elite men’s course record — set by Kenya’s Jeffrey Mutai in 2011 — by eight seconds. Setting a course record in the women’s wheelchair division was Switzerland’s Catherine Debrunner, age 28, with a time of 1:39:32.
This year’s New York City Marathon marked Tola’s ninth World Marathon Major appearance. Other marathons in this bracket include those held annually in Tokyo, Boston, London, and Berlin — all of which Tola has competed in — as well as in Chicago. This past April, Tola placed third in the London Marathon, earning a bronze medal with a time of 2:04:59. At the 2022 World Athletic Championships in Eugene, Oregon, he took gold in 2:05:36. Tola’s personal best time in the marathon — 2:03:39 — was recorded at the 2021 Amsterdam Marathon. This year’s New York City race was Tola’s third run on the course, three minutes and thirty-two seconds faster than his second-best in 2018. At mile 20, Tola pulled away from the field, and by the time he finished, he was just about two minutes in front of the runner-up, Kenya’s Albert Korir, age 29. His average pace? Around four minutes and forty five seconds per mile.
Debrunner’s first time racing the New York City Marathon was one to remember. Her course record-setting time of 1:39:32 set her eight minutes and twenty-two seconds in front of the women’s wheelchair division runner-up, Manuela Schar, also of Switzerland. In addition to the marathon, the two-time Paralympian has competed in events ranging in distances including the 100-meter sprint and the 5K. Her first marathon was the 2022 Berlin Marathon, where she took gold at 1:36:47. In New York City, Debrunner took an early lead and found herself alone for a great majority of the race. “I said to my coach, if I win this race, then it’s just the best performance I’ve ever showed,” Debrunner said to an ESPN reporter in a post-race interview. “It means the world to me.” In 2022, Debrunner was awarded the Lauretus World Sports Award for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.