ATLANTA -- February 26, 2022 -- Under overcast skies with temperatures barely breaking 60
degrees, the 2023 Publix Atlanta Marathon and Half Marathon kicked off with
great promise, moved on to decisive wins by a pair of world-class athletes and
finished up with high fives and gleeful selfies as the last of the 5,435
participants crossed the finish line in Centennial Olympic Park. Full results are here.
Of all the life lessons learned along the hilly 26.2-mile
course, the marathon winner - a Georgia Tech runner barely out of his teens who
folded to the pavement in exhaustion after breaking the tape - provided one of
"This is what the sport is all about," said 20-year-old
Hayden Marshall of Milton, Georgia, fully revived after a trip to the medical
tent. "You're not always going to get exactly what you want, but it's all about
the fight to get there."
In the half marathon, a top-notch professional field in both
the men's and women's races were chasing course records, and although they didn't
get exactly what they wanted both came tantalizingly close in what proved to be
brave solo runs in the final miles.
For the men, defending champion Nicholas Kosimbei had a
six-second lead by 5 miles, which grew to 17 three miles later. The 27-year-old
Kenyan was en route to lowering the course record of 1:00:36 he set in his win
last year before he was slowed by a side stitch just before the hill on 10th
Street after the leaders exited Piedmont Park.
That was all Tsegay Kidanu needed: 12 seconds back at 15K,
the 20-year-old Ethiopian quickly closed the gap as Kosimbei struggled up the
hill and caught him just after the 10-mile mark. The two briefly ran
shoulder-to-shoulder, but Kidanu soon pulled away, taking the lead for good at
By the end, he would finish in 1:00:39, just 3 seconds off
the course record but well clear of Kosimbei, the runner-up in a time of
1:01:31. Kenya's Geoffrey Koech would finish third in 1:02:09.
Some of the biggest cheers of the day went to a couple of
runners further back in the pack but at least equal to the winners in
Ronnel Blackmon, a frequent announcer for Atlanta Track Club
events. The exuberant Blackmon, 40, spent the pre-dawn hours on the mic at the
start line before joining the pack, completing his first half marathon in
2:17:10 after learning the ropes in the Club's In-Training program.
Finishing in 3:00:33 was Chris Nikic, competing as Runner
321 in a new initiative powered by adidas and Nikic's team aiming to improve
inclusion in fitness for athletes with physical and intellectual disabilities.
The initiative calls for major marathons to hold race number 321 aside for an
athlete with a disability. Nikic, 23, was the first person with Down syndrome
to complete an IRONMAN triathlon.
In the women's race, Vibian Chepkirui of Kenya - who has a
marathon personal best of 2:20:59 in winning last year's Vienna Marathon - was
still in a pack of about a half dozen at 5K, but soon pulled away. At 10K, she
was one second under the course record of 1:08:22 but had 12 seconds on her
closest rival, countrywoman Helah Kiprop. Chepkirui, 28, would slow a bit in
the late miles, breaking the tape in 1:08.45.
"I had to push myself," she said of running alone for much
of the hilly course. "It was not easy."
Kiprop would be the next across the line, in 1:10:29,
followed by Selam Fente of Ethiopia in 1:11:12.
The winning athletes each earned $4,000.
The elite race was broadcast live on Atlanta Track Club's
YouTube and Facebook pages and can be watched here.
In the marathon, 46-year-old Beth Dollas took the lead at
about 22 miles to win 3:02:27. Dollas, of Amesbury, Massachusetts, is on a
quest along with her older brother ("I beat him every time") to finish a
marathon in all 50 states; this was her 30th. She estimates that she
has won about 10 of them.
"I feel like I've gotten faster as I've gotten older," she
said. "My last two marathons I actually did in under 3 hours. This was a tough
course, though." The siblings had planned to run a marathon in Savannah a few
years ago, but that didn't work out, so it was to Atlanta they came this
"This has been awesome," she said. "I'm glad we missed out
If the champion of the men's half marathon came from afar,
the winner of the men's marathon came from basically down the street. Hayden
Marshall, a 20-year-old member of the Georgia Tech Running Club, broke the tape
in 2:35:48. He immediately collapsed and was wheeled to the medical tent, but
soon recovered to address a crown happy to cheer the 2021 graduate of Milton
High School and a 2020 Atlanta Track Club Powerade All-Metro selection in cross
"It was definitely a pretty ambitious start," he
acknowledged, going through the half in 1:13:12. "I did kind of end up hitting
the wall in the last six miles, which I didn't really expect. Just getting the
win is pretty amazing."