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Sally Kipyego and Desiree Linden headline women's field for NYC Half

2/27/2015
Sally Kipyego won the 2014 NYC Half in her half-marathon debut, and is back to defend her title. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

The 2015 NYC Half women’s elite field will pit past champions along with a mix of spring marathoners and strong track distance runners.

Defending champion Sally Kipyego of the Nike Oregon Track Club returns and will be challenged by Americans Molly Huddle and Desiree Linden. Full fields for the March 15 race were announced by the New York Road Runners earlier this week.

Kipyego won last year’s race in a course record of 1:08:31 in what was also her debut at the distance. The 2012 Olympic silver medalist is coming off a 2014 season in which she was the fastest woman at 10,000 meters.

“It is a privilege to visit and enjoy New York City while getting a chance to mingle and compete with some of the best athletes in the world,” Kipyego said in a press release. “I'm thrilled to be racing the United Airlines NYC Half again!”

The field will also serve as an appetizer for April's 2015 Boston Marathon.

Joyce Chepkirui holds the fastest half-marathon personal best in the field with her 1:06.19 from the 2014 Prauge Half Marathon. When you double the distance, Chepkirui holds the slowest marathon personal best (2:30:33) of those who have raced 26.2 miles before.

Buzunesh Deba (1:08:59 half, 2.19:59 full), Desiree Linden (1:10:34, 2:22:38) and Caroline Rotich (1:08:52, 2:23:22) all hold faster marathon personal bests than Chepkirui and will see her again in Boston. Deba was last year’s NYC Half runner-up, and Rotich won the race in 2011 and 2013.

Not to be counted out from the American contingent, Huddle debuted at the 13.1 mile distance in 2014 and finished third (1:09:04) across the finish line in New York. She was also third at the Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon in October. The strength training from the half-marathon distance bump also allowed her to lower her own 5,000-meter American record on the track.

Linden is back after tying for seventh at last year's NYC Half.

“I'm thrilled to head back to the Big Apple and compete in this year's United Airlines NYC Half,” Linden said in a press release. “NYRR always puts together an amazing field, which makes New York the perfect place to test my fitness as I build into spring racing. Training is progressing well and I'm anxious to see how I match up against some of the world’s best.”

This year’s race will also be the first in which the elite women will start separately (12 minute ahead of) the professional men. Coverage outside of the New York City area will be available on ESPN 3, via WatchESPN, from 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. ET.