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New York City Marathon

Photo via Flickr by Martineric

The  ING New York City Marathon is set to return on Sunday, Nov. 3, after being sidelined last year by Superstorm Sandy. Nearly 50,000 runners plan to race 26.2 miles across five towering bridges through New York’s five unique boroughs. The NYC Marathon is one of the world’s most iconic races and as runners experience the sights and sounds of the city, they will be cheered on by more than two million spectators, entertained by hundreds of bands, and inspired every step of the way.

Last year, after taking a lot of heat from angry residents, the New York Road Runners canceled the  race about 36 hours before the scheduled start. This year, the specter of the Boston Marathon looms large after two homemade bombs detonated near the finish line  killing three people and injuring more than 260. The New York Police Department plan to beef up security along this year’s  course witht the finish line  perhaps the biggest worry  To honor the victims and first responders of the Boston attack, a yellow line is being painted alongside the traditional blue line on the course. Yellow is one of the colors used in the Boston Marathon. It will stretch from Columbus Circle to the finish line in Central Park.

Spectators can expect to encounter barriers around the finish line, with entry only through checkpoints where bags will be searched. Similar checkpoints will be set up elsewhere along the route manned by hundreds of police officers.  Helicopters will patrol the skies and police boats will keep watch from New York Harbor and the East River. Things have definitely changed since the last time the marathon took place in the Big Apple.

The Empire State Building will be lit up on Saturday, November 2, in honor of the ING New York City Marathon.

History
The mega-marathon that began with 55 finishers in Central Park in 1970 and moved to the five boroughs in 1976—starts at 9:10 a.m. (Eastern time) when the elite women get under way.

The race attracts many world-class professional athletes, not only for the more than $600,000 in prize money (male and female winners each receive $130,000) , but also for the chance to excel before two million cheering spectators and more than 300 million worldwide television viewers.

Elite Women

The 2010 NYC winner, Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat, also won the last two world championships (Her PR: 2:19:50  was clocked in London, 2012).  Kiplagat’s most recent world title came on August 10th, less than three months ago. The runner hasn’t really had time to fully recover from that effort and resume a good marathon-training block. That said, she should be highly motivated—a win at New York would net her the World Marathon Majors title and the $500,000 prize that goes with it.

Ethiopia’s Buzunesh Deba, who now resides in the Bronx, is the fastest-ever female New York marathoner and a favorite for this weekend’s race. She set a PR of 2:23:19 in New York in 2011 when she was a surprise second-place finisher.

Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo won London in April (with a PR of 2:20:14), and she’s the favorite to pick up the New York City title as well. She’s been one of the top marathoners in the world the past few years, including silver medals at the 2011 world championships and 2012 Olympics.

Italian Valeria Straneo  was second at the world championships in August. Her PR is more than three and a minutes slower than those of her Kenyan rivals, but the fastest runners aren’t necessarily the ones who come out on top in New York.

Lisa Stublic is on the up part of the improvement curve, which is always a good place to be coming into the unpredictable New York City Marathon. A native of Connecticut (representing Croatia) who ran for Columbia, Stublic knows New York racing. She had a breakthrough third-place finish at the NYC Half in March before winning the Zurich Marathon later in the spring.

New Zealand’s Kim Smith has  many American fans (she was a four-time NCAA champ while at Providence) who are still waiting for her to pop a marathon that matches her prowess at shorter distances. As usual, she enters New York City race-fit, as she recently wrapped up the $100,000 three-race B.A.A. Medley title with a win at the B.A.A. Half. Her highest finish at New York was fourth in 2010.

Defending champion Firehiwot Dado from Ethiopia set her PR (2:23:15) when she won New York in 2011. Other than winning the NYC Half in March 2012, she’s done little of note since. She withdrew from last year’s race with a knee injury before the marathon was canceled.

The majority of participants, however, are amateur runners who have two primary goals: to experience the different neighborhoods across New York by foot and to cross the finish line.

Famous Faces

This race’s finish line is never short on star power.  Celebrities will sparkle and many of these participants will be running on behalf of meaningful causes. Several of the celebrity runners for this year’s race are marathon veterans, including supermodel and mom of two Christie Turlington who is ditching her stilettos and lacing up her sneakers to raise money and awareness for Every Mother Counts. This organization, which she founded, aims to improve maternal and child health. If you’d like to contribute or learn more about their cause click here. Those new to this year’s field  include actress Pamela Anderson, Olympic swimming gold medalist Summer Sanders, and entrepreneur Bill Rancic, who is running on behalf of TIMEX.

Also running is Michelle Beadle, host of NBCSN’s Crossover and correspondent on NBC’s Access Hollywood(ASPCA) , Carol Mead, First lady of Wyoming (Remember the 8) and Sarah Reinertsen, American challenged athlete, first female leg-amputee to complete Ironman® World Championship, CBS Amazing Race star (Challenged Athletes Foundation)

The past celebrity line-up of runners included Today Show television personalities Al Roker and Meredith Vieira, Grammy-winning artist Mya, actor Ed Norton and Food Network personality Bobby Flay. Two years ago, Chilean Miner Edison Pena who continued his training while trapped underground for 69 days, was a late entry.  .

Not surprisingly, a lot of athletes like to take on the marathon challenge. Lance Armstrong, Keri Strug, Shannon Miller, Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne and Jennie Finch are among those who have run in prior years. From the entertainment ranks, Katie Holmes, Ryan Reynolds, Sean Diddy Combs and Alanis Morrisette have also run New York.

Pro or amateur, famous or not, any one of the more than 830,000 past participants will attest to the fact that crossing the finish line in Central Park is one of the great thrills of a lifetime.

For those who have more than a passing interest in the race, here’s a preview of the women’s pro field.

Memorable Moments

A lot of memorable moments have happened over the course of the New York City Marathon’s 42 years. There have been close races, tumbles by top runners, wrong turns, a short course and even a dust cloud that obscured the top men as they neared the finish.

Perceived social injustice prompted a sit-in at the 1972 race. The Amateur Athletic Union, then the governing body for marathoning in the United States, thought that women should not run more than 10 miles. The A.A.U. also thought that women should start at a different place or time from the men in a marathon. In New York in 1972, that was to be 10 minutes before the men.

To protest, the six women who officially started the race sat down on their starting line, with a few other women, for 10 minutes, then started with the men. As a penalty, 10 minutes were added to their times. After the protest the A.A.U. allowed women to run with men.”

In a twist, in 2003, New York became the first major marathon in the United States to start women ahead of men by 35 minutes to better showcase their race.

By the time Joan Benoit Samuelson made her New York City Marathon debut in 1988, marathoning had become popular among women, in large part because of Samuelson’s success. She won the Boston Marathon in 1979 and the 1984 Olympic marathon in Los Angeles. After she won the Chicago Marathon in 1985, injuries and the birth of a daughter sidelined Samuelson from competition until New York in 1988, where she was set to duel the eight-time winner Grete Waitz, who finished second in Los Angeles.

Samuelson and Waitz ran together through the halfway point. Samuelson was still contending at Mile 21, until she fell after colliding with a child trying to give water to another runner.

Samuelson finished third, four minutes behind Waitz, and has never won New York. She has run it a few other times, but only one other time in her prime, finishing sixth in 1991.

Watching the Race

If you’re not running the marathon, the race offers a great chance to celebrate those who can, and do. So if you’re in New York, join the party on the sidelines and salute the runners effort.

Those not able to be in NY, can watch the race live online or on ESPN2. You can also preview the route in a great interactive tour. Share the experience and celebrate the triumph of each excruciating mile.

or follow on Twitter @INGNYCM

Runners, on your mark…

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