New York City Marathon Magnificent

by : Roger Munns

Inspiring performances on November 4, 2007 contributed to a classic New York City Marathon. Run on a crisp autumn Sunday, a record 39,085 runners took their positions on Staten Island.

The NYC Marathon began in 1970, a result of the vision of the New York Road Runners, who continue to stage it. The initial race was contained to Central Park. This evolved into the present course, which runs through the five boroughs of New York. There's a buzz throughout these locations each year in the weeks leading up to the event.

This year's race saw Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain emerge as the winner in the women's division. Martin Lel of Kenya was the men's winner. Edith Hunkeler of Switzerland won the women's wheeler division; Kurt Fearnley of Australia won the men's wheeler race for the second year in a row.

Paula Radcliffe's story is particularly noteworthy. She lives in Monaco and on January 17 of this year she gave birth to a baby girl there at the Princess Grace Hospital. Less than ten months later, Radcliffe, 33, crossed the finish line in New York as victor in this race. A late race explosion of energy propelled her ahead of Gete Wami of Ethiopia. Wami had taken the lead earlier from Radcliffe. Radcliffe's winning time clocked in at 2 hours, 23 minutes, and 9 seconds.

The men's race had no lack of drama itself. Martin Lel battled step for step with Abderrahim Goumri well in to the last stage in Central Park. Lel's strong finishing power led him to a 12-second win over the Moroccan. His first-place winning time was 2 hours, 9 minutes, and 4 seconds.

In the women's wheeler division, Edith Hunkeler, 35, broke her previous record for the course in a time of 1 hour, 52 minutes, and 38 seconds. It was a wonderful comeback for her; having severely crushed her leg in a racing accident in 2006.

Kurt Fearnley, 26, won the men's wheeler race in a time of 1 hour, 33 minutes, and 58 seconds. He broke the course record in New York City in 2006.
The New York City Marathon was not without heartfelt emotion and disappointment this year. Aside from the struggles every competitor faces and the fact that some entrants do not finish there were other concerns.

A day earlier, in New York, the U.S runner Ryan Shay, 28, collapsed and died at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Men's Marathon. This resonated with the runners as they learned of this tragedy in their running fraternity.

Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa could not race in the wheelers division. He had the misfortune of having his chair not arrive on the flight to New York. The world record- holder watched the race from the sidelines instead of participating.

Marathons, in general, are a test of the human spirit. To run 26.2 miles and have enough kick at the end to fight off a competitor is an accomplishment. In the case of the New York City Marathon, it's an even greater accomplishment. The prestige and surrounding hype contribute to its ability to play on the runners' emotions. Add to that the high-caliber athleticism of the contestants and you have a dramatic script already in place. Once the players take the field, an intriguing story develops every year.

In a race that ends in beautiful Central Park the electricity is apparent. That's why it captures the imagination of runners worldwide. In 2006, 93,000 plus applications came in for the race - much more than the slots available.

This year's race was no exception with throngs lining the streets. The weather cooperated as did the staff and volunteers of the New York Road Runners.

From Staten Island, through Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx and then to the thrilling finish in Manhattan, the marathon continues to inspire.

Runners worldwide, as well as 2 million spectators and estimated 315 million television viewers look forward every year to autumn in New York and the November running of the New York Marathon.