Geoffrey Mutai and Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya won the New York City Marathon, a race canceled a year ago by Hurricane Sandy and then buffeted by security worries after fatal finish-line bombings in Boston.
Mutai, who set a course record in winning the last edition two years ago, won today’s 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) race in a time of two hours, eight minutes, 24 seconds. Jeptoo, 29, won the women’s race in 2:25:07.
“It was a very tough race,” Mutai, 32, said in a televised interview. “To defend your title is not easy.”
The men’s and women’s champions each received $100,000 from total prize money of $600,000.
Mutai won the 2011 edition in 2:05:06 and that year also ran the fastest time ever to win the 115th Boston Marathon in 2:03:02, besting Haile Gebrselassie’s run of 2:03:59 in Berlin in 2008. It didn’t qualify as a world record because the Boston course is considered too straight and has too many downhill sections.
Mutai broke free from a group of nine runners with about four miles remaining today and finished 52 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede, while Lusapho April of South Africa was third in a time of 2:09:45.
In the women’s race, Jeptoo trailed Buzunesh Deba, an Ethiopian, by almost 3 1/2 minutes after 13 miles and had erased the deficit with about two miles remaining. Deba, a Bronx resident, finished second in 2:25:56 and Jelena Prokopcuka from Latvia was third in 2:27:47.
“I started to push the pace,” Jeptoo told reporters. “I was having confidence that I will make it.”
The New York race was canceled last year amid criticism after at least 41 people died and 4.8 million in the region lost power because of Sandy, the strongest Atlantic storm on record, which came ashore on Oct. 29.
City officials and the New York Road Runners, which stages the race that it says pumps $340 million into the city’s economy, had planned to continue with the event as scheduled on Nov. 4, even as critics said emergency resources were being diverted to the marathon from rescue and recovery efforts.
On Nov. 2, 2012, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the marathon would go on because “there are an awful lot of small businesses that depend on these people.”
The objections continued, particularly after the New York Post published a photo of portable emergency power generators being used for a Central Park marathon tent as city residents went without electricity. Bloomberg, who is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, said later that day that the race was off.
About 47,000 people had registered for 2012, including about 20,000 from overseas, according to the NYRR, and some complained about the cancellation after committing time and money to be there. About 21,000 entrants from the 2012 field returned for the race this year, with a record 50,740 runners beginning the race in temperatures of about 48 degrees Fahrenheit 9 Celsius).
Along with trying to recover from a public-relations nightmare, NYRR staged today’s race seven months after three people died and more than 260 were injured in dual bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Mary Wittenberg, chief executive officer of NYRR, spent part of the Boston Marathon in bleachers near the finish line on Boylston Street. She said in an interview that she was on a train to New York when she learned of the bombings, which occurred about three hours after the winners had finished. NYRR had 22 employees at the race, none of whom were injured.
NYRR honored the victims of the Boston bombings throughout today’s race, giving each entrant a blue and yellow ribbon, the colors of the Boston Athletic Association.
NYRR said it spent about an additional $1 million on this year’s race, half toward increased security and half to increase cancellation insurance. It said it also incurred a $4 million deficit in fiscal 2013, which included the 2012 marathon, with costs including refunds to runners and a $1 million donation to Sandy relief efforts.
On the New York course this year, runners had visual cues in case of an emergency. Using a plan instituted at the Chicago Marathon after a runner’s heat-related death in 2007, New York runners could see colored-coded flags at each fluid station along the course: green signaled conditions were good, yellow to use caution, red to convey extreme caution and black that the race is over.
In the wheelchair division, University of Illinois senior Tatyana McFadden of the U.S. won in 1:59:13 to become the first athlete to win the New York, Boston, London and Chicago marathons in the same year. Marcel Hug of Switzerland won the men’s wheelchair event in 1:40:14.
After winning the race’s first 13 editions, beginning in 1970, only one American man has crossed the finish line first, Meb Keflezighi in 2009. Ryan Vail was the top-placed American today, crossing the line in 13th place in 2:13:23. Kim Smith was the top American female finisher, in sixth place in 2:28:49.