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Marathons now worldwide, but none like New York City

Howie Evans | 10/31/2013, 3:25 p.m.
In 1978, the great Grete Waitz won the first of her nine New York City Marathons as she became a ...
Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya), the world marathon record holder (2:03.02, Boston), is the New York City Marathon defending champ (2011). The 2012 race was cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Bill Moore

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Dado Firehiwot is the defending 2011 women’s New York City Marathon champ.

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Masazumi Soetma won the 2011 New York City men’s wheelchair championship.

In 1971, the first year of the running of the New York City Marathon, some 127 runners got the gun. A few hours later, 55 marathoners crossed the finish line as the late Fred Lebow flashed his famous ear-to-ear grin. Five years later, 1976, the New York City Marathon went citywide, touching down in every borough in the greatest city in the world.

In 1978, the great Grete Waitz won the first of her nine New York City Marathons as she became a household name around the world, winning three consecutive marathons from 1978 to 1980, breaking the tape again every year from 1982 to 1986 and again in 1988. She had the greatest run of a sports athlete in history.

As Waitz continued to dominate her sport, so too did the New York City Marathon, setting and breaking records until 2012, when the event was cancelled as Hurricane Sandy ripped apart communities and properties across the east, in the five boroughs of this city and beyond.

The 2012 New York City Marathon was reluctantly cancelled by the New York Road Runners, which chipped in to lend assistance to the communitites and neighborhoods that were battered by the storm.

So now, on Sunday, Nov. 3, the New York City Marathon will again touch every borough in the city. Marathoners from around the world will run through communities in Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Along the way, they will be greeted by cheering crowds. Some will stop for the cause. Many will slow down and thank the sidewalk crowds for a cup of water, a quick sandwich.

There are now marathons organized and contested in major cities within the U.S. and many countries around the world, including England, Canada, Spain, Belgium, New Zealand, Japan, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, Argentina, Chile, Australia, Germany and Kenya. But there is none like the New York City Marathon. Some 100,000 will run through New York City on Sunday. In 2011, some 47,000 crossed the finish line, a record that more than likely will only be broken by the New York Road Runners’ New York City Marathon this Sunday.