Kenyan's Geoffrey Kamworor and Switzerland's Marcel Hug will be seeking to defend their TCS New York City Marathon titles this Sunday. (270438)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

Since 1970, the New York City Marathon has been a signature event on the tristate area’s racing calendar. From its origins in Central Park, where it was initially held, to a five-borough, 26.2 mile grueling test of endurance encompassing five bridges, beginning near the approach to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island, the race, in large part because of the momentous efforts of the New York Road Runners, has grown into not only the world’s largest marathon but also one of its most ethnically and culturally diverse and unifying sporting events.

Held the first Sunday every November—with the exception of 2012, when the race was canceled in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy—last year, the TCS New York City Marathon had 98,247 applicants and 55,773 men and women cross the finish line in an average time of 4 hours, 39 minutes and 7 seconds. Compare that to 1970, when Gary Muhrcke, the first winner, was one of only 55 men who completed the race. Women began competing in 1972.

This Sunday’s test of will and physical and mental stamina will begin with the wheelchair division at 8:30 a.m., followed by the professional women at 9:20 a.m., and the first wave of professional men at 9:50 a.m. The Marathon’s tradition of drama, intrigue, narratives of perseverance and charitable endeavors is expected to continue, with a total of $825,000 in prize money to be gained, including $267,000 each for the men’s and women’s champions.

A year ago, 25-year-old Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor broke the tape first in Central Park near Tavern on the Green in 2:10.53., defeating fellow Kenyan Wilson Kipsang, the 2014 Marathon victor, who came in second in 2:10:56. Two-time Boston Marathon winner, Lelisa Desisa, was third in 2:11:32. Kamworor will be back to defend his title, seeking to become the first man to win back-to-back titles in consecutive years since Kenyan John Kagwe did so in 1997 and 1998.

Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai finished first in 2011 and 2013. Hurricane Sandy prevented him from potentially taking home gold in two straight years. In the men’s wheelchair division, 32-year-old, two-time defending champion Marcel Hug of Switzerland, nicknamed The Silver Bullet, who is also a four-time winner of the Boston Marathon (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018), will be going for three in a row in New York.