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Mary Keitany and Lelisa Desisa win New York City Marathon

More than 50,000 runners and more than 2 million spectators took part in the annual 26.2-mile race.

A costumed runner flies by during the marathon

A costumed runner flies by during the marathon on Sunday. Photo Credit: Anna Sergeeva

Under sunsplashed Manhattan skies and temperatures in the 50s, world-class competitive long-distance runners shared the streets with less accomplished but equally determined athletes Sunday for the 48th New York City Marathon.

Festive for some runners, deadly serious for others, the 26.2-mile race featured more than 50,000 competitors. It started in the city's outer-most borough, Staten Island, and ended in the heart of Manhattan on Central Park West.

In between, runners passed through the other three boroughs. Spectators — some rooting for a specific participant, others just curiously watching the parade of runners go by from their front yards — lined city streets. 

There were the elite marathoners who finished the race with cool and speedy efficiency in less than two hours and 30 minutes. There were runners just hoping to finish no matter how long it took them.

Kenyan runner Mary Keitany crossed first in the women's portion, far ahead of her nearest opponents, with a winning time of 2:22:48. With a 5:27-minute mile pace, it was her second fastest marathon time and the fourth win for Keitany.

The winner in the men's category was Ethiopian runner Lelisa Desisa with a time of 2:05:59.

At the 72nd Street finish line, spectators jockeyed for a position to get a better picture or video of the finish with their phones. Winners draped themselves in their countries’ flags under bright skies and golden leaves.

The crowd erupted as first Keitany, then Desisa, turned north at Columbus Circle and headed toward the finish line near 72nd Street.

Barbara Kieffer, 66, of West Islip, the mother of elite runner Allie Kieffer, held a customized foam finger in one hand and a giant photo of her daughter's head in the other. Kieffer said she is her daughter’s No. 1 fan, but other people would say the same thing.  

“Oh my God, I’m just so excited," Kieffer said shortly before her daughter finished seventh in the women's race. "I’ve been a wreck for a couple days, just anxious for her because she’s worked so hard.”

Runners said they counted on the crowd's energy to propel them to the end, with some collapsing shortly after finishing.

Blaise Bevilacque, 27, of Brooklyn, said the lively, good-natured crowd offered him encouragement that kept him going.

“I gave 2,000 high-fives to spectators that whole way,” said Bevilacque, who grew up in Port Washington and works in the computer software industry. “It’s like a 26-mile block party.”

Caroline Cobb, 36, a high school English teacher from Kingsbridge, Bronx, finished her 12th marathon and her sixth in New York City with a time 3:34:49, which she called one of her slowest.

"Every race is different," she said. "Last year, I came in with no expectations and had one of my best races ever. This year, I came in with no expectations and had my slowest races ever.

"But, yeah," she added, "it’s an accomplishment for sure."

The race began a couple of hours earlier with a stepped up visual NYPD presence all along the route or as an invisible presence with undercover cops blended in with other race spectators.

Thousands of police officers, including heavy-weapons teams, K-9 units, bomb squad officers and other specialists, were deployed along the marathon route, NYPD officials said.

Authorities said they were not aware of a specific threat, but tensions remained high after last month's deadly Pittsburgh synagogue attack and pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democratic Party officials and CNN’s offices in Manhattan — just blocks from the marathon finish line.

The first competitors — the men's and women's wheelchair divisions — started on the course at about 8:30 a.m.

The elite women racers took off at 9:20 a.m. Their male counterparts began the race at 9:50 a.m.

Other than a morning chill in the low 40s, the conditions for runners and spectators were close to perfect. It's estimated that more than 2 million spectators watched at least some of the race.

The crowd lining the streets in Brooklyn roared and rang bells as a group of runners from the first women’s heat made it under the 4th Avenue-9th Street subway station — near the race's 10-kilometer mark — just before 10 a.m. Onlookers, several people deep on the avenue’s sidewalks, waved flags from the Argentina, Brazil, the United States and a host of other countries.

“To see everyone here, its just so New York and so inspiring. It’s a bit of good going on,” said Maggie Condon of Manhattan, cheering on her son, runner Mike Repplier, 32.

Race participants gathered in the shadow of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge before the race as they waited for the start.

Patrick Harten, 44, of Long Beach, an air traffic controller who was on duty when US Airways' "Miracle on the Hudson" Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River, was among those who ran Sunday. Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger was expected to present him with his medal at the end of the race, Harten said.

He noted that while that day in January 2009 required a quick response and thinking on his feet, today will take stamina and endurance.

"That day was over in about 90 seconds. This takes hours," he said.

Diana Sull, 28, of Forest Hills, tried to keep warm at the starting line while wrapped in a metallic-colored blanket designed to trap heat. She said she was being careful not to expend energy. Sull said Sunday was her first marathon after dropping out last year due to a foot injury.

"It's been a two-year journey and it feels like I am in awe right now," she said. "It took a lot of sweat equity to get here."

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