New York - Kenyans Geoffrey Mutai and Priscah Jeptoo won New York City Marathon titles Sunday as elite runners returned to the Big Apple a year after Hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation of the race and seven months after the Boston Marathon bombings.
Mutai, who also won the 2011 New York crown, won the men's race in an official time of 2hrs 8mins, 24secs, 52 seconds ahead of runner-up Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia but well off the course record of 2:05:05 he set two years ago.
"I feel good for this win," Mutai said.
"It was a very tough race. To win a race for the first time is easy.
"To defend your title is not easy. It was a tough win out there."
Jeptoo, the reigning London Marathon women's champion who finished second at last year's London Olympics, came from behind to win in 2:25.07.
The 43rd edition of the 42.2km showdown included more than 48 000 runners from 115 nations competing in cool and windy conditions for a $100,000 top prize with a backdrop of tightened security in the wake of twin tragedies.
Three people were killed by bombs planted near the finish line of the Boston Marathon last April, making "Boston Strong" a catchphrase to inspire comebacks, including a World Series baseball crown for a Boston Red Sox club that was last in its division in 2012.
"What occurred in Boston has made this race even more important to participants," said retired tennis star John McEnroe, who lives near the finish line.
Nearly 100 people died in flooding and devastating property damage caused in the New York area last year by Hurricane Sandy.
"We run for the spirit of New York and Boston," said race chief executive Mary Wittenberg.
"We run united."
Many runners turned into relief supply deliverers to people who lost homes and electricity.
"We're here to say keep your hope up when the struggles start," said American Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 winner.
Mutai went to the front of the early lead pack of 20 that was trimmed to eight with about half an hour remaining.
Mutai made his move in the 21st mile, breaking the pack apart after one hour and 42 minutes. Countryman Stanley Biwott stayed with him for another mile but then faded and Mutai was never challenged from there to the finish.
"What makes me succeed is discipline and dedication as an athlete," Mutai said.
Kebede, a two-time London winner who has also taken the Chicago crown, was second in 2:09:16 and that was enough to clinch the year's World Marathon Majors title, worth $500 000, based upon results worldwide during the season.
South Africa's Lusapho April was third in 2:09:45 with Kenyan Julius Arile another 18 seconds back and Biwott fifth in 2:10:41.
New York 2011 runner-up Buzunesh Deba and training partner Tigist Tufa, Ethiopians living in New York, raced to the front from the start of the women's race, pulling ahead by two minutes after the first 40 minutes and kept a large lead deep into the event.
Kenya's Jeptoo began closing the gap with eight miles remaining. Deba pulled ahead alone with about seven miles to run but charging Jeptoo passed Deba in Central Park with just under two miles remaining and never trailed again.
Deba was second in 2:25:56 with 2005 and 2006 New York winner Jelena Prokopcuka, a 37-year-old Latvian coming out of retirement, third in 2:27:47 and France's Christelle Daunay fourth in 2:28:14.
Russian-born American Tatyana McFadden completed a women's wheelchair marathon grand slam of 2013 major titles by adding New York to a haul
Swiss Marcel Hug won the men's wheelchair race, with South Africa's Ernst van Dyk finishing a second adrift to finish second.
Top finishers on Sunday from the New York Marathon:
Geoffrey Mutai (KEN) 2hrs 8mins 24secs, 2. Tsegaye Kebede (ETH)
2:09:16, 3. Lusapho April (RSA) 2:09:45, 4. Julius Arile (KEN) 2:10:03,
5. Stanley Biwott (KEN) 2:10:41, 6. Masato Imai (JPN) 2:10:45, 7.
Jackson Kiprop (UGA) 2:10:56, 8. Peter Cheruiyot Kirui (KEN) 2:11:23, 9.
Wesley Korir (KEN) 2:11:34, 10. Daniele Meucci (ITA) 2:12:03
Priscah Jeptoo (KEN) 2:25:07, 2. Buzunesh Deba (ETH) 2:25:56, 3. Jelena
Prokopcuka (LAT) 2:27:47, 4. Christelle Daunay (FRA) 2:28:14, 5.
Valeria Straneo (ITA) 2:28:22, 6. Kim Smith (NZL) 2:28:49, 7. Sabrina
Mockenhaupt (GER) 2:29:10, 8. Tigist Tufa Demisse (ETH) 2:29:24, 9. Edna
Kiplagat (KEN) 2:30:04, 10. Diane Nukuri-Johnson (BDI) 2:30:09.