NYC Marathon Returns Amid Heightened Security

In a double victory for Kenya, Geoffrey Mutai successfully defendeded his title and Priscah Jeptoo rallied to win the women's race

Monday, Nov 4, 2013  |  Updated 2:19 AM PDT
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    Security to Be Heightened at NYC Marathon

    Security has been heightened at this year's New York City Marathon following the terror attack at the Boston Marathon. Andrew Siff reports.
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    A year after it was canceled at the last minute by Hurricane Sandy, more than 50,000 runners participated in the 43rd running of the New York City Marathon, taking on the 26.2 miles through the five boroughs.

    In a double victory for Kenya, Geoffrey Mutai successfully defended his title and Priscah Jeptoo rallied to win the women's race.

    Mutai set the course record the last time the marathon was held in 2011. In windy conditions Sunday, Mutai had an unofficial time of 2 hours, 8 minutes, 24 seconds, well off his mark of 2:05:06 set in nearly perfect conditions.

    Jeptoo came from behind to win the women's title Sunday. She trailed Buzunesh Deba by nearly 3½ minutes at the halfway point, but started making her move as the race entered Manhattan and passed Deba with just more than 2 miles to go.

    Jeptoo won in an unofficial time of 2 hours, 25 minutes, 7 seconds Sunday. The London Marathon champ clinched a $500,000 bonus for the World Marathon Majors title. Deba, an Ethiopian who lives in the Bronx,  finished second for the second straight NYC Marathon.

    In 2012 the race was called off because of Sandy's destruction, but not before the week's events enraged many residents and runners. City and marathon officials initially vowed that the race would go on, and many New Yorkers recoiled at the idea of possibly diverting resources after a natural disaster. The decision to cancel didn't come until a day-and-a-half before the scheduled start time, and by then, many out-of-town entrants had already made their long trips to the city after hearing the earlier assurances.

    Then in April, at another major marathon in the Northeast, the scene of cheering fans packed along the race course lost its innocence. Two bombs exploded near the finish line in Boston, killing three people and injuring more than 260.

    On Sunday, Hundreds of police officers were posted along the route. Police helicopters patrolled the skies, and police boats kept watch from New York Harbor and the East River. As with any large-scale event in the city, the police department also deployed bomb-sniffing dogs and plainclothes officers to blend in with the crowd.

    The NYPD bought 100 mobile security cameras after the Boston attack and said those cameras were positioned to keep an eye out for anything suspicious along the route where there were gaps in the sight lines of permanent cameras.

    For the first time, the city fenced off a portion of the western perimeter of the Central Park for the race. Spectators had to pass through security checkpoints, where bags were searched, before entering that area. There was also an additional layer of fencing around the finish line.

    A record 50,740 runners started the race Sunday and security was tight from the moment they arrived on Staten Island. They were corralled into long bag-check lines, and officers and volunteers repeatedly reminded them to keep cellphones out.

    "Security is 100 percent tougher than what I've seen at other races," said Chris Patterson of Rochester, N.Y., who was signed up for New York last year and ran Boston in April.

    Elizabeth Hutchinson of Seattle recalled the joy at the starting line in Boston this year. People were handing out sunscreen, Band-Aids and energy gels with a smile.

    On Staten Island, she said, "the machine guns are very visible."

    "The atmosphere is so different," she said, "It kind of makes me sad."

    Charles Breslin, who lost his home in the storm and was volunteering at the marathon, welcomed the race's return.

    "I don't know how the rest of Staten Island feels about, but it can only be a good thing," he said. "You have to get back to normalcy."

    As the professional women approached Central Park, only a sprinkling of onlookers stood at the police barricades. Ginny Smith, a Manhattan resident who comes to watch each year, said she felt "very frustrated."

    Three hours after she first arrived at the park, she was finally allowed to walk in. At Columbus Circle, near the 26th and last mile of the route, police kept her waiting for two hours.

    "It was difficult, it was horrible — for something that's basically for the people," she said. "It's unbelievable; you would think there was a war in the city."

    Ashley O'Brien of Brooklyn was ready with a bullhorn to cheer members of her running group, the Hudson Dusters. She got teary-eyed remembering the events of the past year.

    "It's a nice time to all come back together," she said. "You still remember why it was canceled last year and you remember Boston. So it's a little bittersweet."

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