And they're off!
On Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009, some 40,000 runners sweated their way through the New York City Marathon, which winds through the city’s five boroughs. Contestants included elite runners from around the world, celebrities, and plenty of weekend warriors.
To inspire future generations of runners, we’ve assembled some of the most memorable photos from marathons past.
« A stream of runners flows across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the start of the 1994 marathon.
Smile! (While you still can)
Runners stop on the middle of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to take a photo of their fellow racers near the start of the 2005 marathon.
Once the longest bridge in the world, the 1.25-mile Verrazano accounts for nearly 5% of the racecourse.
A little help from a fan
A nattily attired spectator hands out oranges and bananas in Brooklyn, during the second leg of the marathon.
Bananas, an excellent source of potassium, help runners stay hydrated, and oranges contain vitamin C, which prevents fatigue and helps the body absorb iron.
Half the legs, twice the heart
A runner on crutches passes a group of young girls in Brooklyn during the 2004 marathon.
Hundreds of disabled runners participate in the New York City Marathon each year.
Keep your eyes on the road
On their way to Queens during the 1999 marathon, a group of runners are treated to a view of the Chrysler Building and the Manhattan skyline.
The marathon’s racecourse provides stunning views of the city that can usually only be glimpsed through the window of a moving car.
Moo-ving right along!
Running in costume is a time-honored tradition in the New York City marathon. In this image from 2002, a runner dressed as a cow crosses the Pulaski Bridge into Queens.
Costumes were especially prevalent this year, since the marathon fell on the day after Halloween.
Neck and neck
British marathoner Paula Radcliffe (shown here leading the 2008 marathon) tried for her third straight win in New York in 2009. (She also won in 2004 and 2007.) This year, however, she came in fourth place after Ethiopian Derartu Tula beat her to the finish line.
Radcliffe, who set the women’s world record in 2003 when she ran the London marathon in a blistering 2:15:25, has managed to become a world-class runner even though she was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma as a teenager.
Just this once, it’s OK to litter
Thousands of empty paper cups blanket First Avenue toward the end of the 2006 marathon.
Fortunately, the hosts of the marathon, the New York Road Runners, are dedicated to "greening" the race. Discarded cups are collected and recycled, and the clothing that runners leave behind at the starting line is donated to charity.
No bikes allowed
Cycling legend and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong ran the marathon for charity in 2006.
The seven-time winner of the Tour de France is used to finishing first, but on this day he came in 869th after finishing the race in just under three hours. "Nothing left me feeling the way I feel now, in terms of just sheer fatigue and soreness," Armstrong told reporters after the race.
Lean on me
Marathons are notoriously grueling—according to legend, the very first marathon runner died at the finish line—and inevitably, some runners’ bodies start to break down during the last few miles of the race.
In this image from the 2003 marathon, a runner is supported by his friends as he limps toward the finish line.
The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat
In one of the most thrilling—and heartbreaking—finishes in recent memory, Paul Tergat of Kenya edged out South Africa’s Hendrick Ramaala in the final steps of the 2005 marathon.
After a 385-yard sprint through Central Park, Tergat and Ramaala were still side by side with just 25 yards remaining. Tergat won the race by a nose, and an exhausted Ramaala collapsed to the ground as he crossed the finish line.
Look, honey, I won you this plate!
The 2008 men's champion, Marilson Gomes dos Santos, kisses his wife, Juliana Paula Santos de Azevedo, after the awards ceremony.
The 2008 marathon was Santos's first in New York, and his convincing win—he ran alone for the last seven miles—was something of a surprise. Santos, a Brazilian, beat out a field of heavily favored African runners to become the first non-African to win the race in a decade.
Music and fashion mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs ran the marathon in 2003, finishing in a respectable 4:14:54.
Celebrities are frequent participants in the race. Edward Norton, Alanis Morrisette, and former ER actor Anthony Edwardsas well as several New York celeb chefsare among the well-known runners said to have participated in 2009.
The next generation?
Radcliffe was the runner to beat in the women's field in 2009. Her daughter, Ilsa, whom she held after her 2007 victory, could be a threat circa 2035.
Radcliffe won the 2007 marathon less than 10 months after giving birth. She trained throughout her pregnancy and even went for a run the day before Ilsa was born.