NEW YORK (AP/CBSNewYork) – Gebre Gebremariam won the New York City Marathon in his debut at the distance, an unexpected Ethiopian champion on a day when his favored countryman, world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie, dropped out because of injury.
Not even Gebremariam, the 2009 cross-country world champion, expected that he would be the next Ethiopian winner.
“Even I told my wife, ‘I can finish this race, but I can’t win,’” Gebremariam said. “When I saw in 19 or 17 miles, you know, I can win. I saw the pace and listen to my body too, so I can win.”
Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat was another surprise winner, while Shalane Flanagan, making a marathon debut of her own, became the first American woman in two decades to finish second.
“When we were in the 24th mile, I tried to put more effort,” Kiplagat said. “I found myself pulling away from the field, so I was excited when I reached 25 miles because that’s when I found I was ahead of the other ladies.
“When I crossed the finish line, I was so happy.”
PHOTO GALLERY: The 2010 ING New York City Marathon
Chilean miner Edison Pena ran, walked and hobbled his way to the finish line and needed bags of ice for his knees as he made his way over the 26.2-mile course Sunday. He crossed the finish line in Central Park around 3:30 p.m. after starting in Staten Island at 9:40 a.m.
“I didn’t even entertain the option of withdrawing from this race. No way. I came to the U.S. to run this marathon and I did it,” Pena said through a translator.
At the finish, the 34-year-old was draped in a Chilean flag as his favorite music — Elvis — played over the speakers.
“I’m here because I want people to feel free,” Pena said. “I want them to strive for their own freedom. That’s why it was worthwhile for me to come this far to run a marathon. … I struggled with myself, I struggled with my own pain, but I made it to the finish line.”
LISTEN: Sounds of the 2010 NYC Marathon
The 26-year-old Gebremariam became the first man to win New York in his marathon debut since Rod Dixon in 1983. The 2009 cross-country world champion pulled away from Kenya’s Emmanuel Mutai in the 24th mile to win in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 14 seconds.
“New York is New York — it’s so special for me just to finish,” Gebremariam said.
Another Kenyan, Moses Kigen Kipkosgei, was third. Defending champion Meb Keflezighi of the United States finished sixth.
Gebrselassie pulled out at the 16-mile mark with an apparent right knee injury. He is the only runner on Earth to finish a marathon in less than 2 hours, 4 minutes. Gebrselassie announced his retirement after dropping out of the race.
The 31-year-old Kiplagat won her first major marathon title in 2:28:20.
Both she and Gebremariam will take home $130,000 in prize money.
Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in the 10,000 meters, was 20 seconds back. Kim Jones in 1990 was the last American woman to finish in the top two.
“I’m very grateful for second, first of all. But as soon as I finished I thought about what I could have done to have won it,” Flanagan said. “So I think that’s why the marathon is so addicting, because you always want more to do it again.”
Kenya’s Mary Keitany, also making her marathon debut, was third.
More than 45,000 runners started the 41st edition of the race through the city’s five boroughs.
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