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Father-Daughter Team Takes on NY Marathon - 2002-11-06

For the first time ever, two Kenyans took top honors at the New York City Marathon earlier this week. Rodgers Rop and Joyce Chepchumba both ran the 42-kilometer race in slightly more than two hours. They were followed across the finish line by more than 40,000 other runners, from 100 different countries… most of whom had no interest whatsoever in winning.

One father-daughter team ran the marathon simply because it's a challenge.

"Have a great race! Welcome to New York! Thanks for coming! Keep it moving, please!" shouts a volunteer at New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center.

It's 24 hours before race day, and thousands of runners are pouring into New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center. They're here to pick up the numbers they'll be wearing on their shirts tomorrow, along with the computerized chips they'll tie onto their sneakers, so their times can be recorded as they run across the finish line.

Moira Davenport, an emergency room doctor at one of New York City's busiest hospitals, says she deals with the stress of her job by running and a marathon is the ultimate challenge.

"I've been running for almost 20 years now, and it just seemed a natural thing to do, eventually to try one, and then once you try New York once, you kind of have to come back. There's just something about the energy," she says. "And especially running the 2001 New York City Marathon. Standing on the Verrazano Bridge, waiting to start, and you look over and you still see the smoldering area that was the World Trade Center. So it was just a really memorable day."

It was a memorable day that Moira Davenport shared with her father, Jim. The pair began running together when Moira was a child, and while they can be a bit competitive, Jim says the marathon isn't about seeing how fast they can run. He says it's simply about finishingand supporting one another through the long and difficult race.

"It isn't about winning. It's the sense of accomplishment that you have when you're done," Mr. Davenport explains. "My favorite memory, I guess, from the last two is the photo at the end of us standing there, wrapped in blankets with the medals draped around our necks, it's, you know, it's special to do something like that with one of my kids."

Father and daughter both say nothing compares to the excitement of a marathon, and on the morning of race day, it's easy to see what they mean. The sky is sunny and the air is crisp and cold. An aerobics instructor leads several hundred runners in a warm-up exercise, while they wait for everyone else to arrive on New York City's Staten Island and take their places behind the starting line. Because the island is accessible only by ferryboat and two bridges, it takes a long time to get 40,000 people out there. That's why the New York Marathon starts later in the morning than most. As she hops from foot to foot, talking with her father about all the high-energy bread and pasta they ate the night before, Moira Davenport says trying to stay warm before the race begins is her least favorite part of the marathon.

"I think it depends on your personal preferences. For me, it's a little bit too cool, but I'm one of those people that gets cold very easily," she admits. "So I would prefer it a couple of degrees warmer, but this is a great day for a marathon."

Eleven o'clock finally rolls around, and the runners are ready to begin. A New York City police officer sings the national anthem, and 40 white doves are released into the air.

The elite runners, who are expected to win the race, are at the front of the line. Jim and Moira Davenport are far back in the pack and won't actually cross the starting line until 11 minutes after the race has begun…with a bang.

"This is it runners! Your big day!" shouts the announcer.

Thousands of runners from around the world pound across the Verazzano Bridge and eventually into the heart of New York City. Many have written their names on their shirts, so that well wishers who line the route will be able to shout personal messages of encouragement to them. At this point, all of the runners have broad smiles across their faces energized, no doubt, by the music and the cheering. Forty-two kilometers later, the music and cheering are still going strong, but many runners are clearly having hard time making it to the finish line in New York's famed Central Park.

"Come on, spectators! Cheer 'em in!" the announcer says.

Five hours after the race began, Jim and Moira Davenport finally cross the finish line. They're weary, but exhilarated. Jim trained more seriously for this marathon than he did for the other two, but he says he still had some trouble toward the end, at the 34-kilometer mark.

"My legs started to cramp up, and I was starting to feel it. I kind of hit the wall. Breathing was fine. It was just the legs," says Mr. Davenport.

Farrelly: "So how'd you get through it?"

Jim Davenport: "My daughter nagged me."

As she laughs, Moira Davenport says she'll be nagging her father again next year when they run the world's most popular marathon for a fourth time in New York.