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Kenyans Take Top Spots in New York City Marathon - 2003-11-02

Kenyans won both the men's and women's competition in the New York City Marathon Sunday. Thirty-five thousand runners and millions of spectators took part in the annual race.

Margaret Okayo from Kenya set a new record Sunday for completing the New York City Marathon. She finished the race in two hours, 22 minutes, 31 seconds. Her new record is almost two minutes faster than the previous best she set two years ago.

Martin Lel from Kenya won the men's competition, crossing the line in two hours, ten minutes and 30 seconds.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on hand to give the awards to the winners, said New York's marathon is a reflection of the country's spirit. "Thirty-five thousand runners from 88 different countries, 12 thousand volunteers, two million plus people who stood on the sidelines and cheered, while we have problems around the world and our young men and women are trying to defend democracy, you see why we're doing it right here, in a city where everybody gets along," he said.

Professional and amateur runners of all ages come out for the marathon each year. They run through all five boroughs of New York City and cross the finish line in Central Park.

Carolyn Brady was among those in the crowd to cheer the runners on. She has fond memories of last year, when she participated in the marathon. "It was a dream come true because I am born in New York City, and that was something I always looked forward to doing," she said.

People come out to the marathon for many reasons. Andrew Bergman was there to cheer on his doctor, who was running to raise money for a local cancer treatment center. "We're supporting him because he's a great neighbor and a good friend and he's running to support Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital. And I'm a cancer survivor also. He was my doctor," he said.

The winners of the marathon take home one hundred thousand dollars each. This year, much media attention was paid to rap artist Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, a celebrity who was running his first marathon. But most of the runners are in it for personal victories. Molly McCullum, running her first marathon, said the masses of people gave her energy. "All the people, all the people watching and cheering us on, it's great. It's awesome," she said.

The first New York City marathon took place in 1970. About 1,000 people ran in it. Marathon officials say a record 73,000 people applied for a spot in the marathon this year, but there was only room for half that number.