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Flanagan First American Woman to Win NYC Marathon in 40 Years


Shalane Flanagan celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the professional women's division at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon, Nov 5, 2017.

Before Sunday's New York City Marathon, American Shalane Flanagan had never won a major race at that distance. Neither had Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor.

Flanagan became the first U.S. woman in 40 years to win the New York City marathon, finishing in 2 hours, 26 minutes and 53 seconds.

"This is a moment I've dreamed of since I was a little girl," said the 36-year-old Flanagan, who was the 10,000-meter silver medalist at the 2008 Olympics.

The race took place under boosted security five days after an attacker used a truck to ram people on a New York bike path, leaving eight dead.

Police added extra uniformed officers along the race course, which winds through the city's five boroughs, along with plainclothes officers, bomb-sniffing dogs and snipers posted on rooftops.

The mayor's office said 2 million spectators lined the streets to cheer for the runners.

"It's been a tough week for New Yorkers, and a tough week for our nation," Flanagan said. "I thought of, 'What a better gift than to make Americans smile today?'"

Flanagan beat out Kenyan Mary Keitany (2:27:54), who had won the race three years in a row. Ethiopian Mamitu Daska (2:28:08) finished third.

The men's race was closer, with Kamworor finishing in a time of 2 hours, 10 minutes and 53 seconds. His countryman Wilson Kipsang came in second place, just three seconds behind after making a final push near the finish line.

Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya crosses the finish line first in the men's division of the New York City Marathon in New York, Nov. 5, 2017.
Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya crosses the finish line first in the men's division of the New York City Marathon in New York, Nov. 5, 2017.

Kamworor, the 24-year-old reigning world cross country champion, said he looked up at the video monitor near the finish and saw Kipsang coming up behind him.

"I had to believe in myself, because I was holding out for the finish, so I had to do my best to make sure that I won. And I really thank God I won," Kamworor said.

Ethiopians Lelisa Desisa (2:11:32) and Lemi Berhanu (2:11:52) finished in third and fourth place.

Asked what went through his mind when Kamworor and Kipsang made their move to break away from the pack of leaders in the final kilometers, Desisa said he had just come back from an injury and was experiencing tightness in his left leg.

"When I realized that I couldn't pass them, I decided not to quit, but keep my third place," he said.

Last year's men's race winner, Eritrea's Ghirmay Gebreselassie, dropped out Sunday after 22 miles (35.5 kilometers) after being among the lead pack for most of the race. He told VOA that he decided to quit because of extreme exhaustion. Gebreselassie became the youngest male runner in history to win the New York City Marathon in 2016 at age 20.

Eritrean-born American Meb Keflezighi finished 11th in the men's race to close out an accomplished marathon career. The 42-year-old won the New York City Marathon in 2009 after no American man had done so since 1980. He has also won the Boston Marathon and earned a silver medal in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics.

He was presented the Abebe Bikila Award before the start of what he announced last year would be his final competitive marathon before shifting his focus to shorter races and work with his foundation. Bikila was a legendary Ethiopian runner and the first ever African to win gold in the Olympics. He won the Olympic gold medal in both Tokyo and Rome, where he set a world record running barefoot.

Swiss competitors swept the New York City Marathon wheelchair races, with Manuela Schar finishing first among women and Marel Hug placing first among men.