Mutai, Jeptoo Win New York Marathon Titles

Kenyans Geoffrey Mutai and Priscah Jeptoo won New York City Marathon titles Sunday as elite runners returned to the Big Apple a year after Hurricane Sandy wiped out the race and seven months after the Boston Marathon bombings.

Mutai, who also won the 2011 New York crown, captured the men’s title in an unofficial time of 2hrs 8mins, 23secs while Jeptoo, the reigning London Marathon champion who finished second at last year’s London Olympics, came from behind to win in an unofficial time of 2:25.07.

The 43rd edition of the 26.2-mile (42.2km) showdown included more than 48,000 runners from 115 nations competing in cool and windy conditions for a $100,000 top prize with a backdrop of tightened security in the wake of twin tragedies.

Three people were killed by bombs planted near the finish line of the Boston Marathon last April, making “Boston Strong” a catchphrase to inspire comebacks, including a World Series baseball crown for a Boston Red Sox club that was last in its division in 2012.

“What occurred in Boston has made this race even more important to participants,” said retired tennis star John McEnroe, who lives near the finish line.

Nearly 100 people died in flooding and devastating property damage caused in the New York area last year by Hurricane Sandy, which forced the race to be cancelled.

“We run for the spirit of New York and Boston,” said race chief executive Mary Wittenberg. “We run united.”

Many runners turned into relief supply deliverers to people who lost homes and electricity.

“We’re here to say keep your hope up when the struggles start,” said American Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 winner.

Mutai, who set the course record in taking the 2011 title, went to the front of the early lead pack of 20 that was halved as the leaders surged after the first hour and down to eight with about half an hour remaining.

Mutai made his move in the 21st mile, breaking the pack apart after one hour and 42 minutes. Countryman Stanley Biwot stayed with him for another mile but then faded and Mutai was never challenged from there to the finish.

New York 2011 runner-up Buzunesh Deba and training partner Tigist Tufa, Ethiopians living in New York, raced to the front from the start of the women’s race, pulling ahead by two minutes after the first 40 minutes and kept a large lead deep into the event.

Kenya’s Jeptoo began closing the gap with eight miles remaining in a bid to chase down the leaders.

Deba pulled ahead alone with about seven miles to run but charging Jeptoo passed Deba in Central Park with just under two miles remaining and surged quickly to a substantial lead.

Russian-born American Tatyana McFadden completed a women’s wheelchair marathon grand slam of 2013 major titles by adding New York to a haul that also includes crowns at Boston, London and Chicago.

Swiss Marcel Hug won the men’s wheelchair race.