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Women Making Headlines in New York City's ING Marathon
by Julie Norwell

Winners weren’t the only women making headlines at the New York City ING Marathon on November 1. Marathon veteran Joan Benoit Samuelson set a new record for the 50+ age group division with her finish time of 2:49:09. The prior record was 2:53:53 set in 1993. Samuelson, winner of the gold medal for the Women’s Marathon in the 1984 Olympics, the first women’s marathon ever hosted by the Olympics, pledged last year not to run any more competitive marathons. But then she realized that 2009 marks the 25th anniversary of her 1984 Olympic race, the 30th anniversary of her first marathon, and the 40th running of the New York City Marathon. "So, why not?” she said.

The three winning women created a stir of their own by upsetting the favorite, Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain, three-time winner of the New York City Marathon. Radcliffe is one of the biggest stars of the sport, boasting the women’s marathon world record of 2:15:25, which she set in 2003 at the London Marathon. She has run four of the five fastest women’s marathon times in history. Her fame alone makes her the most highly paid runner of the race thanks to “appearance" money she received. (The race’s organizing body, New York Road Runners Club, knows that her participation is a big boost to publicity.) Radcliffe had hoped to break the course record for women of 2:22:31 but an injury caused her to slip to fourth place.

The first place winner, Derartu Tulu, made history, too, becoming the first Ethiopian woman to ever win New York’s famous road race. Tulu finished in 2:28:52 making it just the second marathon victory in her career. Second and third-place went to Ludmila Petrova, who finished in 2:29:00 and Christelle Daunay whose finish time was 2:29:16.

Winners and record-breakers weren’t the only remarkable women of this race. There were also the six members of the Footlocker Five Borough Challenge team, the theme of which was “Marathon Moms." Each year Footlocker picks five New Yorkers – one for each of New York City’s five boroughs – to compete in a “race-within-a-race." The team members must stay together for the first half of the marathon, after which they compete to finish first for a Tiffany trophy and bragging rights. This year the team was joined by an honorary sixth member; the friend of Manhattan’s representative whose fiancé was killed in Iraq a few weeks ago and who was not up to running the marathon alone as she’d originally planned. The team welcomed the newcomer’s participation warmly.

Other remarkable women include two octogenarians, Bertha McGruder and Joy Johnson, who completed the race in just over six hours, and 26 septuagenarian finishers, of whom one, 76-year young Ginette Bedard, finished in an astonishingly fast 4:09:57.

Where it comes to women, New York City’s Marathon is special because it has always been famous for its egalitarianism. Back when the Boston Marathon was still refusing women entry, New York welcomed them. In 2002, New York Road Runners Club created an early start for the professional women to highlight them. Today, CEO of New York Road Runners, Mary Wittenberg, is the only female race director of a major marathon. Where other major marathons continue to offer less prize money to women than men, New York offers equal purses. Winners of both genders claim $130,000 plus bonus money. Reportedly, more women have run the New York City Marathon than any other race on the planet and this year, of the 42,000 participants, an estimated 14,000 were women – three times more than 20 years ago. With all this going for them in the ING New York City Marathon, it is no wonder women are making news!