Girls on the Run: New York Marathon

Pretty Tough RunnerThis Sunday, over 100,000 runners will race 26.2 miles across five towering bridges through New York’s five unique boroughs in the 39th ING New York City Marathon.

The mega-marathon that began with 55 finishers in Central Park in 1970 and moved to the five boroughs in 1976—starts at 9:10 a.m. Sunday (Eastern time) when the elite women get under way.

The race attracts many world-class professional athletes, not only for the more than $600,000 in prize money (male and female winners each receive $130,000) , but also for the chance to excel before two million cheering spectators and more than 300 million worldwide television viewers.

Last year’s winner Paula Radcliffe, along with Gete Wami , Catherine Ndereba and Kara Goucher are among the pros competing for the prize purse.

But the majority of participants are amateur runners who have two primary goals: to experience the different neighborhoods across New York by foot and to cross the finish line.

The runners come from all over and include more than a few celebs. Beth Ostrosky,  a supermodel and the wife of media giant Howard Stern, is one of those running this weekend.  Like many other celebrities, the 36-year-old beauty will be running to raise money for charity. She is the spokesperson for the North Shore Animal League of America, an organization advocating pet adoption. To date, Team Go Beth O has raised over $283,000 including $50,000 pledged from friend Rachel Ray.

The starting line will also see it’s share of Olympians. Former soccer star Brandi Chastain and former gymnastics sensation Kerri Strug are trading in their old Team USA uniforms for orange running jerseys as they take on their next athletic challenge. The two will Go for the Orange as they serve as ambassadors for the ING Run for Something Better.

All the runners can rock out this year as the marathon is expanding its course entertainment for participants and spectators with the Miles of Music Presented by New York Road Runners, featuring dozens of live bands.

For those who have more than a passing interest in the race, Runner’s World provides this preview of the women’s pro field:

1. Paula Radcliffe, PR, 2:15:25 (the world record). Prior to the Beijing Olympics, where she ran a brave 23rd despite injury-induced severe under-training, Radcliffe had never lost a marathon she finished.

2. Gete Wami, PR, 2:21:34. Wami won the 2006 and 2007 Berlin Marathons, then finished second to Radcliffe at New York last year less than two months after her Berlin triumph.

3. Catherine Ndereba, PR, 2:18:47. Arguably the greatest marathoner of all time, right up there with Radcliffe, but how many strong races can she run in a year? Ndereba’s coming off a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics, her second straight marathon silver in the Olympics.

4. Dire Tune, PR, 2:24:40. Tune has already run three major marathons this year, winning Houston (her PR) and Boston (2:25:25) and finishing 15th in Beijing (2:31:16). Just 23, she’s 10 years younger than her countrywoman Gete Wami. Making her debut in New York.

5. Rita Jeptoo, PR, 2:23:38. Jeptoo placed 4th in the 2006 NYC Marathon, her only previous appearance in New York. That spring she had won Boston, where she established her PR; she was third at Boston last April in 2:26:34. Five weeks ago, she set a course record at the RTP Lisbon Half Marathon, running 1:09:48.

6. Kara Goucher, first marathon. Goucher is making her marathon debut in New York after two years of sensational running. In 2007 she took home a surprise bronze medal from the Osaka World Championships ahi,000, and then scorched Radcliffe and everyone else with a winning effort in the Great North Run Half Marathon, 1:06:57. .

Also worth watching: Kim Smith, Magdalena Boulet,  Katie McGregor, Lyubov Morgunova,  and Ludmila Petrova.

Additional profiles of women runners can be found on the NYRR site.

If you’re not running the marathon, the race offers a great chance to celebrate those who can, and do. So if you’re in New York, join the party on the sidelines and salute the runners effort. 

Those not able to be in NY, can watch the race live online.  You can also preview the route in a great interactive tour. Share the experience and celebrate the triumph of each excruciating mile.

Runners, on your mark…

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