NEW YORK – Geoffrey Mutai ran by himself through Central Park, the same scene as the last New York City Marathon.
The race’s return to the five boroughs looked no different from the past in many ways, yet much had changed. The streets were still crammed with runners and the sidewalks with fans, undaunted by the tight security.
Mutai successfully defended his title Sunday, while fellow Kenyan Priscah Jeptoo came from behind to win the women’s race.
Mutai broke the course record in New York two years ago, then the 2012 race never happened because of the destruction from Superstorm Sandy. The April bombings at the Boston Marathon bared the vulnerability of an event that packs city streets with people.
So barricades blocked off much of the park, and fans waited in bag-check lines to get in.
Still, there were plenty of spectators to urge on Jeptoo to chase down Buzunesh Deba, a Bronx resident who finished runner-up for the second straight time in her hometown race.
Nobody was catching Mutai, who pulled away about Mile 22 and beat Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede by 52 seconds. On a windy morning, Mutai’s time of 2 hours, 8 minutes, 24 seconds was well off his course record of 2:05:06 set in nearly perfect conditions two years ago. He’s the first man to repeat in New York since Kenya’s John Kagwe in 1997-98.
To defend your title is not easy, Mutai said. As you see the course today, the weather today, it was not easy. Even for me, I try all I can, but I was not believing that I can finish like that.
Jeptoo trailed Deba by nearly 3 1/2 minutes at the halfway point. She made her move as the race entered Manhattan after a race official on a bike told her how big the gap was.
So I started to push the pace, she said. I was having confidence that I will make it.
Deba was slowed by stomach cramps, and Jeptoo passed the Ethiopian with just more than 2 miles left.
The 2012 Olympic silver medalist and 2013 London Marathon champ, Jeptoo won in 2:25:07 to clinch the $500,000 World Marathon Majors bonus.
Last year’s events in New York incensed many residents and runners, but there was little sign of those sour feelings Sunday. A year ago, city and marathon officials initially vowed that the race would go on, and New Yorkers balked at the idea of possibly diverting resources amid such devastation. But by the time the decision to cancel was made, many out-of-town entrants had already traveled to the city.
Plenty came back a year later. A record 50,740 runners started.
The women’s race played out almost identically to the last NYC Marathon two years ago. But this time, Deba was the pursued, not the pursuer.
Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia, who won the NYC Marathon in 2005 and ’06, placed third at age 37, returning to the podium after the birth of her son.
Kebede, the London Marathon champ, clinched the $500,000 bonus for the World Marathon Majors men’s title. South Africa’s Lusapho April was third.
Tatyana McFadden of Maryland won the women’s wheelchair race after taking the titles in Boston, London and Chicago in 2013. No other athlete has won those four races in the same year. Marcel Hug of Switzerland was the men’s wheelchair winner.