The way Kenyans Stanley Biwott and Mary Keitany ran the 45th New York City Marathon on Sunday, the way Ernst Van Dyk and Tatyana McFadden sped along in their wheelchairs, it was as if those champions had set their clocks back at least an hour compared to the other 50,225 indefatigable souls in their wakes.
All early arrivals at the Central Park finish line, Biwott covered the 26-mile, 385-yard course through Big Town's five boroughs in 2:10:34 to win the men's professional division, Keitany in 2:24:25 for the women's title, Van Dyk in 1:30:54 and the American McFadden in 1:43:04.
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Only Van Dyk, a 42-year-old South African who was runner-up by a second the past two years, was challenged right to the end, outsprinting 31-year-old Josh George of Champaign, Illinois, by a second. "I finally got it right," said Van Dyk, who in fact had won New York in 2005.
None of McFadden's competitors ever was within shouting distance as she won her 13th consecutive major marathon, completing a third straight calendar sweep of London, Boston, Chicago and New York.
Keitany, the 33-year-old, 93-pound mother of two and the second-fastest female marathoner in history, jettisoned the last of her potential contenders, 30-year-old Ethiopian Aselefech Mergia, with more than four miles to go. Biwott, 29, began pulling steadily away from runner-up Geoffery Kamworor of Kenya with three miles to go.
Behind them came the handful of other pros and the great hordes of less talented (but no less resolute) travelers, in some cases far enough behind to be existing still on Daylight Saving Time -- maybe even Pacific Daylight Time.
So while the likes of Biwott was hammering out mile after mile at a 4-minute, 59-second pace, and Keitany an equally impressive 5:31 average, the amateurs plugging away behind them knew to heed the old do-not-try-this-at-home warning.
Theirs was an entirely different expectation than that of Meb Keflezighi, the only man to have won New York (2009), Boston (2014) and an Olympic medal (2004 silver in Athens). At 40, Keflezighi stayed in the lead pack of a dozen runners for 20 miles before slipping to a seventh-place finish in 2:13:32, an American 40-or-over record.
To his mind, it was not an exceptionally fast race because of "a lot of hesitation" among the leaders, concerned that the 60-degree temperature was a bit too warm for a reckless tempo.
Too fast, too soon was the harbinger for a crackup, and even a pro such as Keitany, successfully defending her 2014 New York victory, spoke of having to "be patient." Not until 30 kilometers along -- roughly 181/2 miles -- did she decide, "it was OK" to push. By then, runner-up Mergia said she had become aware that "my shoes were uncomfortable and my feet were burning."
That is a sensation not unfamiliar to just about anyone participating in Gotham's annual Running of the Humans. The race is a physical test of endurance that normally would discomfit all of its laboring participants, though one they engage in cheerfully through the endless corridor of applauding spectators.
Laura Thweatt, 26, a former cross-country champion from the University of Colorado making her marathon debut, was fairly giddy over her seventh-place finish -- first among American women -- in 2:28:23. "It's just such a huge victory to complete 26.2 miles," she said. "I didn't see myself as a marathoner. I mean, I'm not. But just to complete that distance on a course like New York with the history and how tough it is, I felt like I won."
Craig Leon, 30, a former walk-on runner at Ohio University who said he became a marathoner "by accident," followed Keflezighi into eighth place, the second American male finisher, in 2:15:16. Though he acknowledged that the leaders' pace "kind of slowed down," Leon had no complaints.
"I turned to Meb somewhere on First Avenue [roughly 18 miles into the race]," Leon said, "and I said, 'This is a lot of fun.' My first New York. I'd like to come back."
In fact, as the race progressed, there was a countdown clock in the new runners' pavilion adjacent to the finish line, ticking off the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the 2016 New York City Marathon. Three-hundred, 70-plus days.
Set your clocks.