Sisters and Ronkonkoma natives Allison and Lauren Waka ran side by side for all 26.2 miles of the New York City Marathon Sunday -- and the elated but exhausted siblings held hands as they crossed the finish line in Central Park.
Allison Waka, 25, a distance runner since high school who works at the Sayville & Smithtown Running Company, said Lauren, 23, was "pulling me along." The first-time runners finished in 3 hours, 33 minutes.
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Temperatures in the 50s and little wind provided almost ideal conditions for the 45th annual marathon's 50,000 runners -- a mix of amateurs, professionals, locals and visitors from across the country and around the world who dream of running the iconic race.
An estimated 1 million spectators lined the streets, cheering for family members, friends and even strangers as runners departed Staten Island and wound their way through Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx to the finish line in Manhattan's Central Park.
Two Kenyan runners -- Mary Keitany, 33, in 2:24:25 and Stanley Biwott, 29, in 2:10:34 -- took the top spots in the professional category.
Wheelchair division winners were Ernst Van Dyk, 42, of South Africa, and Tatyana McFadden, 26, of Maryland.
Along the race route, through neighborhoods of brownstones, tenements and high-rises, revelers held signs, rang bells and called out to the runners with words of encouragement. Live music blared and some in the crowd still donned Halloween costumes.
Huntington resident Lisa Grossberg was among the crowd on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, holding a green sign -- "Go Maria Run" -- and cheering her friend as she neared mile 7.
Grossberg, 49, came in on the Long Island Rail Road and secured her spot on the street by 9:30 a.m. While it's exhilarating to see the elite runners, she said, "Just seeing everyday people put in the work and discipline and training . . . you want to support them."
Yolanda Gutierrez, 28, of Galicia, Spain, said the crowd buoyed her after a chilly start over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. "It is a dream to be here with so much emotion from the public. New York really came out and pushes us to the finish."
Henning Bechman, 49, of Denmark ran his sixth New York City Marathon.
"I train all year to finish the season in New York," Bechman said. "The people here are always smiling; saying congratulations. It is marvelous. . . . All worth it."
A group of 12 friends and family gathered in Long Island City, Queens, at the midway point to watch runners Emily Pierce, 27, of Arizona and Greg Anderson, 28, of Queens.
Anna Pullaro, 26, of Astoria, who was tracking their progress via smartphone app, said, "We try to come every year. We love the excitement."
Margaret Morley, 28, of Williston Park held a 3-foot cutout of her boyfriend's face, and that of his dog Duke, as she cheered him in Long Island City.
Watching Joe Zolezzi, 30, of East Williston train for the event -- his first marathon -- was inspiring, Morley said.
"I barely saw him," she said. "You have to dedicate four or five hours a day to it. And the Mets were playing, which made it even more stressful."
Whether a pro, seasoned runner or first-time amateur, the thrill of crossing the finish line elicited smiles, picture-posing and calls to loved ones.
Rob Cowen, 46, of Farmingville, running his second New York City Marathon, finished at 3 hours and 22 minutes.
"I just retired," said Cowen, who has two sons, Jason, 10, and Ethan, 12. "I ran because I wanted to show my boys here that if you put your mind to something, anything is possible."
Cowen's family was waiting for him at the finish line. "Now I am hoping that they will take me out for a beer," he said, laughing.