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Elite contenders will be out front in pursuit of NYC's major prize

Haile Gebrselassie

Haile Gebrselassie Photo Credit: Getty Images

Amid the celebrities running among the 45,000 participants in Sunday’s New York City Marathon will be Edison Pena.

He’ll be the guy wearing the relieved look, just enjoying the open air after spending 69 days undergound in the Chilean mine disaster.

The 34-year-old triathlete probably won’t be easy to recognize as he makes his way through the throngs, but at least he’ll be there.

Others, however, will be easier to spot, especially these men and women who will run out front, with the elite group.

Men's contenders

Haile Gebrselassie
37, Ethiopia
This marathon world record holder and multiple Olympic and World championship gold medal winner will make his New York debut. Gebrselassie set the record in 2006, with a 2:03.59 clocking in Berlin. Out of his 124 marathon and road race wins, only four have come in the United States.

Meb Keflezighi
35, USA
Keflezighi, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, last year became the first American to win here since Alberto Salazar in 1982. His fifth-place result in Boston this season was caused in part by two falls on winter ice that hindered his training. His only race since was a poor showing in September’s San Jose half-marathon.

Marilson Gomes dos Santos
33, Brazil
He won New York in 2006 and ’08, and came close to a personal best this year while finishing sixth in London with a 2:08.46. Santos holds the South American records in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, and was voted the best male performer at the 2009 South American Championships after setting meet records in both of those events.

Women's contenders

Derartu Tulu
38, Ethiopia
She became the first African woman to ever win a gold medal during the 1992 Olympics, where she won the 10,000 meters. After transitioning to the marathon in 2001, she was a surprise winner in New York last year over world record holder Paula Radcliffe and Lyudmila Petrova. With Radcliffe out of the competition after recently giving birth, Tulu could exploit a wide-open field.

Shalane Flanagan
29, USA
The U.S. record holder in the 3,000 (indoor), 5,000 (outdoor and indoor) and 10,000 meters makes her marathon debut. Flanagan won her first attempt at a half marathon in January, covering the Houston route in a course-record 1:09.45 at the USA Half Marathon Championships.

Christelle Daunay
35, France
The French national record holder leads a strong European contingent as she tries to improve on last year’s third-place finish. She lowered her record to 2:24.22 in Paris this April, and will try to become New York’s first European women’s champ since Latvian Jelena Prokopcuka in 2005 and ’06.

• 41st ING New York City Marathon, Sun., 7 a.m.; highlight show, 2 p.m. NBC

• Defending champions: Meb Keflezighi (men), Derartu Tulu (women)

• Prize money: First place, $130,000 ($200,000 if previous champion); second place, $65,000

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