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Names and numbers help make up NYC Marathon's fun spectacle

Meb Keflezighi of the US celebrates as he

Meb Keflezighi of the US celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the New York City Marathon November 1, 2009 in New York. Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, earned his first major marathon with a time of 2hr 09min 15sec. The 34-year-old athlete was born in Eritrea, and became a US citizen in 1998. Credit: Getty Images / DON EMMERT

There will be roughly 50,000 souls attempting Sunday's New York City Marathon, a decidedly strenuous physical challenge of 26 miles, 385 yards that long ago was turned into a fun spectacle of urban street theater.

Among the runners will be Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Mary Keitany, the male and female defending champions in the professional division . . .

And a handful of "celebrities," including singer/songwriter Alicia Keys, former Giants running back Tiki Barber, Metropolitan Opera soprano Susanna Phillips and restaurateur Joe Bastianich . . .

And Dave Berni, the assistant clubhouse manager of the Mets . . .

And Karan Singh and Arjun Pradhan, winner and runner-up of the 2015 Mumbai Marathon on a mission to support distance running in India . . .

And 40-year-old American pro Meb Keflezighi, who won New York in 2009 and Boston last year and just keeps on going.

Along the way, they and their fellow travelers will have access to 62,370 gallons of bottled water and will be able to check their pace through Big Town's five boroughs on 106 official racecourse clocks.

They will hear more than 130 bands supplying every imaginable music genre -- rock, folk, rap, blues, punk, gospel, country and more. Musicians will include the so-called "original Marathon band" from Bishop Loughlin High School, which has belted out the "Rocky" theme near the Brooklyn Academy of Music for 35 years.

Seventeen Olympians will lead the field of mostly everyday folks, citizens including 30-year-old Christie Crowl of Walnut Creek, California, inspired by her mother, an elementary school physical education teacher who preached fitness for children . . .

And 64-year-old retired teacher Kathy Hobart, who was watching last year's marathoners motor down Fifth Avenue when she was made aware of a 91-year-old woman running her 20th marathon -- an "if she can do it, I can do it" moment . . .

And Merideth Gilmore, a public-relations professional whose clients include football's Colin Kaepernick and tennis' Maria Sharapova, and has just recovered from a massive stroke in 2014 . . .

And 26-year-old wheelchair superstar Tatyana McFadden of Clarksville, Maryland, who has a streak of seven consecutive major-marathon victories -- London, Boston, Chicago and New York in 2014 and London, Boston and Chicago this year.

When these, and the thousands of others in the field, are about to hit the proverbial wall near Mile 22 in Harlem, there will be 53-year-old Mary Wittenberg among the volunteers handing out water and energy drinks.

Wittenberg, for the previous 17 years, was the marathon's tireless race director, involved in every detail of the event, yet she never had watched any of the race's progress through Harlem.

"We wouldn't let her go," said Peter Ciaccia, who worked as Wittenberg's assistant for 14 years and is now the new race director. "We were afraid we wouldn't be able to get her back in time to the finish line" in Central Park.

At the finish line, a $100,000 prize awaits the male and female winner, plus time bonuses starting at $10,000 for a man under 2:10 and a woman under 2:27. (The course records are 2:05:06 and 2:22:31.) For everybody else, there will be a medal, one of those tinfoil heat sheets and a "runner recovery bag" that includes a bottle of water, energy bar, energy drink, apple and pretzels. And the sense that each of them is a winner.


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