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NYC Marathon's millionth finisher to break tape about midpack

Runners jog through Park Slope in Brooklyn while

Runners jog through Park Slope in Brooklyn while competing in the New York City Marathon. (Nov. 6, 2011) Credit: AP

About halfway through Sunday's New York City Marathon, the 25,743rd runner will cross the finish line in Central Park, roughly in the middle of the pack of 50,000-plus starters and a good two hours behind the winner.

But then, every runner who completes the 26-mile, 385-yard race through Big Town's five boroughs is considered a winner. So that 25,743rd person will be feted by race organizers for being the 1,000,000th finisher in the event's 44 runnings. He or she will be granted a shopping spree at the marathon's mini-mall, plus guaranteed entry into the 2015 race.

This answers the question of who's counting and what are they counting in the marathon, an exercise to the nth power: Everything (1,952 portable toilets and 2.3 million paper cups along the course) by everyone (10,000 volunteers, 1 million-plus spectators).

As the staggering numbers continue to grow exponentially, race officials repeatedly have celebrated the marathon's grand dimensions -- from 127 entrants in its 1970 debut (looping around Central Park) to 130,000 who applied to run this year, and a claim of $340 million in economic impact.

It was last year that numbers-crunchers realized the 44,154th person to cross the starting line on Staten Island would represent the race's 1 millionth starter, so the marathon's timing team employed their digital wizardry to pick out that runner.

In the waves of participants, No. 44,154 was a matter of "total happenstance," race director Mary Wittenberg admitted. The person happened to be 30-year-old Julissa Sarabia, a Miami native who moved to Queens, works near Central Park as an event manager and was running her first marathon.

Chris Weiller, lead spokesman for the New York Road Runners Club, quickly received word that Sarabia was in for a bit of minor celebrity but decided not to pass the information to television or other media during the race "because she might drop out," he said.

Sarabia was tracked throughout her 5-hour, 19-minute, 47-second journey, and Weiller was among a handful of race officials waiting as she approached the finish.

He spotted her bib number and, as she crossed the line, "I went up to her and said, 'Excuse me. Can I talk to you a second?' " Weiller said. "And she thought she was in trouble because I was wearing a suit.

"I said, 'No, no; it's OK, it's OK. You're our millionth starter.' And she was like, 'You're [kidding] me.' "

Notes & quotes: The marathon's proximity to Tuesday's elections does not pose a problem for race organizers. "We wouldn't promote it," Wittenberg said, if someone running for office entered the race and requested publicity.

Nor does the end of Daylight Saving Time, with clocks set back an hour on the morning of the race, complicate matters. "It's great," Wittenberg said. "Everybody's early."

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