By Sonja Sharp, Paul Lomax and Tom Liddy
CENTRAL PARK — Manhattan was off to the races Sunday as throngs of running enthusiasts packed the streets to watch nearly 50,000 endurance athletes compete in the New York City Marathon.
Crisp air with temperatures in the 40s and plenty of sunshine greeted the 47,000 runners for the 26.2-mile race, which started at the Verrazano Bridge and wound its way through the five boroughs to the finish line in Central Park.
Along the way there were record-breaking times, a smattering of celebrities such as former New York Rangers legend Mark Messier, legions of devoted fans and live music to cheer on the competitors.
"This is our first performance at the New York Marathon and it's awesome!" said Heather Nolan, 27, the lead singer of Waiting for Bobby, which sang "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summers at 73rd Street and First Avenue as the runners passed by.
The course snaked through Brooklyn and Queens, then into Manhattan over the 59th Street Bridge before heading into the Bronx and then back down into Manhattan again.
"We're here to cheer on my husband's brother who flew over from London to run the NYC marathon for the second time!" said Kyra Grann, 40, of New York, who was with her son Zachary, 7 and daughter Ella, 4, on First Avenue. "We're so proud of him!"
In Harlem, Rebecca Fishman, 35 and her mom Barbara Fishman, 70, both of New York, gathered on Fifth Avenue and 115th Street to cheer on Rebecca's best friend Clare Maloney.
"[She] is running in memory of her late mother who passed away two years ago," she said. "And she'll qualify for the Boston Marathon if she finishes under 3:40. Even though she fell she's on track to beat that time!"
Firefighter Patrick Donaghy, 33, of Engine 58/Ladder 26, said: "I'm here to root for everyone running today. It's a great day. The weather is just fine for running!"
Crossing the finish line first for the women was Ethiopian Firehiwot Dado with a time of 2:23:15, according to race organizers.
Finishing second, just four seconds later, was New Yorker Buzunesh Deba, with a time of 2:23:19.
For the men, the winner was Geoffrey Mutai, with a time and course record of 2:05:06. Finishing second and also breaking the course record was Emmanuel Mutai, with a time of 2:06:28.
"I feel great. I'm glad it's finished," said Greg Cass, 27, of the Upper West Side, who finished in 42nd place with a time of 2:30:44.
This is his fifth marathon and his third in New York.
"Living in New York, this was always the big event," Cass said. "If you're a runner, you want to run it."
Ezkyas Sisay, 23, of Flagstaff, Ariz., finished his first New York City Marathon in 9th place less than two weeks after his father died of liver cancer in Ethiopia. He said he didn't train for the last eight days and never expected to run so fast.
"The last two miles were the toughest," he said. "I made a good time. I'm not expecting to run this fast. Next year, I will win it."
Shelly Woods, 25, of Blackpool, England, took second place in the wheelchair race with a time of 1:52.
"It's a very tough course — if you have any weakness in your form, it'll show on this course," she said.
"My arms were so numb by the end. Your heart rate is up straight away. There's no other race like it. I do London, Berlin, but I love racing in New York."
Several city officials also ran in the race including Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who finished in 4:23:51, and Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, a longtime marathoner who finished in 3:25:43.
The grueling course took its toll on at least one runner.
Just before 12:30 p.m., the fire department got a call for an unresponsive man at Fifth Avenue and 117th Street in Harlem.
According to witness Rieke Druemmer, 19, of Hamburg, Germany, the runner fell to the ground and hit his head after someone hit him on the shoulder.
"Someone hit him on the shoulder and he fell down and hit his head really hard," she said. "Everyone just stared. Then the police and paramedics arrived and started to resuscitate him."
Druemmer said that when the man was put into the ambulance, he appeared to be "OK."
The FDNY had no further information because the runner was taken to the hospital by private ambulance. Race organizers could not immediately be reached for comment.