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NY race returns after Hurricane Sandy

GEOFFREYMUTAINEW YORK CITY, November 1 – The New York City Marathon returns to the streets of the Big Apple on Sunday, a year after Hurricane Sandy forced organizers reluctantly to cancel.

The New York Road Runners Club came in for criticism last year as they pressed ahead with plans for the race in the face of widespread devastation.

Nearly 100 people died amid the flooding and property damage wreaked by Sandy, much of the damage located on Staten Island, where runners would have made the traditional start to the 26.2-mile (42.2km) event that winds through all five boroughs of New York.

When race and city officials finally realized on the Friday before the race that they just couldn’t go, New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg called it a “crushing” decision.

Organizers hope the 2013 edition can help the marathon again be seen as a unifying force in the city.

The quality of the elite fields promises every chance of a sparkling race.

The men’s field is headlined by 2011 defending champion Geoffrey Mutai, five-time marathon winner Martin Lel, both of Kenya, and Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich, who is currently third in the World Marathon Majors standings, which offers $1 million to be divided between the top male and female runners in the global series.

In August, Ugandan prison warden Kiprotich added the world marathon gold to his 2012 Olympic title.

But the man to beat could be Ethiopian star Tsegaye Kebede.

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Kebede leads the World Major Marathon standings with 65 points, 15 more than Kiprotich.

The men’s and women’s winners of the series split a $1 million bonus.

Kiprotich said a victory in New York would be special — although it wasn’t on his radar until after his World Championship triumph.

“This is something that has not been in my mind,” he said. “After Moscow, I was told you stand a chance to win, I said, ‘Wow, this is going to be really something special in my mind and in my career.

“And if I win this race, it will be a special race for me,” he said.

Kebede, 26, hunted down Emmanuel Mutai to win the London Marathon in April, the first major marathon to be held after the bombings that killed three near the finish line of the Boston Marathon earlier in the same month.

The Boston bombings changed the landscape for big-city marathon organizers, and enhanced security measures will be in place in New York as they were in London and in Chicago on October 13.

Increased bag checks and an increased police presence are among the new measures, although organizers said they didn’t want to create “a police state”.

“In general, there’s more security,” US runner Shalane Flanagan said. “There’s a heightened awareness.

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“But so be it,” she added. “I don’t think it affects things in a negative way. I think it just makes people on their toes and appreciate when things run smoothly.”

The women’s race looks to be shaping up as a battle among reigning world champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya — winner in New York in 2010 — 2011 winner Firehiwot Dado and 2013 London Marathon winner Priscah Jeptoo — the 2012 Olympic silver medallist from Kenya.

Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo leads the women’s standings in the World Major Marathon series after victories in Boston and Chicago.

She isn’t running in New York, and both Priscah Jeptoo and Kiplagat have a chance to claim at least a share of the $500,000 series bonus.

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