As Miles Add Up, So Do the Unforgettable Moments

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By nature, a marathon promotes melodrama. Weary minds make bad decisions. Overused muscles malfunction. Logistical challenges create unexpected mishaps. A zoned-in runner misreads the course and stumbles in midstride or falls. The latter happened to Bill Rodgers in the 1980 New York City Marathon when he fell over Dick Beardsley, who had tripped in a pothole, and finished fifth. Rodgers had won New York the four previous years.

A lot of memorable moments have happened over the course of the New York City Marathon’s 42 years. There have been close races, tumbles by top runners, wrong turns, a short course and even a dust cloud that obscured the top men as they neared the finish.

Perceived social injustice prompted a sit-in at the 1972 race. The Amateur Athletic Union, then the governing body for marathoning in the United States, thought that women should not run more than 10 miles. The A.A.U. also thought that women should start at a different place or time from the men in a marathon. In New York in 1972, that was to be 10 minutes before the men.

To protest, the six women who officially started the race sat down on their starting line, with a few other women, for 10 minutes, then started with the men. As a penalty, 10 minutes were added to their times....

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