Sports 101

On Sunday, more than 30,000 runners will lace up their running shoes to begin their 26.2 mile trek through the five boroughs in the 30th annual New York City Marathon. Two-time winner Tom Fleming says, "I think the New York City Marathon is the most difficult of the three or four big marathons in the US because of ... the unpredictable terrain of the New York City streets. When you finally get back to Manhattan, it's slightly uphill on Fifth Avenue into [Central] Park at 23 miles ... and then there is an uphill finish line." The uphill battle begins at 10:50 a.m.

Q: Who are the leaders of the pack?

A: For the men, John Kagwe of Kenya. He won in an exciting three-way finish in last year's race over countryman Joseph Chebet and Tanzanian Zebedayo Bayo. His three-second margin of victory was the second closest in the history of the race. Kagwe will once again face Chebet, who won his first North American marathon this year in Boston in April.

The women's race will be just as competitive. Franca Fiacconi of Italy will return to defend her women's title, and Adriana Fernandez of Mexico (second to Fiacconi last year) will get another shot at a win.

Q: Are more people running marathons?

A: Yes. The number has increased nationwide by almost 70 percent, according to the USA Track & Field Road Running Information Center in Santa Barbara, Calif. In 1989, there were 250,000 runners; that number jumped to 419,000 in 1998. About 40 percent of the runners in the New York City Marathon will be first-time marathoners.

Q: What's new about the marathon this year?

A: More participants are expected to walk all or part of the course. To accommodate the slow-footed, the course will be open until 6:30 p.m. - about eight hours after the race begins. The marathon organizers also opened a separate division for those who plan to walk the course.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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