Mark Messier was looking for a challenge after turning 50.
So he followed in the footsteps of 1994 Stanley Cup champion teammates Mike Richter and Adam Graves by completing the New York City Marathon.
The six-time Stanley Cup champion finished in 4 hours, 14 minutes, 21 seconds Sunday, beating Graves' 2006 time by 13 minutes and falling short of Richter's time of 3:54:34 in 2007.
Messier ran for two charities around the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11: Tomorrow's Children's Fund and Answer the Call, which supports the surviving family members of 9/11 first responders.
"I just got filled up with inspiration," Messier said. "I feel great."
The Hall of Famer didn't use a trainer, running by himself on the roads of Greenwich, Conn.. He trained intensely for seven months, calling it an "incredible form of meditation."
Messier was among 15 celebrities, ranging from sports to film to music and food, participating in ING New York City Marathon's charity program.
Other finishers included model Christy Turlington Burns (Every Mother Counts) in 4:20:47; restaurateur Joe Bastianich (Grana Padano) in 3:47:03; Shonda Schilling, wife of former pitcher Curt Schilling, (Autism Speaks) in 4:58:50, actor Mario Lopez (4:23:30) and former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar (4:19:16).
The campaign aims to raise more than $26.2 million among the 200 charities. A record 47,438 runners started the race through the five boroughs.
RUNNING FOR GRETE: Jack Waitz had a strained calf, hadn't run in the last three weeks and didn't think he could finish the New York City Marathon. But the husband of record nine-time winner Grete Waitz pushed through the five-borough course that meant so much to her.
"I'm pretty sure she's happy I finished and didn't hurt myself," he said after crossing the line in 3 hours, 50 minutes, 41 seconds. "I know if Grete had been around, she would have told me not to run."
The 57-year-old Norwegian star died April 19 of cancer. She and Fred Lebow, the NYC Marathon organizer who died in 1994 of cancer, were the first inductees into the New York Road Runners Hall of Fame on Friday.
"She died in April and for me it's like she's not left me," said Waitz, who ran his seventh NYC Marathon and had five family members with him in New York.
Waitz said he used an "old trick" they'd give runners who were struggling.
"We tell people to run maybe five miles and then walk for one minute of every mile," he said.
PASS for CASH: Two-time softball gold medalist Jennie Finch had her second child in June, then returned to training for her first marathon. She started last in the NYC Marathon pack Sunday for Timex, earning $1 for every runner she passed.
Finch finished in 4 hours, 5 minutes, 26 seconds, and unofficially raised about $30,000 for the New York Road Runners youth programs. She topped her goal of 4:10, heard the encouragement of the crowd throughout the race and compared it to an Olympic experience.
"The energy on the streets is amazing," Finch said. "So many people running with so many different causes."
She beat former New York Giants receiver Amani Toomer, who ran 4:13:26 for Timex last year and overtook more than half the field to raise $25,817.
Finch ran a half marathon while five months pregnant to prepare. She recently published a book "Throw Like a Girl," which teaches young girls to follow their dreams and lead active lives.
OH NO, 26 MILES!: Speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno's sprint races range from 90 seconds to just over two minutes. So it took some adjustment training for a 26.2-mile endurance race.
He cross-trained with NFL players, took up boxing and ran the Chicago Half Marathon in September. Ohno logged 600 miles to get ready, including three 20-mile runs.
On Sunday, the Olympic gold medalist in short-track speedskating finished in 3 hours, 25 minutes, 14 seconds. Since he finished under 4 hours, Subway will donate $26,200 to the Special Olympics.
"I went from short, balistic-type 1 1/2 minute training to something that last 3 hours, 24 minutes longer," said the most decorated Winter Olympian with eight medals. "The last 6.2 miles are gruesome, my body isn't designed for this."
Ohno said he had leg cramping, something he'd never experienced in his athletic career.
"But I wasn't going to stop, no matter what," he said.
Ohno decided to run the marathon at the urging of Subway spokesman Jared Fogle, who ran his first marathon last year after dropping about 200 pounds. Supporters along the course held signs with a picture of Ohno's face.
"This really is the people's race," Ohno said. "I can check this off my bucket list."
The 29-year-old Ohno isn't sure about training for his next challenge _ the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"This actually hurts my short-track training," he said. "But the toughness you can gain from this crazy marathon is applicable."
MEB GETS PR: Former New York City Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi didn't let an upset stomach slow him down too much.
He finished sixth in a personal-best time of 2:09:13, despite stopping to vomit at mile 22 before hitting Central Park.
"Not a pretty sight because you have people on the left, people on the right, screaming," he said. "You kind of like pause. Then all of a sudden when I started running again, they started cheering. So I just kind of dug deep."
In 2009, he became the first American man since 1982 to win the NYC Marathon.
The 36-year-old Keflezighi was the only American to run the NYC Marathon on Sunday ahead of the U.S. Olympic trials _ a mere 69 days away in Houston. At the 2004 Olympics, Keflezighi took silver to become the first American man to medal since 1976.
The top American woman finisher on Sunday was Molly Prinz in 2:31:52.
NEW ORLEANS FLAVOR: Mayor Mitch Landrieu wore his "Forever New Orleans" T-shirt while competing in the New York City Marathon on Sunday.
He participated in his first marathon, which he called "a dream of mine for many years," and finished in 5 hours, 10 minutes, 39 seconds.
Landrieu ran a half-marathon in New Orleans in February, touting it as part of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign to fight childhood obesity.
"The best advice is to follow a rigid schedule and one step at time, you'll get there," the 51-year-old Landrieu said.
New Orleans is still recovering from two hurricanes, an oil spill and the recession.
"The marathon is a metaphor (for the city)," Landrieu said. "We're going to make it, it takes a little time to get through. People have come together and helped each other out."
NYC Marathon director Mary Wittenberg said the race was honored to have the mayor.
"All of us know and support the story of New Orleans coming back strong under the mayor's leadership," Wittenberg said.
GRANDMOTHER MOTIVATOR: Sarah Porter's been getting some extra coaching from an expert.
The 10,000-meter Division II champion from Western Washington brought along her 76-year-old grandmother Maureen Hennessey, a former ultra-marathoner.
"Grandma was 63 when she ran a 24-hour race on the track and ran 90 miles," Porter said. "She inspires me, and I talk to her before every race."
Good idea. Hennessey, a former hypnotherapist, is getting her doctorate in sports psychology from California Southern. She began running at 50 when she "started to get fat." A back injury has curtailed her running, but Hennessey does five days of cardio per week and lifts three days, leg-pressing 140 pounds.
Porter finished in 2 hours, 44 minutes, 25 seconds.
HOST 2016 TRIAL: New York Road Runner President Mary Wittenberg says she'd be happy to host the 2016 Olympic marathon trials. The most likely scenario would be to hold the men's or women's trials on Saturday, a day before the NYC Marathon.
In 2007, the NYRR hosted the men's Olympic marathon trials the day before the main marathon.
"We are big proponents of USA running," Wittenberg said. "This is a pretty good stage."
The men's and women's 2012 Olympic trials, with separate starts, will be held Jan. 14 in Houston. The top three finishers will qualify for the London Games.
Mark Messier was looking for a challenge after turning 50.