NEW YORK (AP) — All four winners of the 2017 NYC Marathon return to defend their titles on Sunday.
American Shalane Flanagan and Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor will try to repeat, along with the Swiss pair of Manuela Schar and Marcel Hug in the wheelchair division.
"To be coming back as the defending champion, it's quite an honor and literally a dream come true," said Flanagan, the first U.S. woman to win the NYC Marathon since Miki Gorman in 1977.
Flanagan won in 2 hours, 26 minutes, 53 seconds, beating Mary Keitany of Kenya.
The 37-year-old Flanagan says she's "definitely noticed my age a little bit more" and takes the necessary recovery days. "But there's a great country song I've been kind of chanting to myself. 'I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was.'"
It's definitely difficult to repeat as the NYC Marathon champion.
"It happens, but I think the pressure is hard and the expectations going into training — you're trying to do things better and faster," said American Deena Kastor, who won the 2005 Chicago Marathon and 2006 London Marathon.
Grete Waitz won nine times in New York, including back-to-back runs from 1978-80 and 1982-86 before her final victory in 1988.
Desiree Linden looks to follow up her Boston Marathon title — the first American woman to break the tape since 1985 — with a win on Sunday. She finished fifth here in 2014.
"Putting in more miles per week than selfies taken, it's a nice feeling to be back to the grind and just focusing on running," Linden said. "The training has been really challenging, hopefully it will take me to a new level."
Here are some people to watch and things to look for Sunday:
Third-grade teacher Stephanie Rosenthal will be running in memory of the high school students killed in Parkland, Florida. She's a teacher at a nearby elementary school. The killing spree left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.
Rosenthal said among the killed was "a former student. The football coach's daughter is in the classroom next door to me. To say that our little world was rocked is an understatement."
She was too heartbroken to think about registering for the New York City Marathon. But Rosenthal's daughter, an art therapist in New York, entered her mother's name by the deadline the next day.
"She knew how running could heal my heart," Rosenthal said.
Peter Ciaccia, the NYC Marathon race director since 2015, will retire following the event after 18 years with New York Road Runners. Jim Heim, technical director of the marathon and a senior vice president at NYRR, will take the helm. Ciaccia and his team produce more than 50 other NYRR races during the year.
He's been a fixture at the finish line in Central Park, greeting the champions and the stragglers in what he calls "New York City's largest block party."
"It's a little bittersweet for me," Ciaccia said, "but so great I'll get to share these marathon festivities with this great group of athletes. The American women are having such a great moment in distance running right now, the world is taking notice."
Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya won the London Marathon this spring in 2:18:31 after making her marathon debut last year. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, she earned gold in the 5,000 and silver in the 10,000. Her husband and coach is former professional runner Moses Kiplagat.
Kamworor earned his first major marathon win in New York last year. He barely beat surging countryman Wilson Kipsang. The American men chasing Kamworor include Abdi Abdirahman and Bernard Lagat.
HUDSON MIRACLE REUNION
Pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and air traffic controller Pat Harten are forever linked by the amazing water landing on the Hudson River in New York that saved all 155 passengers and crew after a double-bird strike damaged both engines on Jan. 15, 2009.
Approaching the 10th anniversary of the "Miracle on the Hudson," they'll meet again. Sullenberger will put the finisher's medal around Harten's neck in Central Park.
Harten is training for his first NYC Marathon and fifth overall.
There are 382 official charity partners for the race, and nearly 9,300 charity runners raised $35.5 million last year. The 2,000 NYRR Team for Kids runners raised $6.1 million in 2017. More than 50,000 runners from 125 countries will trek through the five boroughs on Sunday.