NEW YORK — When the New York City Marathon gets under way this morning for 26.2 miles through the city's five boroughs, it will boast a field including three former men's champions and one former women's champion--but not the woman who has won the marathon almost every year for nearly a decade.
Norwegian Grete Waitz, the winner here every year but one since 1978, will sit out this year's race, recovering from a stress fracture. Instead, New Zealander Allison Roe, who won in 1981 when Waitz dropped out with shin splints, will compete again this year.
The favorite, however, is Britain's Priscilla Welch, 42, who holds the world record for women over 40: 2 hours 26 minutes 51 seconds.
In the men's division, defending champion Gianni Poli of Italy has returned, hoping for his second consecutive win. He won the race last year in 2:11:06, beating Australian Rob de Castella by 37 seconds.
Poli's countryman, Orlando Pizzolato, who won the race in 1984 and 1985, and finished third last year, has also returned. The field also includes Britain's Hugh Jones, who will celebrate his 32nd birthday today; Scotsmen John Graham, who was third here in 1980 and fifth in 1983, and Alister Hutton, who was Britain's 1984 half marathon champion and has run 2:09:16 for second in the 1985 London race; Moroccan Nechchadiel Mostafa; Kenyans Ibrahim Hussein, a two-time winner of the Honolulu Marathon and fourth in New York last year, and Geoffrey Koech, whose best is a 2:12:13 for third in the 1985 Sacramento Marathon, and Mexican Rodolfo Gomez, who lost by four seconds in a cloud of dust to Alberto Salazar in the 1982 New York race.
The leading Americans include four-time winner Bill Rodgers, who ran New York for the first time in 1974, when the race had only 527 competitors and was run entirely in Central Park; 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter, running in the masters division the day after his 40th birthday; Greg Meyer, who won the 1983 Boston Marathon, but has been struggling with injuries ever since; Long Islander Pat Peterson; Olympians Peter Pfitzinger and John Tuttle; and New York lawyer Dan Schlesinger.