1. The Great American Hope
The 37-year-old Eritrea-born, California-bred Meb Keflezighi won in New York in 2009 and secured a fourth-place finish in the London Olympics.
2. The Two-Time Champion
In 2006, Brazilian Marilson Gomes Dos Santos, 35, became the first South American to win in New York. He repeated the feat in 2008 and is gunning for a third victory this year.
3. The Gilded Olympian:
Ethiopian front-runner Tiki Gelana, 25, nabbed gold this summer in London, setting a new women’s Olympic marathon record of 2:23:07.
4. The Pretty Boy
You may recognize model Garrett Neff, 28, from his various turns in Calvin Klein, H&M, and Moncler campaigns. While most runners spend months training for the 26.2-mile marathon, this chiseled-ab latecomer signed up just a few weeks ago. “I’m not trying to win the race—I just want to beat four hours,” says Neff. “I’m not built to run, but I’m stubborn.”
5. The Catwalker
Supermodel Christy Turlington Burns, 43, first ran New York in 2011 to raise money and awareness for Every Mother Counts, her advocacy campaign to combat maternal mortality. She clocked in at 4:20:46, and now she’s back for more.
6. The Restaurateur
MasterChef TV judge and Mario Batali business partner Joe Bastianich, 44, competed in last year’s Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. This is his fifth New York marathon; his time to beat is 3:42:36.
7. Darth Vader
Well, sort of. Hideki “Kino” Kinoshita, 33, of Leonia, New Jersey, will be donning a helmet, cape, and light-saber at Sunday’s race. The marathon regular—he’s run 116 of them since 2008—has also raced in Santa Claus, Thor, Viking, and Old Spice Guy costumes. “It’s entertaining for spectators,” says Kinoshita. “When they get pumped, so do I.”
8. The Blind Grandfather
Visually impaired since birth, Charlie Plaskon, 69, of Moriches, New York, didn’t start running until retirement. The granddad of four has since completed eight Ironmans and more than 30 marathons, all while tethered to seeing guides. “I remember every guide I’ve had,” says Plaskon. “The camaraderie developed with people who loan me their eyes is more meaningful than any time or distance.”
9. The Littlest Runner
At four feet four, 46-year-old John Young is believed to be the shortest entrant in Sunday’s race. The Salem, Massachusetts, resident, who was born with achondroplasia (a bone-growth disorder that causes dwarfism), has completed two half-Ironmans and three half-marathons, but this will be his first full marathon. “Most doctors recommend that people with achondroplasia not run because of our narrowed spinal columns,” says Young. “I just have to work harder: I need to take two or three steps to go the same distance that an able-bodied person goes in one.”
10. The One-Legged Wonder Woman
Native New Yorker and Amazing Race competitor Sarah Reinertsen, 37, was the first female leg amputee to complete the Ironman World Championship triathlon. Running with a prosthetic left leg for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, she’s looking forward to the ING race—her third one to date—because “you see a tapestry of humanity when you run through the five boroughs. Accents change, even types of cheers change.”
The ING New York City Marathon starts at 8:30 a.m. on November 4 in Staten Island. For course information, including the locations of designated cheering zones throughout the five boroughs, visit nycmarathon.org.