Haile Gebrselassie retired. Countryman Gebre Gebremariam won in his debut.
NEW YORK – The 16th mile of Sunday’s New York City Marathon was the last step of world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie’s storied career.But the finish line signaled a new Ethiopian star as Gebre Gebremariam won the men’s title in his marathon debut.
And it was next step in Chilean miner Edison Pena’s improbable rescue.
In the women’s race, Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat was another surprise winner, while Shalane Flanagan, making a marathon debut of her own, became the first American woman in two decades to finish second.
The 37-year-old Gebrselassie announced his retirement after dropping out of the race at the 16-mile mark with a right knee injury.
“Let me stop and do other work after this,” Gebrselassie said at a brief news conference.
Gebrselassie set the marathon mark of 2 hours, 3 minutes, 59 seconds in Berlin in 2008. He won Olympic gold twice in the 10,000 meters.
In an interview with the Associated Press late last month, Gebrselassie insisted he wanted to compete through at least the 2012 London Games, but now has reconsidered.
“I don’t want to complain anymore after this, which means it’s better to stop here,” he said.
Running with the large lead pack, Gebrselassie pulled up grimacing on the downhill of the Queensboro Bridge. Gebremariam was near him and encouraged him to keep going.
“I can’t, Gebre. You have to move,” Gebrselassie urged the younger runner.
“Haile is special. Haile is king. . . . I’m so disappointed when I hear this one,” Gebremariam said after the race.
The 26-year-old Gebremariam became the first man to win New York in his marathon debut since Rod Dixon in 1983. The 2009 cross-country world champion pulled away from Emmanuel Mutai of Kenya in the 24th mile to win in 2:08:14.
“Even I told my wife, ‘I can finish this race, but I can’t win,’ ” Gebremariam said. “When I saw in 19 or 17 miles, you know, ‘I can win,’ I saw the pace and listen to my body, too, so I can win.”
His wife, Werknesh Kidane, also an elite runner, planned to make her marathon debut in New York. But she had to pull out because of injury and watched the race back in Ethiopia with their two young sons.
Kenyan Moses Kigen Kipkosgei was third. Defending champion Meb Keflezighi of the United States was sixth.
Pena needed bags of ice for his swollen knees as he ran and walked the 26.2-mile course in 5:40:51, completing his goal of completing the course through the city’s five boroughs in six hours.
The 34-year-old was among the 33 miners rescued last month after spending 69 days entombed 2,300 feet underground by a cave-in. An avid runner, he cut his steel-toed boots down to ankle level so he could train daily along the muddy 1,000-yard corridor where the men were trapped.
The 31-year-old Kiplagat won her first major marathon title in 2:28:20.
Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in the 10,000 meters, was 20 seconds back. Kim Jones in 1990 was the last American woman to finish in the top two.
Former Olympian and Germantown Academy Aquatic Club swimmer Maddy Crippen ran in memory of her brother Fran, who died in a swimming event in the United Arab Emirates last month. She finished in 4:06:19.
In the wheelchair division, David Weir of Britain finished at 1:37:29, narrowly holding off Masazumi Soejima of Japan (1:37:31) in an uphill battle in Central Park.
In the women’s wheelchair division, Tatyana McFadden won in 2:02:22.