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Kenya's Albert Korir and Peres Jepchirchir have won the New York City Marathon

Women's division winner Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya crosses the finish line during the 2021 TCS New York City Marathon in New York on November 7, 2021.
Women's division winner Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya crosses the finish line during the 2021 TCS New York City Marathon in New York on November 7, 2021.

Updated November 7, 2021 at 2:07 PM ET

The iconic New York City Marathon got underway in person on Sunday for the first time since it was cancelled last year and turned into a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year's race saw a raft of new health and safety measures to prevent the massive competition from turning into a superspreader event.

Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya won the women's division, blazing past the pack with an unofficial time of 2 hours, 22 minutes, 39 seconds. The 28-year-old triumphed in the race just three months after winning the gold medal in the women's marathon at the Tokyo Olympics.

Albert Korir, also of Kenya, took home the top prize in the men's division, completing the marathon in 2 hours, 8 minutes, and 22 seconds. Korir nabbed second place in 2019.

Earlier in the day were the Professional Wheelchair Division races, which saw Swiss competitor Marcel Hug become the men's champion, finishing with an unofficial time of 1 hour, 31 minutes and 24 seconds. Madison de Rozario, of Australia, won the top prize in the women's field, with a time of 1 hour, 51 minutes and 1 second.

This year's race is the 50th New York City Marathon. The first one, held in 1970, cost just $1 to enter and welcomed 127 registered runners, just 55 of whom crossed the finish line.

Runners cross the Queens section of the New York City Marathon on Sunday.
Kena Betancur / AFP via Getty Images
Runners cross the Queens section of the New York City Marathon on Sunday.

Over five decades, the marathon grew to become the world's largest, organizers say, with 53,640 finishers in 2019.

For this year's race, the number of runners dropped to more than 30,000, many of whom were running after being unable to participate last year, and the specter of the pandemic still hung over the race in the form of increased public health requirements.

Men's division winner Albert Korir of Kenya crosses the finish line during the 2021 New York City Marathon.
Timothy Clary / AFP via Getty Images
Men's division winner Albert Korir of Kenya crosses the finish line during the 2021 New York City Marathon.

Runners had to show proof of at least one round of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative coronavirus test from the previous 48 hours. Organizers increased the number of starting waves to prevent crowding. And fuel and hydration belts were permitted this year, while marathon staff and volunteers were instructed to hand finishers their medals and ponchos rather than placing them around runners' necks.

Still, fans and onlookers took to the streets along the 26.2-mile route through all five of New York City's boroughs to cheer on the racers for the first time in two years.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.