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Races draw more than 5,000 entries

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Sondjata Olatunji certainly enjoyed competing in the third annual New York 13.1 Marathon in Flushing Meadow Corona Park, Queens. Although he did not capture the event on a delightful Saturday morning, he was satisfied with his performance of 1:40.54, which earned him 264th place in a field of 4,500 starters in front of the United States Tennis Association National Tennis Center’s Arthur Ashe Stadium.

In making his debut in this race, the 40-year-old athlete would have done better as far as his time was concerned if he had trained a little harder for such an event.

“There weren’t too many hills for this race, but enough hills to keep me ‘up,’” Olatunji said after the race. “That’s good.”

This half marathon was sponsored for the initial time by Allstate Life Insurance. Overall, it marked the third such annual event and drew entries mostly from the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut areas. Competitors came from all over the United States as it keeps getting bigger every year.

Sondjata’s family comes from Jamaica, West Indies, where the athlete lived for his first three years.

His father Anton Carver was a runner and soccer player during his young days. He would later move to Canada where he continued his booter sport. Sondjata first started running when he was 28.

Meanwhile, Teklij Deneke broke away from Abraham Nuietich about midway through the 13.1 mile race and captured it in a course record time of 1:05.48.

Originally from Ethiopia, now residing in The Bronx, the 32-year-old Deneke, now competing for the West Side Runners, ran at a 5::01.07 pace for his victory. He put on a surge with six miles left and did not fall behind.

The eventual runner-up said that he stayed with Deneke for the first six miles, but after that point the latter pulled away. Over the years both Ethiopia and Kenya dominated the distance running scene. Nuietich resides in Mount Vernon and competes for the Westchester Runners.

The latter had taken a brief break from the running sport for some three years and is now trying to make a comeback.

The 5K or 3.1 mile event that preceded the featured 13.1 test was sponsored by Karhu. Both races started in the street and finished within the park itself.

“This New York event has experienced tremendous growth, and we’re excited to bring it back to Flushing Meadow Corona Park for the third straight year,” said event spokesman Greg Laird.

This race is the beginning of the 2012 road racing sport with almost every week there is another road race somewhere.

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