There may have been 38,000 runners who competed in Sunday's New York City Marathon, but for the winners in the women's race, there were only two. Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain and Gete Wami of Ethiopia could have passed for jogging partners out on a run if it hadn't been for their speed and crowds on the sidelines.
The two longtime competitors ran almost side by side throughout the marathon with Wami on Radcliffe's heels until the very last mile, when Radcliffe finally managed to pull ahead, finishing at 2 hours, 9 minutes, 4 seconds.
Radcliffe looked overjoyed at the finish. Wrapped in the British flag, she paraded before fans and photographers, stopping along the way to pick up her baby daughter, Isla, and hold her up for the crowds, who responded with even louder cheers.
Wami crossed the finish line less than 20 seconds later with a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 16 seconds. The physical exertion caught up with her and she was briefly sick, but her husband and coach, Getaneh, helped his wife to recover, and they joined Radcliffe at the finish line for waves and pictures.
"We have a daughter, too!" said Getaneh. He and Wami have a 4-year-old girl named Eva.
Radcliffe, 33, who is a full-time runner, gave birth to Isla this past January. She continued training throughout her pregnancy, while closely monitored by her doctor. Just 12 days after giving birth, she was back on the track, though husband Gary says she had some trouble getting back into training.
Later, she suffered a stress fracture to her sacrum, which forced her to take another break from running, relying instead on swimming to keep in shape. Radcliffe trained a remarkably short 10 weeks for Sunday's marathon, logging an equally remarkable 140 miles a week. .
She said the last couple of miles of Sunday's marathon, with Wami still dogging her, were the toughest. "When she got right beside me, then I really had to dig deep."
But Radcliffe and Wami know each other's strengths well. They have competed against each other since 1992.
In the 1999 world championships in Seville, it was Wami who came in first with Radcliffe a close second.
And Wami won the Berlin marathon just 35 days before the New York City run.
Both moms are looking towards the Beijing Olympics next year.