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Meb, Desi impressive in New York

It was bold, it was brave, it was unquestionably gusty, and if there is victory to be found in not finishing first, then Meb Keflezighi discovered it while finishing fourth in the New York City Marathon in 2:13:18.

The 39-year-old American entered the race as the defending Boston Marathon champion but was considered no more than an outside bet for the NYC title after an interrupted preparation.

Nonetheless, he attacked the race from the outset with the mindset of a champion, throwing himself toward the front in the opening miles and sticking with the lead pack until he eventually began to crack near 20 miles.

With strong headwinds and crosswinds hammering the runners over the first half of the race, the front of the field was a place few athletes wanted to be, but Keflezighi was a rare exception.

He took the lead in the early miles, whittled the lead pack to 14 athletes by the time they reached the 6-mile mark and from there rarely strayed outside the first two.

That lasted until they reached 20 miles and eventual winner Wilson Kipsang made the first major move. It quickly became evident that Keflezighi wasn't going to be able to reproduce the magic of that unforgettable April day in Boston.

Given what he has achieved and the stage he is at in his career, Keflezighi had every reason to cruise in, but his mental fortitude is one of the main reasons he has achieved so much.

He dropped to eighth but soon dug in and clawed more energy from his already tired legs. In the final three miles, Keflezighi began to forge his way back into the race. He passed runners who had left him in their wake earlier but were now paying the price for their exertion.

With two miles to run, Keflezighi overtook Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich to take fifth. Inside the final mile with the Central Park crowd roaring him home through a tunnel of noise, Keflezighi passed defending champion Geoffrey Mutai to finish fourth.

Over the final few hundred meters, Keflezighi had enough time and space to wave several times to the appreciative crowd, offering back a word of thanks for their unconditional support.

In April, he had given American running one of its most memorable moments. He couldn't realistically match that in New York, but fourth place was every bit as good as could have been expected.

Desiree Linden, the petite American who trains in Rochester Hills, Michigan, and is best known for her close second-place finish at the 2011 Boston Marathon, was the fastest U.S. woman in New York. Linden, 31, came in fifth in 2:28:11, three minutes behind winner Mary Keitany of Kenya, who finished in 2:25:07.

On a morning when winds gusted faster than 40 mph at times, the 5-foot-3 Linden blended in among a pack of 10 taller competitors for the first half of the race. The halfway split was 1:13:41, which predicted a 2:27 finish.

But as the race progressed up First Avenue, Linden could not keep pace with aggressive 18th and 19th miles put down by a pack of six women, which included Keitany, fellow Kenyan Jemima Sumgong and Ethiopian Firehiwot Dado.

By Mile 20, Linden was 25 seconds back and running alone in seventh place. She passed two runners in the closing miles, but her finishing time was well off her personal best of 2:22:38.

Annie Bersagel, 31, who lives in Oslo, Norway, and won the 2013 U.S. marathon championships, was second among Americans. She finished 10th overall in 2:33:02. Deena Kastor, 41, who was hoping to set a U.S. masters marathon record, was 11th just behind Bersagel, in 2:33:18.

Kara Goucher, born in Queens and a fan favorite in her first marathon after a stress fracture sidelined her for several months, was 14th in 2:37:03.