The inspiring and must-see moments of the 2021 NYC Marathon

After a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the New York City Marathon returned on Sunday in all its glory -- complete with packed crowds across the five boroughs, crisp but sunny autumn weather, celebrity participants and, of course, the best runners in the world doing what they do best.

There was a smaller field because of virus restrictions, but those in the 50th running of the race more than made up for it.

Peres Jepchirchir and Albert Korir, both of Kenya, won the women's and men's races. Jepchirchir became the first woman to win a major marathon in the fall after winning Olympic gold and Korir, who literally jumped for joy as he crossed the finish line, earned his first major title two years after finishing as the runner-up in New York.

It wasn't just the champions who won over the crowd (and the internet) on Sunday. Here are some other runners and moments from Sunday's action you need to see.

Family Business

When Viola Cheptoo decided she was going to run her first-ever marathon in New York, she sent a group message to her family via WhatsApp to let them know. Her older brother Bernard Lagat, a former world champion in the 1500 and 5000 meters and a two-time Olympic medalist, was particularly excited by the news.

"My brother was like, 'Oh my gosh! Are you serious because I'll be commentating [for ESPN] there!'" Cheptoo told Runner's World last month.

Cheptoo had typically done shorter distances, including competing in the 1500 meters for Kenya in the 2016 Olympics, and Legat himself had made a similar transition during his legendary career. But on Sunday, Cheptoo did something her sibling never did by making the podium in a major marathon.

Cheptoo finished the race in second place and as she crossed the finish line, her proud brother looked on from the ESPN broadcast booth. Lucky for us, his reaction was filmed and it's guaranteed to be the sweetest thing you'll see all day.

Shalane Flanagan makes history

When retired professional runner Shalane Flanagan heard three of the major marathons were being moved to the fall because of the pandemic and all six major marathons would be staged in a six-week stretch, she thought someone should attempt to run all of them.

It didn't take her long to realize that someone should be her.

Despite retiring in 2019, Flanagan simply couldn't pass up the unique opportunity. So she made time to train, in between all of her other commitments as a coach and mom, and began her globe-trotting journey in September. Setting a goal of sub-three hours for each race, 40-year-old Flanagan had more than smashed that mark in the five races leading into New York -- including when she ran Chicago and Boston on back-to-back days last month.

But somehow she saved the best for last. The 2017 New York champion looked more than at home on the course and finished in 2:33:32, her best time of the stretch and 12th-fastest time among all women on the day. Did we mention this is her SIXTH MARATHON IN 42 DAYS?

If you're thinking Flanagan will now be going to sit on a beach or just sleep for the next six weeks, she told ESPN in an interview last month she would be taking a short break from running but then would be "dream[ing] up another hard challenge."


Larry Legend

Larry Trachtenberg was one of 127 participants in the inaugural New York City Marathon in 1970. According to the New York Times, he was a high school senior and cross-country runner who thought it would be a fun challenge despite having never run the distance.

He finished in 32nd place with a time of 3:22:04 and rewarded himself by drinking six cans of free soda at the end of the race. He still has the plaque from the event.

On Sunday, he crossed the finish line again in New York. This time as a 67-year-old and the only participant from the first race in the 50th anniversary event. He hadn't run a marathon since 1978, and had doubts he would be able to finish, but recorded a time of just over five hours, with an 11:27 mile pace.

Here's to hoping someone was waiting for Trachtenberg with a can, or six, of soda at the finish line. He more than earned it.

Molly Marathon

In Molly Seidel's first-ever marathon, she finished in second place and made the U.S. Olympic team for Tokyo.

In her third career marathon -- at the Olympic Games -- she earned the bronze medal.

And on Sunday, in just her fourth race at the distance, she finished in fourth place and ran the fastest time ever by an American woman at the event at 2:24:42. While clearly we should expect the unexpected by the 27-year-old Seidel by now, what makes this even more improbable is that she was running the race with two broken ribs. She revealed the injury to the media after the race and didn't specify what happened, but said it occurred about a month ago.

Seidel said she was considering withdrawing from the race just two weeks ago because of the pain from the injury. But, of course, she didn't and she set the national record. Seidel said she didn't even realize she was on pace to do so until the race was over.

"I actually didn't know until I crossed the line, that that was what had happened," Seidel said. "I'm just so incredibly honored. There are so many good women who have run on this course. I think it's really a testament to the women who were in this race, that I was able to just kind of hang onto that group."

The congratulatory messages poured in on social media for Seidel, including from Kara Goucher, who previously owned the course record.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

After winning the gold medal in the marathon at the Paralympics over the summer in Tokyo, wheelchair racer Madison de Rozario didn't think she would have a chance to follow up on her success this year because of strict pandemic-related travel restrictions in her native Australia. She was resigned to the fact that she wouldn't be able to compete in any of the major marathons in 2021.

That is, until Australia made the late decision to loosen their border restrictions on Nov. 1.

The 27-year-old de Rozario wasted no time in taking advantage of the opportunity and hastily prepared for the last marathon of the year. And in the end, the surprise 11,000-mile trip was more than worthwhile.

Just one second separated de Rozario from the silver medalist in Tokyo, but on Sunday, she crossed the finish line more than two minutes ahead of second-place finisher Tatyana McFadden and became the second Australian women to win a title at the storied race.

Once a teammate, always a teammate

Former U.S. women's national soccer team stars Lauren Holiday, Abby Wambach and Leslie Osborne ran the race together and raised money for JLH Fund, an organization run by Holiday and her husband (Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday) that supports Black-led nonprofits and businesses across the country.

With their impressive athletic backgrounds and a worthy cause to run for, the trio unsurprisingly crushed it on Sunday. Holiday recorded the fastest time at 3:40:30, but Osborne (3:41:33) and Wambach (3:44:25) were right behind her crossing the finish line.

Despite their commendable achievement for running, you know, 26.2 miles, it was Wambach's wife Glennon Doyle, the best-selling author and podcaster, who might have been the most relatable throughout the race as she cheered on from the sidelines and tweeted about the experience.

And in "you absolutely love to see it" news, it was Flanagan who awarded Wambach with her completion medal at the finish line.

As for the other celebrity runners in the race, there were some pretty respectable times on Sunday. "Catfish" host Nev Schulman notched a 3:22:43, Marcus Mumford from Mumford & Sons came in at 3:53:22 and supermodel Christy Turlington crossed the line at 4:01:20.

Cheers to the fans

There were countless examples of athleticism, perseverance and determination on display on Sunday, and then there was this guy casually living his best life near the three-mile marker. There's truly room for everyone at the New York City Marathon.