NEW YORK — The 16th mile of the New York City Marathon was the last step of Haile Gebrselassie's storied career.
The finish line was the next step in Chilean miner Edison Pena's improbable rescue.
Gebrselassie, the marathon world-record holder, announced his retirement after dropping out of the race on a day that signaled the rise of a new Ethiopian star. Countryman Gebre Gebremariam won the men's title in his marathon debut.
Kenya's Edna Kiplagat was another surprise winner, while Shalane Flanagan, making a marathon debut of her own, became the first American woman in two decades to finish second.
Pena, who jogged in the tunnels while trapped underground, ran and walked on a bad knee to complete the 26.2 miles in less than 6 hours.
Gebrselassie pulled out of the race with a right knee injury on the Queensboro Bridge. Gebremariam was near him in the large lead pack and encouraged him to keep going.
"I can't, Gebre. You have to move," Gebrselassie urged the younger runner. "You have to reach them."
The 26-year-old Gebremariam became the first man to win New York in his marathon debut since Rod Dixon in 1983. The 2009 cross-country world champion pulled away from Kenya's Emmanuel Mutai in the 24th mile to win in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 14 seconds.
"Even I told my wife, 'I can finish this race, but I can't win,'" Gebremariam said. "When I saw in 19 or 17 miles, you know, I can win. I saw the pace and listen to my body too, so I can win."
His wife, Werknesh Kidane, is an elite distance runner herself, who also planned to make her marathon debut in New York. But she had to pull out because of injury and watched the race back in Ethiopia with their two young sons.
"So maybe next year she'll come and she'll win too," Gebremariam said with a smile.
Another Kenyan, Moses Kigen Kipkosgei, was third. Defending champion Meb Keflezighi of the United States finished sixth.
The 31-year-old Kiplagat won her first major marathon title in 2:28:20.
"When we were in the 24th mile, I tried to put more effort," she said. "I found myself pulling away from the field, so I was excited when I reached 25 miles because that's when I found I was ahead of the other ladies.
"When I crossed the finish line, I was so happy."
Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in the 10,000 meters, was 20 seconds back. Kim Jones in 1990 was the last American woman to finish in the top two.
"I'm very grateful for second, first of all. But as soon as I finished I thought about what I could have done to have won it," Flanagan said. "So I think that's why the marathon is so addicting, because you always want more to do it again."
Kenya's Mary Keitany, also making her marathon debut, was third.
More than 45,000 runners started the 41st edition of the race through the city's five boroughs.