A Day of CelebrationMore than 4,000 women of all shapes, sizes, colors and ages gathered in New York City’s Central Park at the 2006 MORE Marathon on Sunday, March 26. The third annual event drew female runners together with one goal: to celebrate the grace, beauty and strength of 40+ women. "We’re here to prove that the old notions of what it means to age are old hat," said Peggy Northrop, MORE magazine Editor-in-Chief. "Women today are more accomplished, more fit, more energetic, and more than they ever have been before."A Day of CelebrationThe MORE Marathon is the only event of its kind. There are actually two races – a full-and a half-marathon. A woman must be age 40 or older to register for the 26.2 mile marathon. The half-marathon is run in pairs, with the stipulation that one of the runners is over age 40. Women can register as pairs or be matched with a partner.The gray and chilly spring morning provided perfect conditions for the runners. As the first half-marathoners crossed the finish line, the sun came through the clouds, warming the shivering spectators. In addition to a spirited crowd of moms, sisters, daughters and girlfriends, plenty of men — many clutching flowers in one hand and small children in the other — cheered the women. Steve Schirripa, who plays Bobby Bacala on HBO’s hit "The Sopranos" stopped by to say hello and give his encouragement. "There is nothing easy about life and there is nothing easy about running a marathon or half-marathon in Central Park. But there’s nobody better up to the challenge than experienced 40-year-olds, 50-year-olds, and 60-year-olds," said Mary Wittenberg, President and CEO of New York Road Runners, at the awards ceremony."Look at you! You’re fabulous!" were the encouraging pre-race words of Cheryl Ladd. Ladd, best known as one of "Charlie’s Angels" and currently starring in the NBC’s "Las Vegas," is an advocate for women’s health. She is a spokesperson for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals’ "Talking to Your Doctor" campaign. Ladd said that her wish for all the marathoners is to "stay healthy for many, many years to come and many, many marathons to come." Kathrine Switzer and Grete Waitz were spokeswomen for this year’s event. Switzer was the first women to run the Boston Marathon, and is also a NYC Marathon champion. Waitz is a nine-time champion of the NYC Marathon and an Olympic silver medalist. Switzer spent most of the race congratulating the runners as they crossed the finish line, offering applause, shouts of encouragement, high fives and many enthusiastic hugs. "What MORE is doing is giving them the opportunity to push back their own frontier," she said. "Just as I pushed back the gender barrier 39 years ago, these women are pushing back the age barrier, and it’s very profound." "Here are 4,000 examples of women really captaining their own health ship and really taking it seriously," Ladd added. "Onward, upward, enjoy every second of it. Self-empowerment is what all of this is for women." The Marathon’s SpiritEvery runner brought her own story to the race. Some ran in celebration of birthdays and anniversaries — one woman ran to celebrate her recent divorce. Bess Metcalf, 42, and Amanda Welch, 24, were partners for the half-marathon and are teach together in NYC. They coach a girls’ running team in the Bronx and wanted to give inspiration to their students, some of whom were cheering on the sidelines. Barbara Friedman, 49, joined her niece Pamela Schaffer, 25, on what was her first race ever. "We did it to motivate our families to live a healthy lifestyle," Friedman explained as she went to collect her medal. Countless groups ran for the sheer joy of spending time together. The Medford Milers, of Medford, PA were an especially enthusiastic group, wearing matching pink shirts and ribbons around their ponytails. That camaraderie is what makes the MORE Marathon different from all other races, noted Peggy Northrop. "It really is all about women supporting each other," she said. "What happens when women get to their 40s and 50s is that they want to do something for themselves again, and part of that is being with their girlfriends. Women come with groups of friends from their hometown to celebrate themselves and their lives."Mary Wittenberg agreed. "We stand in absolute awe of you ladies," she said at the awards ceremony. "We are inspired by you. Everybody should walk away feeling like, ‘We did it!’ and have the feelings of self-confidence and satisfaction, that are so well-deserved.""It’s never too late to start, and the more you do, the more you can do," said Switzer. As she watched woman after woman cross the line, she added, "Every single one of these women are reducing their rates of osteoporosis and cancer and heart disease, which is our number-one killer. If you can do this you can do anything, and that’s what MORE is all about." Winners and ResultsFirst to cross the line in the marathon was the defending 2005 champion, Susan Loken. Loken, 42, is a mother of three from Phoenix, AZ and won with a time of 2:50:01. After accepting her awards, she thanked her fellow runners for their support on the course, saying, "These women are inspiring. Everybody’s a winner today." Doreen McCoubrie, 44, finished second with a time of 2:52:31. Coming in third was Stephanie Hodge, 40, at 2:57:33. The first-place winners for the half-marathon were Ann Alyanak, 27 and Debbi Kilpatrick-Morris, 42. Their combined time was 2:36:03. Tatiyana Pozdnyakova, 51, and Victoria Ganushina, 26, came in second with their time of 2:37:17. Rounding out the winners’ circle were Stephanie Bylander, 22, and Patty Murray, 40, with a time of 2:38:38. Pozdnyakova was the first place individual winner, with a time of 1:16:07. The 2006 MORE Marathon was generously sponsored by Nivea, Poise, Glaceau Smartwater, the California Raisin Board, the Mauna Lani Resort, Accutron by Bulova and the New York Sports Club.