By Deepti Hajela

Nov. 3, 2003 | NEW YORK (AP) -- Zoe Koplowitz completed her New York City Marathon mission Monday, reaching the finish on crutches more than 27 hours after the first runner crossed the line.

"I'm overwhelmed," Koplowitz said after sinking into a chair in Central Park. "I'd give my kingdom for two Advil."

Koplowitz, who suffers from diabetes and multiple sclerosis, completed the marathon in 29 hours, 45 minutes. This was the 16th NYC Marathon she has finished. The 55-year-old New Yorker has also finished marathons in Boston and London.

Diagnosed 30 years ago with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the central nervous system, Koplowitz used two purple crutches to help get through the race.

Her time hardly mattered.

"I think that's really the ultimate lesson, you just keep going until you get it done," she said. "You do what it takes."

The first woman to cross the line, Margaret Okayo of Kenya, finished in a record 2:22:31 on Sunday. Okayo said she did not feel the race belonged to her until she crossed the line.

"When I finished, that is when I said, `Oh, my God, I am the winner,"' she said.

Okayo and countryman Martin Lel, the men's winner, were up early Monday and officiated at the posting of the marathon results. Then it was off to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile, Koplowitz made her way through the course. She started at 5:30 a.m. Sunday, more than four hours before the rest of the marathoners. She stopped every mile to stretch and, because she has diabetes, she tested her blood sugar every two hours. She took breaks but didn't sleep.

She said she was at mile seven or eight when the professional runners overtook her. Whenever that happens, she stops to watch them pass.

"The ultimate gift is being both a spectator and a participant," said Koplowitz, who hopes to make it through 20 NYC Marathons. "Every year this becomes a far more precious experience," she said.

Finish lines: Marathon runners are about to get a global points system to determine the best racers. Men and women runners will be pooled together with points based on results of their best three marathons over a two-year period. One of the three must be the NYC Marathon. Prize money will be given to the top 10 runners, with the winner receiving $1 million. The rankings start with the Tokyo International Women's Marathon on Nov. 16.

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