A firefighter who miraculously cheated death three years ago completed his triumphant comeback yesterday by running all 26.2 miles of the New York City Marathon.
Matthew Long crossed the finish line in Central Park, fell to his knees, and did celebratory pushups to the wild cheers of loved ones.
"The finish line was the best!" said Long, who nearly died three years ago when a bus ran over him, crushing his pelvis, leg and arm, as he biked to work during the transit strike.
"I'm tired, but I feel fulfilled crossing the finish line for the first time in three years."
Long, an Upper East Sider, finished in 7 hours, 21 minutes and 22 seconds.
Long's story was among many tales of personal triumph for the 38,377 runners who started the annual race - won by Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil, in his second New York City Marathon win in three years.
Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain defended her women's title and became the second female runner to win three times.
There was also tragedy for the Brazilians, as one of their runners, Carlos Jose Gomes, 58, of Sao Paulo, died after suffering chest pains.
He became ill after crossing the finish line and was taken to a medical station on Central Park West near 81st Street at about 4:40 p.m. He went into cardiac arrest there and died 40 minutes later at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Gomes completed the race in 4 hours, 12 minutes and 15 seconds, making him the 16,703rd person to cross the finish line.
Two other participants also collapsed and are in serious but stable condition at local hospitals.
Among the notable racers yesterday were model and animal-rights activist Beth Ostrosky - better known as Mrs. Howard Stern.
Stern hugged his wife and said, "Good job! You deserve this," before placing a finisher's medal on her after she clocked in at 4:15:39.
Ostrosky wasn't the only big-name newlywed to hoof it yesterday, as actor Ryan Reynolds - husband of Scarlett Johansson - crossed the finish line in 3:50:22 and was greeted with a hug from his mom.
Additional reporting by Austin Fenner, Tatiana Deligiannakis, Larry Celona, Tom Perone and David K. Li
Republished with permission from The New York Post