And they're off! Over 40,000 runners are on their way to finishing the 2009 New York City Marathon, which snakes across all five boroughs before its dramatic — and surprisingly hilly — finish in Central Park. All eyes are on three-time winner Paula Radcliffe, the British champ who this summer won the NYC Half Marathon. On the men's side, the Brazilian runner Marílson Gomes dos Santos is fighting for his third NYC Marathon victory against a field of formidable contenders including Kenyans James Kwambai and Robert Cheruiyot.

But the grueling 26.2-mile slog isn't just about the elites. It's also about the average Joes and Janes who devote months to training in hopes of finishing the race, setting personal records, or qualifying for a coveted spot in the Boston Marathon. As such, it's rife with cheating, according to the New York Times.

Each year, scammers break the marathon's cardinal rule by taking shortcuts or handing their race numbers and electronic timing sensors to faster runners. Last year, 71 runners were disqualified from the race including two Californian women who cut out a difficult section between miles 17 and 25. Of course cheating in the NYC Marathon isn't a new phenomenon — thirty years ago, Rosie Ruiz won the race after taking a shortcut on the subway.

In other marathon related news, Times reporter and blogger Andy Newman completed his own version of a marathon when he strolled 26.2 miles around his Park Slope block — partly with his dog, Barnaby, in tow. It took him more than 17 hours to complete 75.4 laps, though he spent part of that time getting a much-needed pedicure and foot massage.