THEY should have been running past vistas of the Empire State building, the Staten Island ferry and the Statue of Liberty.
Instead, they got the Papal Cross, shy herds of red deer – and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go down in the annals of athletics.
Irish runners who had signed up to take part in the New York marathon, cancelled due to Superstorm Sandy, finally got their hands on the iconic orange-beribboned medals yesterday when the 'New York marathon' came to Dublin.
The special invitation-only marathon was organised by the Dublin Marathon organising committee to accommodate the disappointed Irish runners.
Together with their New York counterparts, it was agreed that runners who took part in the Phoenix Park event would race in their New York vests and be given the New York medals.
It was the first time, and is likely to be the last, that the world-renowned event was 'held' outside the US.
And while it might initially have sounded like a poor consolation prize, the Phoenix Park race turned out to have a uniquely memorable atmosphere.
"We're delighted because it meant we could all come," said Jackie Early with children Rebecca (9), Megan (5) and Thomas (3), from Lucan, Co Dublin, who came to support their dad Chris Early.
"Chris raised €7,000 for the Irish Cancer Society and he'd travelled over to New York – he had just collected his race number at the Convention Centre when we phoned to tell him it had been cancelled. He was gutted," Jackie added.
One woman with lollipop-red hair – who preferred to remain anonymous – kept spirits buoyant by cheerily squeezing a squeaky rubber chicken in time to upbeat music.
She came to cheer on friends – but would have come anyway. "This is history in the making," she said.
"Are you Beyonce?" runner Liam O Riain called out to her as he raced by.
The marathon was won by former Iron Man Wayne Reid from Athlone, Co Westmeath. The deaf triathlete, who signs for RTE news, was delighted with his win, saying he achieved a personal best by completing the race in two hours and 40 minutes.
He said he "understands and respects" why the New York marathon had to be cancelled but admitted he had initially been very disappointed.
The race was started by 83-year-old marathon veteran Harry Gorman, from Beaumont in Dublin. He ran 12 marathons, winning nine from 1961 to 1964.
"I was running 125 miles a week when I was training at my peak," said Harry.
And his secret? "You have to look after yourself," said Harry, adding that he never drank or smoked.
Joe Wright from Clontarf in Dublin, who came third, said the marathon was "brilliant".
"It was a great course and a great day – totally different to New York, but so glad all that training didn't go to waste," he said.