NEW YORK (AP) _ The New York City Marathon saw nine-time winner Grete Waitz of Norway and Steve Jones of Wales crowned with laurel wreaths of victory in a race that drew 23,478 competitors, the largest marathon ever.

Waitz, 35, won her record ninth victory in the women's division of the 19th annual marathon Sunday by running the 26-mile course through all five of the city's boroughs in two hours, 28 minutes and seven seconds.

''It's nice to be back,'' said Waitz, who sat out the 1987 marathon.

''The best race I've ever run,'' said Jones, a 33-year-old former Royal Air Force mechanic who won the men's division with a time of two hours, eight minutes and 20 seconds, a scant seven seconds off the all-time record.

Crowds lined city streets waiting for a glimpse of the race and perhaps a friend or loved one. A police spokesman, Sgt. Edward Burns, said there was no way the police could estimate the crowd's size.

In Washington, D.C., more than 13,000 people from 23 countries and 49 states ran the Marine Corps Marathon, which offers no prize money and prides itself on being the ''people's race.''

Jim Hage, a lawyer from Lanham, Md., who had never won a major marathon, pulled away from two-time champion Brad Ingram in the last half mile to win in 2:21:58.

In New York, some spectators held up placards to urge the runners on. Others, taking advantage of the crowds on the last weekend before the presidential election, carried signs and passed out buttons and pamphlets for the candidates.

Lynne Avery, a sophomore at Morristown (N.J.) High School, waited on a Manhattan street hoping to spot her English teacher, Robert Paciorkowski. She held a portable television, in case she missed him.

''Mr. Paciorkowski told us if he saw a television camera, he'd wave to us,'' she explained.

Near the finish line in the park, Marda Saxby and Glenda Lindsay of Bristol, England, stood in the bleachers, waving little British flags. The two women had organized a group of 42 runners who were raising money for a hospice for cancer patients in Bristol.

Saxby's daughter, Lizzie, decided only two days before to run the race, her first marathon. But Saxby was not worried.

''She had enough money with her to get a cab home,'' she said.

Hours after the winners had left and the crowds dispersed, two determined runners continued to trudge through the darkening streets, set on finishing the race.

Manning Wein of Los Angeles pronounced his time of nine hours and 14 minutes ''terrible.''

Wein, 86, thought he should have completed the course an hour faster.

Andrea DeMello, a 20-year-old New Yorker, was more satisfied with her time of 14 hours and 22 minutes. Ms. Demello, left partly paralyzed by a stroke seven years ago, ran with a cane and two helpers.

''If I can do New York City, I can do everything,'' she said.