Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil won the men's race for the second time in three years, passing Abderrahim Goumri with about 1 mile to go.
Unlike Radcliffe's tight victories in 2004 and '07, the world record holder from Britain pulled away from Ludmila Petrova of Russia during the 22nd mile to win comfortably in an unofficial time of 2 hours, 23 minutes, 55 seconds.
"It was tough out there this year because of the wind ... Everybody wanted to run behind me," Radcliffe said. "This year, I was determined to feel comfortable at the halfway point.
The last two times it's been a really close finish at the end," Radcliffe said. "It was nice to make it a little easier on the husband."
The 40-year-old Petrova was second. That made her the oldest woman to finish in the top two since Priscilla Welch of Britain won in 1987 at the age of 42.
Kara Goucher, in her marathon debut, took third, becoming the first American to make the podium since Anne Marie Letko was third in 1994. She posted the fastest time in a marathon debut by an American woman, breaking Deena Kastor's mark set in this race in 2001.
Gomes dos Santos's unofficial time was 2:08:43. Goumri settled for the runner-up spot for the second straight year, and Daniel Rono of Kenya was third.
Grete Waitz won the race a record nine times, the last in 1988.
New York was again the site of a stirring comeback for Radcliffe. As in 2004, she rebounded from a disappointing Olympic performance with a victory in New York. Last year, she won her first marathon since the birth of her daughter less than 10 months earlier.
Radcliffe has won eight of the 10 marathons she has started - all but her two Olympics.
Petrova, the 2000 NYC Marathon champ, set a Masters world record with her time, breaking Welch's mark set in London in 1987.
Gomes dos Santos keeps finding magic in New York, where he has won his only two major marathon titles. He finished eighth last year.
Goumri finished in the top three in a major marathon for the fourth time in 19 months but is still seeking his first title.
NYC Marathon Leading Finishers
Results Sunday in the New York City Marathon (with runner, country and time):
- Marilson Gomes dos Santos, Brazil, 2 hours, 8 minutes, 43
- Abderrahim Goumri, Morocco, 2:09:07.
- Daniel Rono, Kenya, 2:11:22.
- Paul Tergat, Kenya, 2:13:10.
- Abderrahime Bouramdane, Morocco, 2:13:33.
- Abdi Abdirahman, United States, 2:14:17.
- Josh Rohatinsky, United States, 2:14:23.
- Jason Lehmkuhle, United States, 2:14:30.
- Hosea Rotich, Kenya, 2:15:25.
- Bolota Asmerom, United States, 2:16:37.
- Luke Humphrey, United States, 2:18:38.
- Hendrick Ramaala, South Africa, 2:19:11.
- Mohammed Awol, Ethiopia, 2:19:13.
- Kassahun Kabiso, Ethiopia, 2:19:54.
- Jacob Frey, United States, 2:20:17.
- Genna Tufa, Ethiopia, 2:20:23.
- Kyle Shackleton, United States, 2:20:38.
- Teklu Tefera Deneke, Ethiopia, 2:20:47.
- Boaz Cheboiywo, Kenya, 2:21:40.
- Deresse Deniboba, Ethiopia, 2:21:54.
- John Henwood, New Zealand, 2:21:55.
- Sergey Kaledin, Russia, 2:22:34.
- Edvard Gapak, Ukraine, 2:22:37.
- Greg Costello, Chicago, 2:22:55.
- Dan McGrath, United States, 2:23:04.
- Paula Radcliffe, Britain, 2:23:56.
- Ludmila Petrova, Russia, 2:25:43.
- Kara Goucher, United States, 2:25:53.
- Rita Jeptoo, Kenya, 2:27:49.
- Catherine Ndereba, Kenya, 2:29:14.
- Gete Wami, Ethiopia, 2:29:25.
- Dire Tune, Ethiopia, 2:29:28.
- Lidia Simon, United States, 2:30:04.
- Lyubov Morgunova, Russia, 2:30:38.
- Katie McGregor, United States, 2:31:14.
By AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen