Douglas Wakiihuri of Kenya, the silver medalist at the Seoul Olympics, broke free from a pack of four with six miles to go Sunday to win the New York City Marathon on an uncomfortably hot day.

Making his first marathon appearance in North America, Wakiihuri took off on his own after 20 miles, when he gained a lead of 34 seconds over Salvador Garcia of Mexico.Wakiihuri, who trains in Japan, never was threatened thereafter as he completed the 26-mile, 385-yard course through New York's five boroughs in 2 hours, 19 minutes, 39 seconds.

With the race ending in a temperature of 72 degrees, Wakiihuri's time was the slowest winning time for the marathon since 1984.

"I was feeling very good and was very relaxed, and I saw nobody was coming," the 27-year-old Kenyan said. "I saw their reaction and saw they couldn't come with me, so I decided to go.

"The performance I did today under the conditions was the best I could do. I did my best today, and that's all I can do.

"It was really hard. We knew from the start we wouldn't make a good time; everybody was sweating before the race. I was even having problems with my legs."

Garcia, a sergeant in the Mexican army, was second in 2:13:19 and Briton Steve Brace was third in 2:13:32. Garcia was bleeding from blisters on both feet, and feels he would have won if this had not happened.

Brace finished the race with a headache from the humidity and the noise made by the huge throng - including numerous bands - that lined the course.

Juma Ikangaa of Tanzania, the defending champion, was fourth in 2:14:32 and John Campbell, a 41-year-old New Zealander, was fifth, setting a Masters record for the New York race of 2:14.34 in what he called the greatest achievement of his life.

For the first time, no American was able to break into the top 20. The first American man was Gerry O'Hara of New York, 29th in 2:26:15.

Bill Rodgers, a four-time winner of the New York Marathon, withdrew in the morning because of illness and Ken Martin of Dallas, the 1989 runner-up, had to withdraw after 18 miles because of weakness. It was the first time he ever has pulled out of a marathon.

Martin has been troubled by a mysterious ailment the last two months and the lack of training took away his endurance.

"Mentally I was in the race but physically I just wasn't ready," he said.

Wanda Panfil, a Polish-born resident of Mexico, won the women's division in 2:30:45, the slowest time since Grete Waitz earned the first of her nine New York marathons in 1978.

"Because of the weather I couldn't run faster," the 31-year-old Panfil said with her husband, Mexican Olympican Msuricio Gonzalez, serving as interpreter. "I've never run before in such hot weather, and it's the first time I drank water during a race and I felt a little pain in my stomach."

Kim Jones of Spokane, Wash., making up a lot of time in the final mile through Central Park, finished second in 2:30:50, continuing her string of never placing worse than fifth in a marathon she finishes.

Katrin Dorre of Germany, running her first marathon in two years after having a baby, was third in 2:33:21 and Waitz, a nine-time New York champion, never was a factor, placing fourth in 2:34:34. This was her first marathon since she won New York in 1988, and she was pleased with her performance following a series of injuries.

"I came into this race with open eyes, and I knew it was a hard competition," said the 37-year-old Norwegian. "Like everybody else I was hoping to win the race, but I knew it was going to be hard. It was very important just to finish, and I know I can compete again."

Both Wakiihuri and Panfil registered their third consecutive victories in marathons, and each won $26,385, plus a Mercedes-Benz valued at $34,000.

After 20 miles, Wakiihuri, Garcia and Ikangaa were tied for the lead, with Brace four seconds behind. Wakiihuri then broke the race open with a 4:56 mile, at which point he built a 16-second lead.

Another mile further on he was in front of Garcia by 25 seconds, and he ran alone the rest of the way.

Panfil led the women from the 10th mile, and with four miles to go she enjoyed an advantage of 41 seconds over Jones. The American narrowed this deficit to five seconds at the end, but ran out of space.

"The race took shape the opposite of what I expected," Jones, 32, said. "I expected someone to take it out, and I'd run my own race and catch up. Everyone went out slow and sluggish. I knew it would be very warm, so I decided to run easy, not to run for time. I didn't think anyone would run a spectacular time.