The Long Island Marathon: Secrets and fun facts

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The Long Island Marathon is one of LI’s ultimate athletic events. From its starting point on Charles Lindbergh Boulevard in Uniondale, runners follow a course that travels past the Nassau Coliseum, into the village of Westbury and then down the Wantagh Parkway to Sunrise Highway, only to turn north back to Old Country Road, then to Carmen Avenue until reaching the Eisenhower Park Golf Course, into the park, finishing across from Parking Field 5.
Its history is long as well — and here’s an opportunity to get better acquainted with some of the faces and facts connected to the marathon — some of which only a few insiders know … until now.

Earth Day Marathon?

The to-the-point title
(Credit: Newsday / Jim Peppler)

The to-the-point title "Long Island Marathon" was not the original name of this running contest. The race was first run in 1970, when it was called "The Earth Day Marathon," and stayed as such until 1978 when it took its current ID. (Pictured: Participants in the Earth Day Marathon enter Eisenhower Park on March 18, 1973.)

Born in the Bronx

The
(Credit: New York Road Runners photo archive)

The "Earth Day" moniker makes more sense than the "Long Island Marathon" when it's revealed that the original location of the run was not on Long Island. It was actually born in New York City, first as the Bronx-located "Macombs Dam Park Marathon" in 1958, later renamed the "Cherry Tree Marathon." The event then shifted to Manhattan's Central Park where it first became the Earth Day Marathon before migrating to Nassau County in 1973. Pictured: An early photo of a New York Road Runners race; first established as a running club, it was founded in 1958 in the Bronx's Macombs Dam Park.

The first winner

The late Ted Corbitt (1919-2007; pictured here in
(Credit: Ari Mintz)

The late Ted Corbitt (1919-2007; pictured here in an undated photo, stretching in Van Cortlandt Park) won the first two Macombs Dam Park marathons (1958-1959), as part of a career that spanned 199 marathons and ultramarathons (the latter being races that are 50-100 miles in length, or a duration of 24 hours) and the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. A member of the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, he also was a founder of the Road Runners Club of America, and worked to establish guidelines to properly measure race courses.

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Where they ran

The route has evolved as well: the original
(Credit: Newsday / Jim Peppler)

The route has evolved as well: the original course took its runners around Eisenhower Park after looping the now-defunct Roosevelt Raceway. At another point, it started in East Meadow but led its participants down to Nickerson Beach in Lido. Pictured: The debut of the Earth Day Marathon on Long Island started at noon on the track at Roosevelt Raceway with snow falling and frigid temperatures on March 18, 1973. The 418 runners raced four laps around the raceway before making their way to Eisenhower Park.

Eight communities long

The Long Island Marathon may start in Uniondale

The Long Island Marathon may start in Uniondale and finish in adjacent East Meadow, but it also passes through Westbury, Jericho, New Cassel, Wantagh, Bellmore and Salisbury.

Heavy hydration

Marathon officials report that more than 125,000 cups
(Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis)

Marathon officials report that more than 125,000 cups of water are used by participants throughout the race weekend (which includes contests aside from the actual marathon, including a half marathon, 10k race, 5k race, 1 mile run and kids fun run), with more than 5,500 gallons supplied. Pictured: Two runners being handed water at the 21-mile water station on Wantagh Parkway. Christine Gibbons, right, of Elmwood, New Jersey, was the women's top finisher in 2:55.03 in the Long Island Marathon on May 3, 1987.

All-time record run

Carle Place native Lou Calvano holds the record
(Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan)

Carle Place native Lou Calvano holds the record time, a bar he set when he ran a 2:19:53 back in 1979. "They don't run that [1979] course anymore," Calvano told Newsday in 2009, "So the course record will stand forever." Pictured: Calvano, the first male finisher in the 1989 Long Island Marathon on May 7.

The slowest possible finish

Perhaps you're considering running, but worried about coming
Buy photo
(Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Perhaps you're considering running, but worried about coming in dead-last. It's not impossible that you might, but your final time wouldn't reflect that as the marathon employs a six-hour cut-off -- so even if you take it slow, everyone finishing after the clock stops scores the same time.

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Don’t cheat (you’ll get caught)

Perhaps you're thinking of running the Long Island
(Credit: Tara Conry)

Perhaps you're thinking of running the Long Island Marathon and cheating. Poor sportsmanship aside, it's not a wise course of action, as marathon officials have a way of keeping track of what's happening.

The LI Marathon is a USA Track and Field (the national governing body for track and field) sanctioned and certified race -- as well as a qualifying contest for entrance into the Boston Marathon -- making it a worthy event for athletes looking to make their mark as competitive runners. To keep an eagle-eye on the footwork of entrants, mats (pictured) rigged with antennas are placed at several points along the course, which can detect transponders worn by runners. Anyone deemed off-course is disqualified.

‘Negative splits’

Has anybody been caught cheating? As it turns
(Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

Has anybody been caught cheating? As it turns out, race officials report that a 2014 runner was suspected of fudging his time due to a run irregularity designated as a "negative split" -- a term that refers to when a runner's time-per-mile improves as they go.

"Splits" are measures in which a runner's total time completed can be divided (usually by miles). While not impossible, splits that improve throughout the latter moments of a runner's pace are unusual and draw attention for scrutiny. Upon examination, the competitor in question was revealed to have run about eight minutes a mile for the first half, nine minutes a mile toward the end -- but at a point in the middle logged a two-minute mile (which in itself would be quite impressive, as the current world record fastest time for a mile run is just above three minutes and 43 seconds).

Race officials, examining the evidence, have since determined the runner improperly crossed a divider along the Wantagh Parkway section of the course.

Women's record time holder

Levittown's Jodie Schoppmann Robertson, crossing the finish line
(Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

Levittown's Jodie Schoppmann Robertson, crossing the finish line of the 2011 Long Island Marathon. She did more than just complete the course that day; she was the first female to finish and set the women's record, with a time of 2:42:54.

Peter Hawkins, 22 races and counting

Peter Hawkins, 51, of Malverne, has competed in
Buy photo
(Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

Peter Hawkins, 51, of Malverne, has competed in the Long Island Marathon 22 times. Paralyzed from just above the waist down in a 1981 car accident, Hawkins won the 2015 wheelchair division with a time of 2:10:23 (he was the only traditional wheelchair racer in the 2015 run; three other riders who qualified for wheelchair entry used hand cycles). Pictured: Hawkins finishes the 2015 Long Island Marathon at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on May 3.

Facing the other runners in competition — literally

Stanley
(Credit: Stanley Wunderlich)

Stanley "Iron" Wunderlich -- born in Brooklyn, formerly of Woodbury and now living in East Hampton; pictured here with his trophies -- has participated in the New York City Marathon and completed two World Championship Ironman Triathlons, so his running in the Long Island Marathon in 1987 probably doesn't seem hard to imagine.

Except that he ran the marathon backward.

It's known as "retro-running," and Mr. Wunderlich trained running backward to build up his lower legs, thinking at the time that "the challenge would be exciting." Now, at 68, Wunderlich still runs and is training to take part in the "Mighty Hamptons" Olympic distance triathlon, which is set for Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016.

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A marathon of LI Marathons

Steve Lerner, a 61-year-old Freeport native now living

Steve Lerner, a 61-year-old Freeport native now living in Richmond, Virginia, will be running the 2016 Long Island Marathon on Sunday -- which he has done every year since 1988 -- making the 2016 contest his 28th consecutive entry. Pictured: Lerner runs in the 2012 Long Island Marathon.

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