Terry Bisogno's voice will be a welcome sound for several thousand people Sunday -- especially as they approach the finish line at Eisenhower Park.
This is the sixth year that Bisogno, 55, will handle the announcing duties at the Long Island Marathon, Half Marathon and 10k -- an endurance test all its own.
The job is a sort of marathon of the mouth in which Bisogno is on the mike from about 7 a.m., when he begins giving instructions as runners gather at the start line by Nassau Coliseum, until 2 p.m., when the last of about 4,500 runners is expected to finish. And for many of the runners, he's got a lot to say.
"He'll say something like 'Here comes Joe Smith from Long Beach across the finish line. He is finishing almost three full minutes faster than last year, but his wife is still out on the course, and by the way, his brother owns one of the finest clothing stores in Rockville Centre . . . ,' " says Mike Polansky, president of the Greater Long Island Running Club and Bisogno's predecessor at the announcer's job. "He is incredibly good."
Such seemingly encyclopedic knowledge comes not only from 28 years of experience as a runner himself but also from Bisogno's preparations, which, for Sunday, began several weeks ago. "It's a lot of homework," said Bisogno, who grew up in Islip. Born in Nevada, Bisogno moved here when he was 10, now lives in Manhattan and spends weekends at his family's home in Lido Beach. "I study all the race results for the last three to five years. I study men, women, ages, times, pace per mile. Then, I look at the preregistration list to see who's in this year's race."
Info at his fingertips
The information he gathers is entered onto an Excel spreadsheet, which he'll have access to up on the portable soundstage set up the marathon opposite the bleachers by the finish line. Bisogno will sit at a table with a hands-free microphone, several folders and a laptop.
Bisogno never "called" a sporting event until six years ago. "I was just there to watch," he said of the Doug Wood 5K at Crab Meadow Beach in Northport, where he recalls mentioning that the runners should be recognized at the finish line.
The next thing he knew, he was handed a microphone and invited onstage. He wasn't a newcomer to public speaking: He had been in theatrical productions at Islip High School and SUNY Cortland. And as a bond salesman on Wall Street and in sales positions for major companies, he had to make presentations, often to large audiences.
His memories of that first race involve ad-libbing "a few things about runners I knew as they crossed the finish line," he said. "I also recognized some of the club singlets and said something about the clubs. All in all, we were able to give some kind of shout-out to about half the field."
Bisogno went from announcing that race in 2004 to 44 such events last year. (He says he is paid an average of $200 an event, but does some free, including the Doug Wood 5k.)
Bisogno now announces about half of the Greater Long Island Running Club's 20 races each year. "An announcer who does it right does two things," Polansky says: He knows the running community and does his homework.
"Terry does both of these things," Polansky said, "to the point where he's almost obsessive-compulsive. He wants to make sure he knows everything about everybody."
Enlivening the action
On race day, Bisogno's passion for the sport comes through as loudly and clearly as his amplified voice. "He injects some real life into the whole race, start to finish," says Mike Baard, 54, a longtime runner from Merrick who will be competing in the half-marathon. "You hear him out there before the race, on the P.A. system. He's talking about the course record-holder who's there, about other runners. If you're into the road-racing scene, he gets the juices flowing."
Asked to recite his "signature" call, Bisogno laughs, then demonstrates his style: A dramatic buildup, each word drawn out for maximum effect: "I'll say something like . . . 'And here she is again . . . now the five-time defending champion of the RXR TIAA-CREF Long Island Marathon . . . from Hampton Bays . . . this . . . is . . . Jessica Allen!" - that is, if Allen on Sunday finishes first again.
When the middle- and back- of-the-packers approach the finish line - the Long Islanders who have trained all winter for Sunday's race - he will often put aside his spreadsheet and statistics. For these men and women, "it's often more about heartfelt motivation, a running partner they're with, charity fundraising or just finishing that distance," says Bisogno, who, before he began announcing, ran the Long Island Marathon seven times - his fastest in 3:28:28.
So he'll talk about the teacher in her first marathon who raised $1,000 per mile for her school. The runner who lost 100 pounds. Another who gave up smoking or recovered from a serious illness. Their stories, after all, are what make an event like this so compelling.
And Bisogno says he feels "privileged" to tell those stories - albeit in abbreviated, amplified form - to all within the sound of his voice.