Many run LI marathon for different reasons

The start of the 2011 Long Island Marathon. The start of the 2011 Long Island Marathon. (May 1, 2011) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

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The role of a road race spectator, as Jenn Jacobs sees it, isn't just to offer a sporadic shout for those she knows. It's relentless encouragement.

In that way, the Massapequa woman was easy to spot at Sunday's Long Island Marathon. Her enthusiastic call of "Good job, runners!" came regularly, timed to every few steps as other cheers -- and even a cowbell -- faded in and out.

"This isn't really the most spectator-friendly marathon," said Jacobs, noting that the bulk of the route hosts few onlookers. "We're doing what we can."

She occasionally halted her cheering to acknowledge runners who stood out: those dressed as Mario and Luigi of video-game fame and another in full camouflage. They were among an eclectic mix, running for causes large and small, that converged at the finish at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.

Racers supporting Sikhs for America, breast cancer awareness, local running clubs and more enjoyed sunny skies and mercifully mild temperatures, not topping 60 degrees for most of the morning.

For the first time, Team Jack was among them. About a dozen participants in the 10K race wore green and gold shirts with the words "strength, courage, hero" for Jack Perlungher, who died at 5 of Wilms disease, a cancer of the kidneys, last September. His parents, Matt and Erika Perlungher, of Wantagh, said they thought the marathon would be the perfect launch for their new charity, J.A.C.K. -- Join A Cause for Kids. Neither had raced before.

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"For 13 months he fought, but he remained strong -- mind, body and soul," Matt Perlungher said of his son, just before former "American Idol" contestant Robbie Rosen, of Merrick, sang the national anthem to begin the day's festivities. "So when you want to stop now, you just push yourself a little further," Perlungher said.

After the races, the park bustled with activity, from a cover band banging out classic rock to groups offering massages for racers' cramped calves. Jed Golden, who had just finished the half marathon, sat back against a picnic table and soaked it all in. "It's great because it's local," said the 55-year-old Floral Park resident, who competes in races across the region but calls this one his favorite. "It's a great Long Island scene. Everybody's happy."

Jacobs said she was proudest of competitors from a runner's group she founded: Forget the Skinny Girls.Now in its second year of meeting at Massapequa Preserve, FTSG has 35 members and has offered encouragement that goes beyond supporting fitness for people who don't always fit the runner's mold.

"It's about getting to know people, and spending time together," Jacobs, 32, said before cheering passing runners. "The friendships that have formed have been unbelievable."

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