Ready for the NYC Marathon: 4 LIers share why they're running

Heather Ackerly, who is running with the Long Heather Ackerly, who is running with the Long Island team, is seen demonstrating her routine of stretching before running. (Oct. 31, 2013) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The anticipation of running in the New York City Marathon on Sunday is greater than ever for four Long Islanders who are set to make the 26.2-mile trek in the five boroughs.

The test of endurance comes after last year's race was canceled when superstorm Sandy ravaged New York and after the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15 that killed three people and injured more than 260.

The Long Islanders are among the 1,500 from Nassau and Suffolk who are to join an estimated 60,000 runners eager to test their physical limits. Here are their stories:

CHRISTY DRUZYNSKI

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Druzynski, 37, of Huntington Village, is finally making it to the starting line after two attempts.

"It has been such an emotional journey over three years," said Druzynski, an engineer services architect for CA Technologies of Islandia.

She started running in 2006 as a way to get over a failed relationship and soon got involved in a 3.4-mile company event at Jones Beach, which evolved into a 10k, then a half-marathon and a triathlon.

In 2011, Druzynski set her sights on the NYC Marathon but had to defer to 2012 after she fractured her fibula during a boxing exercise.

After rehab she began running again, preparing for 2012. Then Sandy struck.

@Newsday

"I knew next year would be better," she said.

Druzynski, who is running on behalf of the Commack-based Marcie Mazzola Foundation, an organization that helps improve the lives of abused and at-risk children, said she can't wait to line up on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the sounds of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York."

RICK FEINSTEIN

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Feinstein, 70, will be running his 34th NYC marathon. The CPA consultant and former Marine has run in numerous marathons, including Chicago, Boston, and Long Island, but says nothing compares with New York.

"It's a 26-mile block party that is somehow exciting every year," he said.

While Feinstein was disappointed by last year's cancellation, he said it was the right thing to do. "It is such a celebration . . . it would of almost been sacrilegious to try to have it in the mist of all that devastation and suffering," he said.

Feinstein lives in Jericho and his favorite place to run is Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. He has been averaging 40 to 45 miles a week for the past six weeks. Last Sunday, he completed the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., in honor of the 50th anniversary of his enlistment. His time was 6 hours and 7 minutes.

Marathon memories bring tears to his eyes, including the 2001 marathon after the 9/11 attacks.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"To see all the firehouses empty and police stations empty and all the cops and firemen cheering for us, it was very emotional," he said.

 

DOLORES DOMEN

$relatedItem.caption

Domen, 56, was scheduled to run her first marathon in New York last year. When it was canceled because of Sandy, she decided to run the Boston Marathon in April.

As Domen crossed the finish line in Boston her legs cramped and she went to the medical tent. At that point, two bombs exploded. The medical tent was transformed into a trauma unit. As victims started coming in, she sat frightened and unsure if more bombs would be detonated.

"If I finished a few minutes later my friends cheering me on would be in the viewing area by the bomb," said Domen, of Dix Hills. "I would have been there."

Domen was in shock for weeks. On Sunday, she will be undaunted in pursuit of her marathon dreams. "I'm just going to do it, push through and have something to tell my grandkids," she said. "I'm not going to let what happened in Boston stop me."

MIKE LAFORGIA

LaForgia, 48, is running to raise funds and awareness for the National Meningitis Association.

He was 39 when he contracted bacterial meningitis, a rare disease that led to the loss of his right leg below the knee and portions of his left foot.

It will be LaForgia's fourth marathon. He recalled a tough second half in 2009 when he experienced leg pain while he was still adjusting to running long distances on prosthetics. He persevered, fueled by the energy of tens of thousands of around him and his family in the crowd.

"Anything I accomplish now is sweeter because it proves I can do anything I did before I was sick," said LaForgia, of Smithtown, the married father of three.

LaForgia is hoping for a better run this year, equipped with prosthetics from Hicksville-based A Step Ahead.

"They help people do everything they did before they were sick," said LaForgia, an IT consultant for a bank.

He will wear a shirt with the National Meningitis Association's logo and website on the front and the names and ages of children who have died of the disease on the back. So far, he has raised $2,000.

"I owe it to those that passed to spread awareness of the disease and the impact in order to prevent death and ongoing suffering," LaForgia said.

He is ready to go.

"There's a lot of energy for me because I was hurt, because of Sandy, also the Boston tragedy," said LaForgia, named one of the top 10 most inspiring runners of this year's marathon by Runner's World magazine. "It's a special year."

The best of Newsday everyday in your inbox. Get the Newsday Now newsletter!

You also may be interested in: