At the risk of ruining the suspense of Sunday's Long Island Marathon and half-marathon, race announcer Terry Bisogno can provide expert analysis of the top contenders -- no easy chore in events dramatically affected by distance, weather and potential injury.
Bisogno, himself a veteran of 44 marathons, is a keen observer of the local running scene via his constant work announcing events. He regularly has forecast the winners.
He looks first to Seaford's Shaun McGrath, returning to defend his title in the men's marathon, the centerpiece event in the weekend's "festival of races." After Saturday's one-mile and five-kilometer races, Sunday's menu will consist of the 26-mile, 385-yard marathon, the half-marathon and the 10-K, all starting at 8 a.m. on Charles Lindbergh Boulevard, adjacent to Nassau Coliseum. All races will finish in Eisenhower Park.
At the close of pre-registration Thursday night, almost 1,000 runners had entered the marathon, with more than 5,000 in the half-marathon. A favorable weather outlook could bring the total number of runners in the two-day festival to 8,500.
A victory by McGrath, 33, would keep the LI title in the family for the fourth time in five years. Younger brother Dan, 29, won in 2008 and 2010 but is not entered this year; he is starting a law career and has dealt with a few injuries.
Shaun McGrath's competition, Bisogno said, should come from Brooklynites Armando Ramirez (last year's runner-up), Douglas Boyer and three-time champion Felipe Vergara, still going strong at 47. And perhaps Mike Petrina of Bayport and Thomas Glenn of Levittown. Also among the top names is 1985 champ Ira Meyers, 51, of Ambler, Pa.
The 2011 women's marathon winner, Jodie Schoppman of Levittown, is not entered. She is now Jodie Robertson, married to 2011 Long Island men's half-marathon winner Aaron Robertson and living in upstate Voorheesville. She did compete in January's U.S. Olympic marathon trials, finishing 57th.
In her absence, the favorites include Huntington's Lindsey Block, third last year; Crystal Cammarano-Perno of Clifton Park, N.Y.; Jodi Kartes-Heino of East Quogue, and Cristin Delaney-Guille of Long Beach.
Bisogno expects a hot race in the men's half-marathon between Massapequa's Chris Mammone and Bayport's Billy Holl, the runners-up the last two years. Likely to challenge them are Brendan Barrett of Sayville, 19-year-old Nick Filippazzo of Wantagh and Manhattan's John Honercamp.
"The woman to beat" in the half, Bisogno said, is 28-year-old Jane Vongvorachoti of Woodside, whose dual U.S.-Thai citizenship has allowed her to rewrite much of Thailand's running record book. Top challengers are Christa Morris of Patchogue, Port Washington's Noni Degirmenci and Massapequa's Michele Grieco.
Also keep an eye out for the two oldest entrants -- 83-year-old Ruth Maller of Massapequa Park, in the women's half-marathon, and 85-year-old Bert Jablon of Syosset, in the men's 10-K.