American distance runner Delilah DiCrescenzo ready to run her first New York City Marathon

Delilah DiCrescenzo, center and Jennifer Barringer, right, leads

Delilah DiCrescenzo, center and Jennifer Barringer, right, leads the women's 3000 meter steeplechase final at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore. (July 3, 2008) (Credit: AP)

Music to Delilah DiCrescenzo's ears will be the cheers of friends along the New York City Marathon route as she takes on the 26-mile, 385-yard dare for the first time.

If she can run "a six-minute mile, 26 times," said the former Columbia University All-American steeplechaser, that would be a melody, because "I'm sure there are a million things I'm not prepared for."

All that is inevitable about the day is that some spectator, upon spotting DiCrescenzo, is bound to break out in song:

"Hey there Delilah / What's it like in New York City?"

"I'm numb to it," DiCrescenzo said. "It's been a long time."

She said it is good to have a song written about her, "but, hopefully, Sunday I'll make a separate name for myself being associated with New York City in another way."

At 30, with national success in both the 3,000-meter steeplechase and cross-country events, DiCrescenzo is ready to take on the marathon, "and I also feel that I will regret it if I never do one when I'm in shape."

And, though she grew up in suburban Chicago, she wanted her first one to be in New York, "where I went to college and came into my own as a runner."

During her days at Columbia, her track team did volunteer work at the marathon, handing out water along the course or collecting the clothes that so many runners cavalierly discard at the starting line.

"Got to keep some of those clothes," she said, "and some people were getting rid of some really nice things."

She took up running as a high school freshman, set a goal of a six-minute mile for that year and wound up running 5:16. She was a nationally recognized steeplechaser by her first year at Columbia, when a friend introduced her to Tom Higgenson, the lead singer/songwriter for a new indie pop group, the Plain White T's.

Higgenson, smitten, vowed to write a song about DiCrescenzo, who already was dating her current boyfriend. She assumed he was joking, but when he delivered a CD to her home during Christmas break in 2005, there it was.

Cut No. 13: "Hey There Delilah." A love song. She was embarrassed, worried what her boyfriend would think and meanwhile afraid she would hurt Higgenson's feelings by being ungrateful.

"It really didn't get air time for a couple of years," she said, until 2008, when it was nominated for two Grammy Awards. DiCrescenzo decided to accept Higgenson's invite to do the red-carpet appearance with him.

"When it was really big, it was a little bit of a distraction when I was getting ready for my first Olympic trials," she said. "But, now, I'm so good with it. It's the reason I got my first sponsorship deal, which hopefully, now come because of my [running] performance.

"But it's given me a lot of good attention. Every now and then, when I'm watching 'Jeopardy' and my name is a clue, I get excited."

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