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Massapequa native Bryan Buttigieg wins Suffolk Marathon

Bryan Buttigieg of Massapequa, left, and Leiba Rimler

Bryan Buttigieg of Massapequa, left, and Leiba Rimler of Brooklyn react as they win the 2019 Suffolk County Marathon in Patchogue on Sunday. Credit: James Escher

No one likes rain like a runner does and no one knows rain more than Bryan Buttigieg. Buttigieg, a 26-year-old Massapequa native, moved to Seattle three years ago for a job in computer science and has been living in the frequently wet city ever since.

So naturally, Buttigieg was unfazed when he found himself running through significant rain and wind during the fifth annual Suffolk County Marathon Sunday morning. When the rain picked up late in the morning, so did Buttigieg, who passed Patchogue’s Tim Steiskal with a mile left, and won in two hours, 53 minutes, 9.5 seconds. Steiskal, who grew up in Connecticut and is now the membership director at the Patchogue YMCA, was second in 2:55:05.5.

“At about mile 20, I started going,” Buttigieg said. “I saw the lead with about two miles to go and just slowly caught up to him and tried to go for it.”

Steiskal, who lives so close to the YMCA that he often runs to work, said that he led the whole race and never heard Buttigieg coming.

“It was heartbreaking,” Steiskal said, jokingly. “I thought I had a better lead. I really worked hard the whole race. I just didn’t have the legs at the end.”

The 26.2-mile course began and ended on Main Street in Patchogue, right in front of the YMCA where Steiskal works. Runners moved through Blue Point, Bayport, Sayville, West Sayville, Oakdale and East Islip, tracking along Montauk Highway and turning around in Heckscher State Park in East Islip.

It was the first marathon for both runners. Buttigieg said he ran at both Massapequa High School and Marist College. Steiskal is a tri-athlete who has done some Iron Man competitions, which include a full marathon in addition to swimming and biking, but never one as fast as a stand-alone 26.2.

“I’m 26 years old, I figured 26 miles, why not?” Buttigieg said.

Women’s winner Leiba Rimler has multiple marathons under her belt, including a third-place finish at last year’s Suffolk Marathon. She won this year in 3:09:29.8. Rimler said she wanted to run the New York City Marathon, which goes off next Sunday, but was not selected in the lottery to run.

“I don’t like traveling for marathons,” said Rimler, 35, of Brooklyn. “I find it very difficult. I like sleeping in my own bed the night before a race, so there aren’t that many options around here. I ran this last year and knew the course. I like running races where I know the course, I find it helps a lot mentally. So, I decided to come back.”

When it comes to speed, Rimler said she thinks the Suffolk course is faster than New York City.

“New York is really, really crowded,” Rimler said. “ . . . [Suffolk] has gentle, rolling hills and that’s my favorite kind of course. I love gentle, rolling hills and I love this course.”

Rimler has run the Boston Marathon, including earlier this year in bad weather. Part of the reason she came back to Suffolk was to get another Boston Marathon qualifying time so that she can, hopefully, run the event in good weather. Her time Sunday qualified her for Boston once again.

Rimler said she runs marathons to prove wrong doctors who said she could never run them due to multiple stress fractures.

“I never wanted to run marathons in the first place,” she said. “ . . . But, once you run one marathon, you think, ‘Oh, I can do better than that.’ Then you have to qualify for Boston, then you have to run Boston. This is not going to end anytime soon. It’s terrible. I hate marathons.”

Well, maybe hate is a strong word.

“I like them after the fact,” Rimler said.

Medford’s Josh Jastemski won the men’s 5K in 17:41.9 and Massapequa’s Michele Murray won the women’s 5K in 19:17.3. Medford’s Leonora Petrina won the women’s 10K in 37:26.7, the overall fastest time of that race, and Dix Hills’ Joshua Parsons won the men’s 10K in 39:42.3. Farmingdale’s Franklin Diaz won the men’s half marathon in 1:15:43 and Brooklyn’s Sasha Whittle won the women’s half marathon in 1:18:11.

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