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Lt. Michael P. Murphy memorial run returns, sets a new course for Hauppauge

Maureen Murphy, mom of the late Navy SEAL

Maureen Murphy, mom of the late Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy, with a portrait of her son at the 2019 run/walk. At left, her fiance, Lt. Gary Vertichio. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Ronkonkoma’s annual Run Around the Lake honoring Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL killed in a 2005 firefight in Afghanistan, is a go this year, though the course will be new with slightly modified distances, organizers said.

The run, which was virtual-only last year to guard against the spread of COVID-19, is scheduled for June 26.

Rather than have participants running on blacktop for 4 miles around Lake Ronkonkoma, the Ronkonkoma Rotary Club agreed to a start at Hauppauge’s H. Lee Dennison Building, which houses county agencies. From there, the course will loop on pavement, dirt roads and hard-packed trails around Blydenburgh County Park.

"Our runners are not going to have to worry about twisting ankles or things with really rugged terrain," Gregory Plante, executive secretary of the Rotary Club, said in a phone interview.

Changing the course reduces the number of police officers needed to shut roads, he said, saluting county officials for helping to devise an alternative route.

"The distances have been tweaked from a 4 mile to a 5K and from a Half Marathon to a 15K (9.33 Miles)," the club wrote in an email sent Monday to the approximately 1,400 runners already signed up.

Though last year’s run was virtual-only, the club still managed to raise about $100,000 from sponsorships and sales of T-shirts, hats and more.

That’s about half of what the club hopes to raise this year, Plante said, noting that participation has been growing, drawing about 4,000 runners when the race last was held in 2019.

"All the proceeds we raise from the event — 100% — are donated," he said. From 65% to 70% is reserved for aiding veterans.

The Rotary Club started what has become its biggest charity event in 1980; it dedicated the race to Murphy and the 18 servicemen who died with him in 2005.

Murphy, a Patchogue native who helped prepare for his military career by swimming across Lake Ronkonkoma, was 29 when he died while leading a four-man SEAL team into the anarchic mountains lining the Pakistan border. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by then-President George W. Bush.

Runners this year must wear masks when they are grouped into "corrals" in the parking lots at the start of the race. Plante said that staggered starts will help ensure that participants spread out on the course, where they will not be required to wear masks.

Antivirus protections mean the traditional post-race festivities will not be held; instead, people will be encouraged to disperse, Plante said.

The Run Around the Lake is one of the races in the 2021 Suffolk County Veterans Run Series, Marykate Guilfoyle, a spokeswoman for County Executive Steve Bellone, wrote in an email.

Bellone, she said, takes part in all those events, in person or virtually. While relocating the race was a bit of a nerve-wracking process, Plante said, "Everyone seems to be on board; we’re going to make it a great event."

BEFORE & AFTER

The annual Run Around the Lake honoring Lt. Michael P. Murphy will include several changes when it is held June 26:

Location

Switched from Lake Ronkonkoma to Hauppauge

Distances

Was a 4-mile race, now a 5-kilometer race

Was a half-marathon, now a 15-kilometer race

Money goal

Last year's virtual race raised $100,000

Organizers hope to raise $200,000 from this year's race

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