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Suffolk to hold first marathon next year to promote economy, fitness

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the Suffolk

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the Suffolk Marathon is a "great way to highlight the fact have we have these great downtowns and one of the great agricultural locations in New York." Bellone is seen on Sept. 19, 2014 at Farmingdale State College. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The county will hold the first Suffolk Marathon on Sept. 13, 2015, as part of a plan to promote the county's economy, raise money for veterans and boost fitness in Suffolk.

The race will begin and end at Heckscher State Park in East Islip, where there will also be a food and wine festival. It will go through downtowns along the Great South Bay and turn around in Patchogue, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in an interview.

"It's a great way to highlight the fact have we have these great downtowns and one of the great agricultural locations in New York," Bellone said.

There will also be a half-marathon.

Bellone said he plans to run the full 26.2 miles in the inaugural race next year and will run in the New York City Marathon next month to promote Suffolk's race. He's also starting a Healthy Suffolk campaign. Bellone said he has lost 59 pounds since December, in part by running, shedding what he called his "county executive weight."

Bellone said he has always lost and gained weight rapidly. "Since taking over as Suffolk County executive, I hit new heights," he said. "Every new natural disaster that hit, I hit a new plateau."

Bellone said the race will not cost taxpayers any money and he expects it to produce a surplus from race fees and sponsorships, which would be donated to veterans charities. The races, which county officials expect will attract 3,000 to 4,000 participants, will also feature race categories for veterans.

The marathon will run through downtown Sayville, Bayport, Blue Point and Patchogue.

The Hamptons Marathon and Half Marathon, on the South Fork, has taken place for the last eight years in September. As to whether the county could support two races that month, Hamptons Marathon race co-organizer Amanda Moszkowski said Sunday, "time will tell." But, she said, "generally we feel the more the merrier."

Bellone ran the Hamptons Half Marathon in September, but Moszkowski said she didn't know of the planned Suffolk Marathon until contacted by Newsday. The Hamptons races attract about 2,300 runners, she said.

Bellone said the races are far enough apart geographically to support both. Also, the county plans to make the Suffolk Marathon a Boston Marathon qualifier, which would make it a draw for runners outside the region.

"The focus is on making this a destination marathon," he said.

The county and state -- the marathon will start and end in a state park -- will put out a request for interested professional race organizers next week, Bellone said.

Nassau County is a sponsor of the Long Island Marathon, held each spring. Brian Nevin, a spokesman for Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, said the county spends more than $200,000 on police overtime for the race. Parks Department overtime is reimbursed by the nonprofit Friends of Nassau County Recreation, which owns and produces the race, Nevin said.

The Suffolk County Half-Marathon, sponsored by the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, was canceled in March due to increased costs and less support from the county, according to a statement on the group's website. The race had been run since 1996.


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