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The year my brother finished the half-marathon in the hospital

Three Mullooly brothers finish the 2011 Long Island

Three Mullooly brothers finish the 2011 Long Island half-marathon at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. From left, Pat, Rob and Jerry Mullooly. Credit: Photo provided by Pat Mullooly

My brother Rob is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. A chef, he has been all around the country, cooking in some prominent restaurants, including the Garden City Hotel and Palace Hotel in Manhattan.

In the last few years, he has settled down at the Culinary Institute of America in upstate Hyde Park as an associate professor. A few years back when he was about to turn the big 4-0, he was getting a little puffy, and he called me to announce: “I’m going to run the half.”

“No, you’re not,” I replied. “We’re going to run it.”

He was referring to the half-marathon that is part of Long Island Marathon Weekend. This year’s races are set for Saturday and Sunday, mostly around Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.

I thought that running together would let me hear about his latest stories. It would be quality time alone with him in the midst of thousands.

In the months before the race in 2010, Rob trained on his own. When race day came, he felt he was ready.

He wasn’t. He had been training in the cooler weather, and the temperature that day was 77 degrees with high humidity. Such a sudden change can make a runner feel sluggish. Adjustments needed to be made. Immediately.

We started at a moderate pace, a 9-minute mile, and that was the fastest we would run all day.

By mile five of the 13.1-mile race, we were walking, but he never stopped talking. Besides being a great cook, he is a fabulous storyteller, and every story is better than the last.

While we were out for our stroll, a runner with a full-leg prosthesis passed us, and Rob said that was his incentive to start running again. Within a mile, we were walking ... but still talking. He urged me to take off and finish the race, but I didn’t really care, I was enjoying the morning with him. A short time later, a second runner, this one with two artificial legs, passed us at a nice clip. Inspired, we started up again, only to walk again within a mile. Rob was looking a bit drawn and was less talkative.

It looked like we would walk the rest of the way. We stopped at every water stop and even tried energy gels being given out. We discovered those packs are an acquired taste, not quite for us.

At one point in the final mile or two, Rob and I started the motion of running, but we were still walking. However, appearances can sometimes trump reality. We did want to look good for the photo at the finish line, so we ended with a flourish, heads up, arms raised.

Someone handed him a bottle of water. After a couple of sips, he began throwing up. We found a shady area and he said he just needed to rest and drink water. But he soon felt that wasn’t enough, and I helped him to the medical tent. There, he still couldn’t hold down sips of water. Medics gave him two bags of intravenous fluid. He was taken by ambulance to Nassau University Medical Center, where he received another three bags of fluid — and the pleasure of an overnight stay.

He made it back to work by Tuesday and announced his results his students the next day.

The great storyteller had yet another tale to tell, and he also now had all the motivation he needed to run the next year.

He decided that when he was healthy enough, he would train harder and smarter. He told his students that even though he didn’t accomplish his goal, there was always next year.

And we did run the following year. This time, our brother Jerry joined us as an unofficial runner at mile five to lend moral support. We crossed the finish line together with our arms raised. It took Rob a year, but his story had a happy ending. We finished in about 2 hours, 22 minutes, but we ran the entire course, and instead of night’s stay at the hospital, we went out to breakfast to celebrate.

Pat Mullooly is editor of Kidsday.