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NEFCU Long Island Marathon runners cross finish line in soggy race

This story was reported by Vera Chinese, Rachel O'Brien and Scott Eidler. It was written by Eidler.

Marathoners in ponchos and soggy shoes trekked 26.2 miles of wet pavement Sunday morning, finishing a newly redesigned course at the NEFCU Long Island Marathon.

The precipitation was a benefit for some runners, and a hindrance to others, they said. Zach Lifman, 26, of Merrick, ran his first marathon Sunday and said he was “tired and totally beat up,” but welcomed the rain.

“I think if it would have stayed heavy, it would not have been great, but it was pretty light, I think it kept us pretty cool," Lifman said. "Overall, I was actually pretty happy that it happened.”

Momo Picciotto, 19, a rabbinical student from Flatbush, Brooklyn, finished the marathon third overall. He said the conditions were rough, but better than those during the New Jersey marathon last weekend.

“It puts weight on the tank top, water logs the shoes and then your clothes stick to you and you can’t warm up,” he said.

Some runners walked barefoot through the mud post-race, and some donned sandals to avoid ruining sneakers. A few people slipped and fell in the mud. Post-race, runners were draped in towels branded with the race name and sponsors, including the words “Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.” Curran took photos with the race's top finishers.

Grounds crew spread dry dirt in some areas to soak up some of the more soupy spots. Attendees mostly stood on the bleachers as they watched runners cross the finish line. Runners were quick to grab a beer, bagel or banana and leave the muddy race grounds behind.

Half-marathoner Jerry Perez, 43, a speech pathologist from Woodside, Queens, removed his shoes at mile 5 when his feet began to blister. A sometime barefoot runner, he said it was difficult to keep to smooth pavement while running through the wet course.

“I did it once, and it’s off the bucket list,” he said. He put the shoes back on to walk through the muddy grounds after the finish line.

West Islip's Dan Gargaro and Huntington's Alyssa Salese were the top finishers in the men's and women's categories.

Gargaro, 29, finished in two hours, 30 minutes, 15.7 seconds, his third overall marathon and second victory.

"I like it. It's very flat," Gargaro said. "I'm just happy to be here. It hasn't really hit me yet."

Salese, 26, won the women's race in three hours, two minutes, 25.3 seconds. It was the first time she's ever run a marathon, she said.

"I didn't anticipate placing at all, but I felt pretty good out there," she said. "It's pretty surreal."

The marathon this year has a new sponsor and a redesigned course tracking a more scenic route. The race started and ended at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, instead of beginning at Charles Lindbergh Boulevard in Uniondale as in prior years. And much less of the race was run on the Wantagh Parkway, which race director Corey Roberts has called a "mind-numbing" experience. 

Teacher Molly Hanwright, 24, of East Moriches, was also running her first marathon. She finished second overall in the women’s division at three hours, 12 minutes.

The longest distance she had run before was 10 miles. A long-distance runner in college, she said she trained for this one.

“Last night, all I could think about was the rain, but once the rain started, it was fine,” Hanwright said. 

Before the race, runners prepped with trainers in the tented stretching station and munched on bagels.

Continuous rain made for thick mud and puddles everywhere, and marathoners stayed huddled under tents as long as they could before heading to the starting line.

Peter Hawkins, a wheelchair competitor who has completed this marathon 27 times, started just ahead of the runners early Sunday morning. He turns 55 on Thursday and finished the marathon at around 2 hours, 25 minutes.

The motivational speaker from Malverne said, “For me the race went pretty well, my time was pretty good especially with the rain that we had.”

Co-workers at Hauppauge-based Central American food distributors Rio Grande Food train together in Bethpage State Park about once a week after work.

On Sunday their group which includes Liliana Pinto, 31, of Hicksville, Gustavo Lopez, 32, of Bethpage, Fausto Guillea of Deer Park, 59, Arnold Saravia, 36, of Deer Park, 36 and his longtime friend Mayra Blanco, 33, of Bethpage, ran the various races with Saravia taking on the 26.2-mile course.

The group said having one another to cheer them through the soggy race helped make the day a fun one.

“We try to push them even if they don’t have the strength,” Blanco said.

 With Jordan Lauterbach

New York Sports