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LI marathon director Corey Roberts helps upgrade course to draw more interest

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran joins leaders of

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran joins leaders of the Long island Marathon to diswcuss new race courses on Monday, April 15, 2019 in East Meadow.

Corey Roberts doesn’t like boring. Even his official title for Sunday’s NEFCU Long Island Marathon is a bit too boring for his liking. He doesn’t want to be called “race director,” even though that’s what he is. No, he prefers a much more informal title: “happy athlete guy.”

“That’s my job,” said Roberts of Race Awesome, the company that spearheaded a course redesign. “My job is to make people happy . . . If I make people happy, then we’re going to have a great race.”

Part of “making people happy” is getting rid of the boring run, something that led to the redesign. Now, instead of the majority of the 26.2-mile endurance test taking place on the Wantagh Parkway, the course will be more centrally located, with more areas for runners to pass by spectators, friends and family.

The course will begin and end at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, a change from the past in which athletes started on Charles Lindbergh Boulevard in Uniondale, near Nassau Coliseum. It will move down Merrick Avenue, head though Cedar Creek Park in Seaford, onto the Wantagh Parkway, exit at Old Country Road, and head back toward Eisenhower Park.

“We took over half of the distance off of the Wantagh Parkway,” said Roberts, adding that the time spent running there was often “mind-numbing.”

“We’re essentially only running one way on the Wantagh Parkway,” he said. “Previously, they were running 17 miles on the Wantagh Parkway. Now I think we’re running 7½. It was a huge deal.”

Roberts said the course changes stem in part from the large decline in participation the last few years. “In 2017, they had over 7,000 people registered. In 2018, they were down to 5,000 people registered. So, they lost 2,000 people in the space of one year.”

Why the sharp decline?

“People were just bored with the course and the post-race atmosphere wasn’t that great,” he said. “We really set paths to change everything about the race. We really focused on changing the experience with the athletes from the minute they walked in the door.”

Roberts said the course difficulty is not altered by the change. It is a Boston Marathon qualifier, meaning that runners with good enough times Sunday can be admitted into future runnings of the New England marathon-season jewel.

“This is a phenomenal Boston qualifying event, because the course is so flat,” he said. “You really can come out here and set a [personal best]. The course was previously flat as well. When you’re running on the South Shore, there’s no hills unless you’re running down to Levy Park.”

Roberts said that more than 5,000 people had registered for the LIM by Thursday afternoon.

“Our goal for this year was to stop the bleeding,” he said. “To lose 2,000 people in one year was massive, so we needed to focus on ‘How do we stop that in 2019?’ . . . We’ve managed to stop the bleeding and bring people back to the race. Now, we have a chance to focus on having them experience this new, revamped Long Island Marathon. Hopefully, this is where we can try to turn this race around and bring it back to being a big event.”

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