It was 2003 and Danya Perry was leading the pack in her first Long Island Marathon when she saw another jersey gaining ground on her. She assumed it was a half marathoner, she said, and barely took notice in those final, grueling miles. It wasn’t, and the record shows that in that year, a Bellmore woman named Debbie Cuttitta won the women’s marathon, a mere .15 seconds before Perry.
Perry hasn’t been back on this terrain since then, taking the time to have three kids and build a successful law career. One thing she didn’t do, though, is forget.
“She slid in right at the last minute,” Perry said of the 2003 race, her 2017 self panting, elated. “I kind of let her go, much to my chagrin for the past 13 years. I’m glad this time it worked out.”
It was only her second Long Island Marathon, but a long time coming. Sunday, Perry, 45, won the women’s race in 3 hours, 48 seconds, in Uniondale’s Eisenhower Park. Though from the city, she grew to know the island and its courses when she was an attorney with the Kathleen Rice-led Moreland Commission, investigating public corruption. “I’ve been running since law school,” she said, “just to let out steam. I was pretty fast and I figured I might as well put it to some use and have a goal.”
And this time, Perry, 45, didn’t have to worry too much about anyone surging behind her in the final steps. The next best finisher was Patchogue’s Gabrielle Russo, in 3:05:11, in only her second marathon.
Russo, 32, who moved to Long Island in September to work as an assistant professor at Stony Brook University, hasn’t trained seriously since 2013 thanks to the rigors of graduate school. Once here, she found a group to run with, and easily blazed a path in her new hometown.
“It’s my first Long Island race,” she said. “This is a great course. There’s a really long stretch but I had a great team of people to run with . . . I’m overwhelmed with joy.”
Mind you, the joy didn’t quite mitigate the 26.21 miles she just ran. Though beaming and seemingly undaunted, Russo, originally of Pennsylvania, did have a little trouble going up and down the winners’ podium.
“It’s mostly in my legs,” she said, laughing. “I kind of want to fall down right now but I’m keeping it together. Otherwise, it’s exhilarating.”
Jazmin Abraham, 35, of Nutley, New Jersey, finished third for the women in 3:12:24.
The men’s pool was a bit slower than it has been in recent years, with the first overall finisher, Connecticut’s Timothy Milenkevich, coming in at 2:45:32 — about 16 minutes slower than last year’s winner, Oz Pearlman. Despite sunny skies, strong wind was a pivotal factor Sunday morning — either in runners’ favors, said Milenkevich, 35, or against, when it was blowing right against him, forcing him to hunch down.
“I threw up four times, just a little bit each time,” Milenkevich said, matter-of-factly, adding he hit a pretty severe wall around mile 17 to 20. “You feel bad, you feel good, you feel bad, you feel good . . . I thought I wasn’t going to make it but then I found some extra energy and got it done.”
Nearly 500 participants completed the marathon this year, slightly lower than last year, and around 8,000 had registered for the weekend’s activities going into it. Sunday was composed of the 10-kilometer, half marathon and marathon, with the shorter races going Saturday. As they have every year in recent history, Long Island marathoners began at 8 a.m. on Charles Lindbergh Boulevard, completed a loop around Museum Row and other local landmarks on that stretch, then commenced an arduous, lonely stretch around Wantagh Parkway. The race, which got its start in 1970 as the Earth Day Marathon, ends at Eisenhower Park.
Brooklyn’s Carlos Sauce, 32, who said he hasn’t run a marathon in six years, came in second in 2:47:32. Henry Brut, 23, of Princeton, New Jersey, was third in 2:53:17.
“I’m happy,” Milenkevich said, casually, for a man who just ran a marathon, “I saw the second-place guy a couple times [close to the finish line] . . . I got so scared, but then I think, he was hurting as much as me.”