Big changes are coming to the Long Island Marathon, to be officially known as the NEFCU Long Island Marathon in 2019. A course change, marathon weekend enhancements, and a new title sponsor — NEFCU — were announced Thursday at a news conference in Mineola.
In an effort to make the course more accessible to spectators and more scenic for athletes, those navigating the 26.2 miles on May 5 will spend less time on Wantagh Parkway — a spot fraught with boredom and pain for athletes in past years — and more time waving to family and friends and pacing through more scenic areas of Nassau County.
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.
“That way, it’s more centrally located, not just for our athletes, but for our spectators,” Corey Roberts, of Race Awesome, the company spearheading the new course layout, said. “Our spectators can see the start of the race and cheer their family and friends on to the start of their journey.”
The course will move down Merrick Avenue and head through Cedar Creek Park in Seaford and onto the Wantagh Parkway, exit at Old Country Road, and then head back toward Eisenhower Park where the long-awaited finish line will greet weary athletes.
Roberts said that although the Wantagh Parkway is one of the least-popular parts of the course because of an absence of scenery, it is a necessity to keep at least part of the course on it.
“Although athletes seem to want to be in a downtown environment, we still have another community to look after — the community of people who aren’t runners,” Roberts said. “We don’t want to shut down all the roads and streets for six hours. Cedar Creek [Park] is our halfway point in the race. After that, when we get on the Wantagh Parkway, essentially the entire public can move around Nassau freely, apart from getting on the Wantagh parkway. That’s a big bonus.”
Once the course is certified, the marathon will act as a qualifier for the following year’s Boston Marathon.
“The reason why it’s a great [course] is it’s dead flat,” Roberts said. “...We added a hill in Cedar Creek Park, but you’re only going over it once. It’s a very low elevation change. It’s a phenomenal course.”
Roberts and Race Awesome will also organize a new Long Island Health and Fitness Expo which will be held during marathon weekend in Eisenhower Park. The free expo will welcome fitness vendors from across Long Island.