Most elite runners say the Long Island Marathon course is relatively flat, what with the long, lonely stretch along Wantagh Parkway, and the running-friendly confines of Eisenhower Park. But Gabrielle Russo has found a way to make this race all about conquering one big mountain after another.
One year after coming in second, Russo, the Stony Brook University assistant professor of anthropology, won the whole thing in the women’s race in 2:50:40, accomplishing the unlikely feat of shaving nearly five minutes off a personal best time and getting one step closer to a goal of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Trials; the required time is 2:45:00. The Long Island Marathon last year was only her second marathon — a product, in part, of taking four years off to complete graduate work — but she won the Suffolk Marathon months later, and is recently coming off winning a Long Island-based 50k ultra-marathon, and completing a grueling Boston Marathon course in high winds and pouring rain.
Between the Long Island race and Suffolk, Russo, 33, of a Patchogue, but originally of Pennsylvania, is well on her way to becoming one of the best distance runners in the country thanks to a young career that she forged in her adopted home. Thomas Rammelkamp, 28, won the men’s race, finishing in 2:33:13. Rammelkamp, who grew up in Miller Place but is now working as a physical therapist in Falls Church, Va., last came in fourth in the 2013 Long Island Marathon, a race his brother, Derek, won.
“It was just exciting,” said Rammelkamp, who said this was his first marathon victory. In many ways, redemption was woven throughout the 26.21 miles, since hypothermia forced him to drop out of the Boston Marathon near Mile 15 three weeks ago. “I just wanted to come out and put in an honest effort,” he said, adding that he ran track for Miller Place High School where he graduated in 2007. “I didn’t put any pressure on myself . . . It was a lot more relaxing here today.”
Over 530 runners completed the marathon in temperate conditions, a departure from last year’s rainy course. Manhattan’s Narciso Mejia, 32, came in second in the men’s race, in 2:37:08, and Julio Sauce, 46, of Brooklyn, was third, in 2:42:55. Sauce, hailing from Ecuador, said it was either his seventh or eighth Long Island Marathon, but a lifetime of marathon running: “More than 40,” he said, smiling, when asked to guess how many he’s run. A New York Times profile pegged Sauce, a restaurant worker, as one of the fastest non-profession runners in the five boroughs.
Jazmin Abraham, 36, of Upper Saddle River, NJ, came in second and Catherine Chua, 42, of Richmond Hill, NY was third.
Russo said she didn’t come in expecting to win. Running — and winning — the USATF 50K Road Championships in March was plenty grueling (that’s over 31 miles). The weather during the Boston Marathon, in April, wrecked the best-laid plans of even the most elite runners. But still, she came back for more, waiting until the final days to register for this last race of her training cycle.
“This is still pretty new to me,” she said. “It’s pretty fantastic to cross the finish line. That’s everyone’s goal. Not matter what speed you’re running or what your goal is out there time-wise, you just want to get out there across the finish . . . I really didn’t know what to expect and today’s goal was to run by feel, and this was a really good learning experience for me because I’m learning to gauge my effort level. I got five minute (personal record time) today, and five more minutes and I can” qualify for the Olympic Trials.
Five minutes off a personal best is an eternity for athlete who runs three hours at a time, but on Sunday, Russo proved that sometimes, it’s as easy as putting one foot in front of the other.