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Derek Hanson, Gabrielle Russo win Suffolk County Marathon

A steady downpour of rain did not prevent many from participating in the Suffolk County Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017. Derek Hanson, 34, of Huntington won the male category with a time of 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 3 seconds. It was the fastest time in the three-year history of the event by five minutes, organizers said. Credit: Newsday / Khristopher Brooks; Jessica Rotkiewicz

There’s a code among runners, and it’s a pretty simple one — just run. No matter the weather, the conditions, or the obstacles that daily life can throw, just run. Perhaps the one thing runners have in common is their undying love of the running that runs their lives. Some say that you have to love a sport that takes that much physical fitness and dedication. Even more would say that after Sunday morning’s Suffolk County Marathon, beginning and ending in Patchogue.

Rain poured down on runners as they navigated a course that took them through Blue Point, Bayport, Sayville, Oakdale and Great River. Despite the soggy conditions, Derek Hanson, 34, of Huntington Village, won in 2 hours, 42 minutes, 3 seconds, a Suffolk Marathon record. The previous standard, 2:46:50, was set by Manhattan’s Chao Zhou in 2015.

“It was a good day,” Hanson said moments after crossing the finish line, where he was greeted by a crowd of supporters. “I knew there were people here waiting for me and I wanted to see my wife [Francesca]. I made it back here as fast as I could.”

Patchogue’s Gabrielle Russo, 33, won the women’s title in 2:55:31. The victories qualify both runners for the 2019 Boston Marathon.

Russo said that, despite weather reports, she made the decision to run about 50 minutes before the starting horn, knowing that changing conditions are a bit of an occupational hazard in her hobby of choice.

“The rain definitely slowed everybody down, at least a little bit,” Russo said. My shoes were very heavy and there was a good headwind most of the way back. I was cold most of the race.”

Russo, an assistant professor in the anthropology department at Stony Brook University, moved to Long Island last year. She is a Pennsylvania native.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be [in Patchogue], but I figured I might as well run the marathon that starts and ends here,” Russo said. “ . . . I’m happiest with having the perseverance and dedication to get out there even though the conditions weren’t ideal. That’s part of being a marathoner. There are no guarantees what the race conditions are going to be like when the day comes and you have to be prepared to face it no matter what.”

Once the initial rush of the start wears off, marathoning becomes an exercise in mental fortitude. It can get lonely along the way toward 26.2 miles and it’s easy to get lost in both the head space and increasing pain.

“Between miles 14 and 18 is kind of no-man’s land,” Russo said. “It’s a total mental game. Between the half-marathon and mile 20, you have to be in the right mental space.”

With incredible precision, Russo has taken to marathoning. Sunday’s marathon was her third. She finished second among women in the Long Island Marathon in May, running 3:05:11. She plans to run the JFK 50 Mile, a ultramarathon, on Nov. 18 in Maryland.

“I learned a lot [at the Long Island Marathon],” Russo said. “It was the first one I really got my head in the game training for. I stepped it up this summer in terms of having a [training] plan, sticking to the plan, increasing the mileage, and putting in speed work. I tried to put all the pieces together for today and, given the conditions, I’m really happy with what I did.”

A pair of Sayville runners won the half-marathon. Brian Dalpiaz, 32, won the men’s race in 1:14:45 and Leonora Petrina, 35, won the women’s race in 1:20:09. It was Petrina’s second consecutive Suffolk half-marathon win.


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