The New York City Marathon is always a decidedly international affair. The early stages of the finish line, when the elite runners enter into Central Park, sports more flags than the United Nations.
Last year’s men’s winner was from Eretria, a country in northeast Africa that’s just a little bigger than North Dakota, and the women’s winner was from Kenya.
And then there’s Brendan Martin.
His USA Track and Field bio reads like an ode to Long Island — he started running with Smithtown West High School, and he’s getting his doctorate at Stony Brook University. He loves to work out at Connetquot State Park and his training ground of choice is Sunken Meadow. His favorite food is New York pizza, but admittedly, you don’t have to be a local for that to be true.
“I have a lot of friends (coming) from when I was growing up,” said Martin, who is scheduled to graduate with his doctorate in physical therapy at the conclusion of this school year. “A lot of my college friends from New York City, and my whole family, for the most part,” are coming on Sunday. “It gives you a lot of motivation and you can’t quit on yourself when you know you’ve got 30 people watching.”
On Sunday Martin, running in his second TCS New York Marathon, will join the estimated 52,000 other runners and a spectator crowd expected to be more than 2 million. They’ll kick it off in Staten Island at 8:30 a.m., with the professional wheelchair division, while the professional women start at 9:20. The professional men, which include Martin, start with the first wave of non-professional runners at 9:50. The 26.2 mile race goes through all five boroughs before concluding in Central Park.
“Being patient is really important because this is a very tough course, much tougher than you would think,” Martin said. “You look at it and think, it’s New York, how hilly can it be? But every single bridge is a big hill. The biggest thing I remember from last year is that I was patient last year and that paid off big time for me and I’m taking the same approach this time this year.”
Martin, whose personal best marathon time was 2:15:30, at Duluth, Minnesota, came in 14th last year in New York. Though his first marathon was in 2012 at Boston, he held off on trying New York because he was busy with the Olympic Marathon Team trials, which he qualified for last year.
But though it’s taken him a little longer to get to his hometown race, the truth is that he brought a little bit of home with him since he began his running career. Though he only ran short distances when he ran for Smithtown West High School — one and two miles, he said — he credits his old coach, the now-retired Len Carolan, with setting him on his course (figuratively and literally, it seems). Martin now aspires to be a coach himself.
“He was really big on preaching those core value — showing up every single day, working hard, being respectful, respecting your competitors,” Martin said of Carolan. “I’ve stayed in touch with him over the years and he’s always been helpful.”
Add one more local influence to the Long Island runner on the international stage.