Manhasset’s Maggie Tursi has run all over the world. A competitive runner in college, the 38-year-old mother of three vowed to run one marathon a year after graduation. So far, she’s stayed true to that promise, running in some of the top marathons in the world. Tursi has run in London, Amsterdam, Boston and New York City.
But lately, with life getting in the way of a day-to-day training regimen, she’s found the Suffolk County Marathon to be just right.
“It’s a flat course, which is great,” said Tursi, who works as a commercial real estate appraiser. “It may have been the first flat marathon that I’ve run.”
Tursi, who was the top female finisher at last year’s marathon, plans to run again in the fifth annual event Sunday morning. It will be her 16th overall marathon, and 14th official one.
“This one is great,” she said. “It’s local, it’s fun, it’s really well run. I enjoyed it last year.”
The marathon begins and ends on main street in Patchogue. Runners move through Blue Point, Bayport, Sayville, West Sayville, Oakdale and East Islip. The course tracks along Montauk Highway, loops around Heckscher State Park in East Islip and goes back through the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River, and Bourne Mansion in Oakdale.
“It’s an out and back course,” said race director Sue Fitzpatrick. “They’re not a lot of turns. That’s a positive thing for the runners. They could potentially have a [personal best] because there are not as many turns. You would lose time if there were a lot of turns.”
Fitzpatrick said that enrollment for the race is up from previous years. They are expecting between 2,500 and 2,600 runners, Fitzpatrick said. Participants can run the full 26.2-mile marathon, the half marathon, the 5K or the 10K.
The 10K was added this year to give runners another distance option.
“It allows people, if they are doing the New York City marathon next week, to run a 10K or 5K and still run next week,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s opening up the options for people to run this event.”
Tursi said that, in addition to the convenience of not having to go to the starting line in Staten Island early in the morning, she was pleasantly surprised at the amount of spectator support at last year’s Suffolk race.
“I never felt like I was in no man’s land too much,” she said. “New York is much hillier and the last few miles are pretty tough, going through Central Park. They’re definitely different. They’re both great. For me, I think Suffolk is a better fit. My running is pretty laid back these days.”
Last year, Tursi didn’t fully commit to running the marathon until a week before the race, but ended up winning in 3 hours, 13 minutes, 5.1 seconds.
“I just went out trying to check the box, but once I’ve passed the leader, I think on mile 17, 18 or 19, I ran a lot harder than I would have,” she said. “I never run a marathon trying to win it. I wasn’t trying to win it until I passed her and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I have a shot at this.’ It was fun. I’m not expecting that to happen this year.”
The race benefits a number of military charities, yet another reason why Fitzpatrick believes the race has grown in popularity.
“We’ve been publicizing it and pushing the fact that it is benefiting the veterans," she said. "I think that point is getting across to people."