When Corey Roberts, of the Baldwin-based company Race Awesome, won the bid last spring to become the race director of one of Long Island’s best-known running events, he was told, he recalled, that there were many features of the Long Island Marathon that he couldn’t change.
From its route, which mostly followed the Wantagh Parkway, to posting race results, Roberts said that the race hadn’t had a makeover in decades, and many people who helped put it on hadn’t planned on seeing one.
The NEFCU 2019 Long Island Marathon, however — named after its new title sponsor and set for this Sunday — includes a number of new features. The most recent were announced on April 15, and include a food truck festival and a partnership with a smartphone application that will allow spectators to live-track their friends and family members who are competing.
“Everybody wants to see a better race, and they all supported changing it,” Roberts said before thanking the Nassau County Legislature, the county Police Department and the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce, among others he worked with to recreate the marathon.
The county Department of Parks, Recreation and Museums previously oversaw the race route, which began on Charles Lindbergh Boulevard, near the Nassau Coliseum, and sent runners down Wantagh parkway for over 18 miles.
The race will now start at the Merrick Avenue entrance to Eisenhower Park and head south on Merrick Avenue, and then Bellmore Avenue, before turning east on Sunrise Highway in Bellmore. From there runners will make their way through Cedar Creek Park, and then turn north on Wantagh Parkway before returning to Eisenhower Park.
“When we were looking at courses, we were looking at a way to make the race exciting for the athletes,” said Roberts, a native of Australia who co-owns Race Awesome with his wife, Stacey. His goal in changing the course was to treat runners to the scenery of county parks and give spectators more opportunities to cheer on friends and family members as they run through local business districts.
“He works so hard, and he’s got that fire in his belly that he wants to accomplish things,” Dan Ratkewitch, of East Meadow, who runs a Facebook/YouTube channel called Helping Hands Podcast, said of Roberts. Ratkewitch interviewed him about the upcoming event on a recent episode of his show, which highlights local philanthropic efforts.
Race Awesome names a main beneficiary at all of its events, and has dedicated the Long Island Marathon to Friends of Karen, an area nonprofit that provides services to families of critically ill children.
In November, Ratkewitch competed in the first running race of his life, the Race Awesome 5K Turkey Trot at Eisenhower Park. “Whether you’re the first finisher or the final finisher, they treat you the same,” he said of the experience. “It made me want to continue running.”
Ratkewitch knew Roberts well before he started organizing races, because the two used to live in the same Westbury apartment complex. At the time, Ratkewitch said, Roberts was known as the chef from Australia with a kangaroo crossing sign tattooed on his back.
Roberts emigrated from Australia in 2003, after meeting Stacey aboard a cruise ship on which he worked as a chef. The couple lived in Westbury before moving to Baldwin to raise a family.
An avid triathlete, Roberts volunteered for a local racing company called Event Power, cutting fruit at its events. He traded aprons for race bibs for good when he climbed the ranks at Event Power and became its race director in 2006.
He and Stacey, who is also a runner, launched their own brand five years ago, with the goal of improving and expanding the races in which they’ve competed. “So far we’ve changed everything we wanted to change,” he said of this weekend’s marathon.
The new live-tracking feature, which Roberts announced two weeks ago, uses the Racejoy smartphone app. Spectators will be able to track runners as they make their way along the course, and get live race results as well. Register to the app here.
Runners will be greeted at the finish line with live music, complimentary photos and the marathon’s first Food Truck Festival. For the fourth year, the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce will also set up shop at the finish line.
In addition to the 26.2-mile main event, there will also be a 13.1-mile half marathon as well as 10K, 5K, 1K and kids’ races. The course of the half marathon has also changed, and part of it now runs along Hempstead Turnpike, where chamber members plan to cheer on runners and offer snacks and water.
“We want to show the runners what East Meadow is all about,” said Michael Levy, the chamber’s president, who owns Minuteman Press on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown. Roberts appeared at a recent chamber meeting to rally support and recruit volunteers.
Race weekend kicks off on Friday night with the Long Island Fitness and Health Expo, a free event that will feature professional athletes, nutrition and medical experts, personal trainers and interactive fitness demonstrations.