Running to help others cross the finish line

Five Towners aid disabled participants in marathon


Last year, Hurricane Sandy put a damper on Lawrence resident Yael Mandel, Woodmere resident Elyse Goldstein and Cedarhurst resident Leigh Waxman’s plans as they planned to run in the New York City Marathon with Achilles International, an organization that pairs disabled runners with able-body runners to complete a race.

On Sunday, the trio laced up their sneakers and completed the event. Waxman and Mandel were paired with a man whose vision has been compromised from AIDS and Goldstein ran with a blind man who travelled from Japan.

"A guide's time is not their own; their race number is the athletes number that they are guiding," Mandel said. “It was enthralling; there was a lot of excitement being in the midst of such an invigorating environment.”

Waxman said the most exciting part of the race was being apart of the Achilles guide team. “We got calls from the sidelines, ‘go Achilles — you guys are great’ on almost every block,” she said. “What I did not anticipate was the support of all the runners too. As they passed us, they would gently touch my or Yael’s shoulder and say, ‘great job, you guys are doing an awesome thing.’ It made me feel great to be out there helping my athlete.”

To prepare for the marathon, which is the first for Goldstein and Waxman, they run year round and step up their training during the last couple of months before the race. “We run seven miles three or four times a week,” Mandel said. “And in the last few months we throw in a 12-, 15-, 18-, and 20-mile run on four Sundays. We run throughout the year so we don’t ever feel totally unprepared.”

Mandel said, she and Waxman have been friends for many years and met Goldstein through their children, who all attend the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway. “[The children] brought us all together and we all share a passion for running and try to help out by doing community service,” Mandel said. “Running is a great way to stay healthy and stay connected with your spouse and your children.”

Waxman said she enjoys the fresh air, exercise and companionship. “I appreciate everything I see and that I’m able to run,” she said. “It’s also a great example for my four children.”

Goldstein said she took up running last year. “It gives my mind the ability to think clearly and it’s very freeing,” she said. “It’s also inspirational that your body can do something and take you not only on a physical journey but on a clear-cut mental journey as well.”

Completing the marathon as an Achilles guide meant a lot to Waxman. “It meant more to me than running the marathon itself,” Waxman said of helping her running partner. “It’s become not just about me but about helping someone else and it makes running more meaningful.”