Baldwin-based company Race Awesome is giving the Long Island Marathon the makeover that it deserves.
The company has taken on the role of race director of the 2019 marathon, which will now be known as the NEFCU Long Island Marathon, thanks to its title sponsor, and is scheduled for May 5.
Starting at Eisenhower Park, runners will head south on Merrick Avenue, turn east on Sunrise Highway, make their way through Cedar Creek Park and then head north on Wantagh Parkway before returning to Eisenhower Park.
Eisenhower Park sits in the center of Nassau County, just east of its Hub. To the south are thriving communities full of race enthusiasts who will either participate in the marathon or come out to cheer. There are also flourishing business districts. Merrick Avenue, in particular, is dotted with storefronts and shops that are active in local festivities.
Farther south is Seaford’s Cedar Creek Park, a popular spot for spring picnics and parties and the start of a scenic bike path that winds over a series of barrier islands, inlets and bays to Jones Beach State Park and its beautiful beaches.
What makes the New York City Marathon such an iconic race is its emphasis on local neighborhoods — the race was designed to give participants a varied view of the city. The most anticipated running race on Long Island should include the must-see destinations in our communities and give participants, who come from around the country and even the world, a sense of this great place we call home.
The course change will give competitors a more exciting view of local neighborhoods, allow ample opportunities for spectators to cheer them on, and encourage businesses to get involved in the race and its attendant festivities.
The marathon debuted in 1958 as the Macombs Dam Park Marathon in the Bronx, where it remained until 1970. Then it was named the Earth Day Marathon and held in Central Park. It finally moved to Nassau County in 1978 and was named the Long Island Marathon. Until this year, the Nassau County Department of Parks, Recreation and Museums oversaw its route, most of which ran along Wantagh Parkway, which hardly gave runners a sense of Long Island, the place.
Corey Roberts, who co-owns Race Awesome with his wife, Stacey, said that he formed his company with the goal of improving and expanding races throughout the tri-state area. He received feedback from many past competitors who criticized the marathon for having an uninteresting route. It’s a shame that runners felt that way, when Long Island has such diverse geography and communities.
Roberts was tasked by Nassau County with developing a course that showcases the Island, while not interfering with traffic and day-to-day operations in areas the course passes through. He made the right choice in using Sunrise Highway as one of the event’s main arteries, choosing to keep part of Sunrise open for vehicles, as opposed to choosing Merrick Road, another one of the county’s busiest thoroughfares, and shutting it down altogether.
Competitors, their friends and family members have celebrated the weekend of the marathon, but rarely have there been related festivities all weekend long. Next year, all will be welcome to attend 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. Such a versatile event should draw participants, spectators and businesses that would otherwise not be interested in the race.
The Herald looks forward to reporting on the success of a new Long Island Marathon.