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Bellmore-JFK alumnus takes on the New York City Marathon

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Thousands of runners from all over the world will descend on the east end of Staten Island at the starting line of the TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday. Among the masses will be Team Mission United, a group of runners participating in support of local veterans and military families. Joining the seven-person squad this year is Merrick native Daniel Bornstein.

Before he graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 2010, Bornstein ran on the varsity cross-country team from freshman to senior year. As an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, he ran the Vermont City Marathon, twice, but this will be his first New York City Marathon.

“I’ve always wanted to run the New York City Marathon, but I knew it was difficult to get entry,” said Bornstein, now 27.

When he returned to New York last year to study law at St. John’s University, Bornstein looked for a way to get involved locally. Enter Mission United, a program of United Way of Long Island that supports veterans services. On Team Mission United, runners raise funds specifically for United Way’s Mission United initiatives. Each member commits to raising a minimum of $3,000 to help provide veterans with case management, PTSD counseling, education and other services. Participants receive perks for raising money, including automatic entry into the marathon.

The team’s mission resonated with Bornstein, he said, because a similar concept was ingrained in him during his junior year of college. In 2013, Bornstein enrolled in a history seminar at Dartmouth taught by Professor James Wright, who wrote “Those Who Have Borne the Battle: A History of America’s Wars and Those Who Fought Them.” For one assignment, the students drew names of Dartmouth graduates who were killed in the Vietnam war and wrote papers about their subjects’ student days — the classes they took, the extracurriculars they joined — for inclusion in the college’s library archives.

“The purpose was for [the students] to confront the fact that these were young kids their age who did some of the same things they did,” Wright said, “and to see that they thought about what they would do with the rest of their lives, but did not live to test out their plans.

“A theme of mine for a number of years has been to remind people of the human face of war,” Wright continued. “We’re not talking about boots on the ground; we’re talking about our young sons and daughters and friends.”

The experience stayed with Bornstein, ultimately motivating him to join Team Mission United. “The assignment got me interested in understanding that our military may not be as representative of our population as in World War II,” he said, “but we can’t forget about those who have served our country.”

To train for the marathon, Bornstein upped his running routine. Typically, he averages an hour per day, but in preparation for Sunday’s race, he ran for an hour and a half two or three times a week “to get that additional distance,” he said. “Getting those 90-plus-minute-long runs was a key part of the training.”

To meet his fundraising goal, Bornstein reached out to alumni from Dartmouth’s class of 1964, whom he met through the college’s Class Connections Program as an undergraduate. The program pairs each incoming undergraduate class with the class from 50 years before to promote inter-generational friendships. Some of Bornstein’s benefactors were veterans.

“One of the most rewarding things about preparing for this was being able to learn more about these mentors of mine, and learn how important this was to them,” Bornstein said, noting the benefactors’ excitement and gratification.

With the marathon just days away, Bornstein said he has enjoyed combining his hobby of running with an important social cause, and looks forward to having the support of energized spectators from start to finish.

He admitted that it can be daunting to even entertain the notion of running a marathon — let alone the largest one in the world — but having a cause and a community you’re committed to makes the journey even more rewarding. “Joining a charity team while preparing for a race like this has been very motivating,” he said. “It brings together your family, friends and mentors around the personal goal of running a race, but also an important social cause. I wouldn’t have gained that running it [by] myself.”

“Daniel has been passionate about advocating for people since an early age,” said his father, Ken. “He has traveled to Europe, Africa and many parts of the United States to make a difference for people in need . . . [And] he now takes on this endeavor to help veterans.”

Wright described Bornstein as a “committed and generous young man,” noting, “I have no doubt he will continue to do things that make a difference.”

Watch the live broadcast of the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon this Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on ABC-TV.