The first marathon ever ran was by Pheidippides in 490 BC. He was an ancient Greek messenger, who, according to legend, was sent from the battle of Marathon to inform the people of Athens that the Persians had been defeated. Pheidippides ran the entire distance, approximately 26 miles, without a rest in which he proclaimed We have won, before he allegedly collapsed from exhaustion and died.
What drives a person to run a marathon? Why would someone put their body through intense agony and pain for over 26 miles? Clearly, Pheidippides' reason for running was for his country, but what is the motivation today?
Ali Cunneen, 23, has been running leisurely most of her life. In the past year, she has taken up running 5Ks and half marathons. However, this Sunday will be her first full marathon. She will be partaking in the New York City Marathon, a race that spans all five boroughs. Cunneen admits that while is she is excited to run, she is quite nervous. However, she is intensely motivated. When Cunneen discovered her colleague's husband was diagnosed with leukemia, she immediately wanted to run in honor of him and joined Team in Training.
I just thought chemotherapy was so much worse than this. What they have gone through is nothing compared to a pain in my leg for three hours, Cunneen said.
Team in Training is an organization that trains athletes to participate in various competitions in support of the fight against cancer.
Without the team, I don't know how determined I would have been. The team has definitely been a huge factor in training, said Cunneen. Honoring an individual who is diagnosed with severe cancer is what also keeps her motivated to complete the exhausting race. She is proud to know that she will have her friend's name on the back of her shirt for the 26.2 miles of the race.
When you are going through that really rough patch and your legs are starting to hurt, I just think about the person I am running for, said Cunneen. She has received over $3,500 in donations for her organization, all in name honor for someone afflicted with a deadly disease.
The New York City Marathon is considered one of the premiere events for road racers around the globe. It attracts nearly 100,000 applicants each year from dozens of countries. Not only do world class athletes compete for prizes upwards of $600,000, the race gives runners a chance to excel in a race that is both mentally and physically exhausting as they are surrounding by thousands of supporters.
Beginning on the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island, Dr. Theodore Strange says it is one of the biggest thrills in the world to reach the finish line in Central Park.
The high and excitement you get from that is incredible, said Dr. Strange, 52.
Dr. Strange has been running marathons since the early 1990s. On Sunday, he will be competing in his 18th race.
It is probably one of the greatest days in New York City, said Dr. Strange. The music, the culture, the food, it just doesn't stop.
Dr. Strange's early motivation for running began as an effort to get in shape. He was never a runner in high school or college, but saw the marathon as a challenge worth taking.
Doing 26.2 miles was a mind over matter, so to speak, he said.
Since his first race, he has been running on behalf of his alma mater, Xaverian High School. Dr. Strange has taken donations in order to raise money for scholarships for the school. He said that he is proud to help a young boy who may not be able to afford the tuition for the private school, which is part of his motivation to continue running year after year.
Besides having his private practice, Dr. Strange is also a surgeon of the New York Police Department and is a member of the NYPD Running Club. He expressed his excitement over running on behalf of the NYPD as well.
The people of the city cheer the department like you can't believe, said Dr. Strange. It's always nice.
Dr. Strange has also inspired others to run the race with him.
Every year, someone has said 'Ted, I want to run the race with you,' said Dr. Strange. Having someone crossing it for the first time is a beautiful thing. Dr. Strange also mentioned that seeing his friends next to him and pushing them to cross the finish line in Central Park, helps keep him going during the tough times in the race.
You do it at a mile at time. The last six miles is all run on heart and motivation and the training. It hurts and you want to stop, he said. It times like these that Dr. Strange remembers he is running for his friends, family, and even his high school. The wall is when your body wants to give up. Your heart and your mind say 'no you're not.
Nearly 700,000 runners have crossed the Central Park finish line since the race was designed in the 1970s.
It seems like everybody for a cause. Everyone has someone's name on their back or a foundation. It seems like everyone is out there for someone else, said Carol Hotarek.
Hotarek, 29, has run three marathons. Like the others she mentioned, Hotarek runs for a very specific reason. She runs in honor of Sgt. James Jimmy Regan. Regan was an Army Ranger who was killed in February 2007. Deeply affected by the loss, Hotarek set out to accomplish what Regan was now unable to do.
Jimmy was actually a very close friend. He is one of the greatest guys I have ever known. He had dreamed of running the marathon while in the marines, she said. I thought what better way to support the fund then doing something he was never able to do.
Hotarek also runs for the Lead the Way Fund. Lead the Way is a non-profit organization established to supported disabled Army Rangers and the families of Rangers who have died, have been injured or a currently serving in the military. The organization was started in honor of Jimmy Regan.
We started out pretty small, we ran maybe five to ten runners, said Bob Hotarek, Carol's father and president of Lead the Way. The organization has expanded, however, and they have more runners in the New York City Marathon than before.
Some of these people never new jimmy and are inspired by his story. They are helping to make the difference in people's lives, said Bob.
Carol expressed her feelings while running the race. Throughout every mile, she keeps Sgt. Regan in her heart and mind.
It is one of the greatest experiences of my life. Thinking about Jimmy and the Lead the Way Fund is what keeps me going, she said. It is such a great feeling. It is a huge accomplishment.