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Running with the spirits: An Islander returns to the NYC Marathon

When Islander Dr. Frank Adipietro heard the gun go off in Staten Island Sunday, Nov. 3, he set out along with more than 50,000 people for his 38th New York City marathon.

“I’ve been in every one but the Sandy race, every one since 1981,” Dr. Adipietro said about his extraordinary streak. In 2012, the race was cancelled as the city recovered in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Dr. Adipietro ran alone this year, but in many ways he had companions keeping pace with every step. He remembered his father, who asked him to run with him in 1981, his first marathon.

“He was the one who got me involved in this crazy sport,” Dr. Adipietro said.

Also with him was the spirit of his friend, Massachusetts State Police Lt. William Coulter, who died just five weeks ago. “I dedicated the race to Bill and his memory,” Dr. Adipietro said.

His wife Mary Ellen and son Liam were guests of Lt. Coulter in the VIP area at the finish line during the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013.

“Bill was a wonderful man and a great friend,” Dr. Adipietro remembered.

Originally from Brooklyn, Dr. Adipietro said he also had the people of his native city as his partners. All through the 26.2 miles, winding into all five boroughs of the city, from Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and finally into Manhattan and the finish in Central Park, he said the approximately two million people who lined the race course “were cheering, and it grabs you. The spirit of the city fills you.”

The conditions for the race were summed up in one word: “Magnificent.”

He ran Sunday’s marathon in about 5 hours and 20 minutes. His best was a run a quarter century ago when he clocked in at 3:04. The weather helped this year, but also his constant training got him through with a minimum of distress.

“There’s really no hitting ‘the wall’ anymore,” Dr. Adipietro said, using runner-speak for that time in a long-distance race when an athlete begins to confront exhaustion. He attributes never seeing the wall to training. He runs five or six days a week, and when training for a race, will run 13 to 16 miles at least one of those days.

Plus, an emphasis on hydration, using drinks such as Gatorade to replace lost electrolytes, and plenty of water, has helped the pro and the weekend runner alike.

Dr. Adipietro, like Mary Ellen, who is the longtime race director of the Shelter Island 10K, is an advocate of lacing up your shoes and getting out on the road.

“This sport is for everyone, all sizes, shapes and ages,” he noted.

Running long distances is not as formidable a task as most people think, he added. With some discipline and training, anyone can be a runner, he said, and achieve a feeling of accomplishment and reward.

At the finish in Central Park, Dr. Adipietro said he felt proud he’d taken on his 38th NYC Marathon.

But more important, the Islander said, than a personal achievement, was the camaraderie of the thousands of runners around him, as well as the memory of his father and a dear friend, and the spirit of a unified city.

A photo finish. Dr. Adipietro with Liam and Mary Ellen soon after his race.