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Island cheers on marathon runners — Return of NYC race celebrated

The 50th running of the New York City Marathon was iconic not only because of its golden anniversary, but because it marked a return after the race was canceled during the COVID pandemic.

For some Islanders, the race had even more importance this year. The Geist family cheered their son, Willie, a journalist with NBC and MSNBC, running his first marathon as a fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation to fight Parkinson’s disease, which his father, journalist Bill Geist, has contended with for 30 years.

The cause was the motivator, Willie Geist, explained, for his first foray into long distance running.

“I absolutely was not a runner,” he said, “until my wife Christina and I decided in April of 2020, as the reality of a long pandemic began to settle in, to run the New York City Marathon and raise as much money as possible for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The marathon was canceled last year, and a knee injury knocked Christina out, but I kept running into 2021.”

He said the views of New York City were exciting and inspiring from start to finish on Sunday.

“From a view of the Statue of Liberty as we crossed the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island, to the cheering crowds and hilarious signs of Brooklyn, across the 59th Street bridge into the loud throngs on First Avenue, up into the bands and DJs of Queens and the Bronx before the turn for home back into Manhattan, up 5th Avenue and into Central Park, it was like running through a dream.”

According to his mother, Jody, vice-president of the Shelter Island Library Board of Trustees, he brought in over $400,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s efforts.

“I was overwhelmed in the best way by the joy and energy of New York,” he said. “Running my first marathon in under four hours was a nice cherry on top of a day I’ll never forget.”

A familiar face and voice to runners from Shelter Island and elsewhere who take part in the Island’s 5K and 10K races is the race announcer Frank Adipietro, a physician and avid runner himself. He was taking part in Sunday’s NYC Marathon, his 39th, and was celebrating its return. A dedicated marathoner, he ran the Boston Marathon four weeks ago, “a perfect time between marathons,” he said.

“New York is back full force,” he said, expressing excitement at the return of the NYC Marathon this year after the city’s COVID challenges. “It’s more than running a race — it’s running for the human race.”

Cliff Clark, who has coached scores of Island runners, said there’s great mutual respect among the running community, and many ways to notch a “win,” whether it’s a personal best, completing a certain number of races, or raising funds through your efforts. “Of course,” he added “crossing the finish line first is pretty nice too.”