The official winners of the 2011 ING New York City Marathon wereGeoffrey Mutai of Kenya in the men’s group and Firehiwot Dado ofEthiopia in the women’s group, but there were also over 47,000other winners who rode, ran and completed the 26.2 mile racecourse- which goes right through the heart of Bay Ridge — in the world’slargest marathon.
Many were from New York City, like Robert Conwell, an NYPDsergeant from Bay Ridge who was hitting the pavement for the secondtime with his fellow men and women in blue. Conwell finished therace in four hours and 41 minutes.
It’s exciting, said his wife Janice, who stood Fourth Avenuewith her two sons – three-year-old Frank holding a GO DADDY signand seven-month-old Joseph wearing a bib declaring Will Crawl 26.2For Food – to cheer him on. We look forward to it every year. I’mvery proud of him.
The thousands of New Yorkers who lined the race path cheeringthe runners on and who volunteered to dole out water and otherfluids to parched runners were also unofficial winners.
For 33 years, the Mile 3 Water Station – now known as theRosemarie Russo Memorial Water Station – at Fourth Avenue and 81stStreet in Bay Ridge has been the first chance for runners andvolunteers to interact. The once-small operation is now staffed bya small army of nearly 200 Brooklynites who regularly come out tolend a hand.
Twenty-seven years ago, we wandered over to see what was goingon, talked to [Tom Russo’s] sister, put on gloves and ever sincethen, we’ve kept going, said Jeff Laperuta and Rich DePhillis,this year’s Fluid Station Captains, referring to originalco-captain Rosemarie Russo, who continued in that role until herdeath from cancer in 2007.
She liked to help the first time runners [in particular], saidTom Russo, who arrived at the station from Staten Island by 4:30a.m. to beat the closure of the Verrazano Bridge. It’s the firstwater station so it’s very important to them. It’s also fun. It’s agood time.
The ones with a disability – that’s why I get out here so earlyto cheer them on, said Teresa Biagioni, who came armed withpom-poms. People don’t come early. To get up a little early forthem, especially now with returning veterans, it’s the least youcan do.
First time volunteer Cole Grumbach agreed. At first, I didn’twant to get up early, but I figured it’s a once-in-a-lifetimeexperience, said Cole, 12, who was dragged over by his olderbrother Gary and dad Steve, who has volunteered for 31 years.
My favorite part is getting thanked in so many differentlanguages, some that I don’t even know, said Gary, 17, who saidthat he hopes to keep volunteering even after he goes off tocollege next year.
Local kids and parents comprised a sizable portion of thosestacking and filling paper cups of water and Gatorade three tiershigh, hailing from Xaverian High School, Fort Hamilton High School,Our Lady of Guadalupe Girl Scouts in Dyker Heights, local Greekchurches, and the Bay Ridge Jewish Center.
For Ridgeite Peter Vlitas, who came with his kids and acontingent of 30 to 40 other congregants from Brooklyn’s Greekcommunity, the marathon is another way to honor their heritage.
We live right here and started [volunteering] 13 years ago,said Vlitas. [We call this corner] Greek corner because themarathon comes from Greece. It’s the connection of Greeksoriginating the marathon to now, the biggest marathon in theworld.