One of the most anticipated running events on Long Island will get a makeover next year, with a new name, a new course starting at Eisenhower Park and the addition of the Long Island Health and Fitness Expo.
The Long Island Marathon, set for May 5, will now be known as the NEFCU Long Island Marathon, thanks to a new title sponsor. Its new route, which was designed by the Baldwin-based company Race Awesome, will begin at the Merrick Avenue entrance to Eisenhower Park instead of on Charles Lindbergh Boulevard, near the Nassau Coliseum.
Runners will head south on Merrick Avenue, turn east on Sunrise Highway, make their way through Cedar Creek Park and then head north on Wantagh Parkway before returning to Eisenhower Park.
“When we were looking at courses, we were looking at a way to make the race exciting for the athletes,” said Corey Roberts, who co-owns Race Awesome with his wife, Stacey.
Roberts, who is originally from Australia, and his wife are avid runners who began producing marathons and other racing events in 2007. The Baldwin couple launched their own brand four years ago, with the goal of improving and expanding the races in which they’ve competed.
With Merrick Avenue now one of the marathon course’s main arteries, Roberts said, local businesses will be able to set up stations to cheer for runners and greet spectators.
“It’s great that they’re changing the route,” said Julie Marchesella, the owner of the Queen of Hearts, on Merrick Avenue, and a past president of the Merrick Chamber of Commerce. She added that with runners crowding one Merrick’s busiest roads, more retailers may be enticed to get involved in the festivities. “It gives the community the opportunity to welcome runners from all over Long Island,” Marchesella said.
Frank Camarano, president of the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce, agreed, saying that the new route will be better for businesses and spectators alike. “Everyone could come out and watch it if they want,” he said. “It will be almost like a parade.”
When he was tasked with directing the revamped marathon, Roberts said, he wanted to use busy streets without interfering with traffic. This led him to include Sunrise Highway, which will have one lane open for vehicles as runners make their way toward Cedar Creek Park.
“We’ve had different parts of this course change throughout the years,” said Alex Cuozzo, president of the Long Island racing team the Bellmore Striders, who has competed in the marathon since 1977. “There are only so many ways that you could get around Long Island,” he added, noting that Roberts’s course seems like the most logical route for a race starting at Eisenhower Park.
Another new feature, which Cuozzo said he was excited about, will be the Long Island Fitness and Health Expo, a free event that will feature professional athletes, nutrition and medical experts, personal trainers and interactive fitness demonstrations. “It gives more businesses and guests a chance to get involved in marathon weekend,” Roberts said.
“There are few events on this great island that are as iconic and longstanding as the Long Island Marathon,” said John DeIeso, executive vice president of NEFCU. “The first weekend of May has become synonymous with the marathon, and we’re thrilled to be able to help keep this amazing event running.”
The race made its debut as the Macombs Dam Park Marathon in the Bronx in 1958. It was later renamed the Cherry Tree Marathon, but continued to be run in the Bronx until 1970, when it moved to Central Park. It was later named the Earth Day Marathon, and eventually moved from Manhattan to Roosevelt Raceway, and then to the Nassau County Hub.
In addition to the 26.2-mile marathon, the day will includes a 13.1-mile half marathon as well as 10K, 5K, 1K and kids’ races.