The Long Island Marathon: A weekend of fitness, fun and community


At the top of the list of events the Nassau County Department of Parks, Recreation and Museums looks forward to each year is the Jovia Long Island Marathon. The weekend of running, which unofficially kicks off the summer season in Eisenhower Park, is packed with live entertainment, a food truck festival and, of course, several races that bring together the running community and droves of supporters.

The races began on May 3, with the Friday Night Lights 5K Fun Run, followed by a 10K and a 1K Kids Run on Saturday. The half marathon and marathon were held on Sunday morning. Live music, local food vendors and other family-oriented entertainment were sprinkled throughout the races.

At a news conference before the festivities last week, County Executive Bruce Blakeman, standing at the races’ finish line with partners in government, as well as some of the event sponsors, said that the marathon was just the beginning of a slew of events coming to Nassau County this summer. Blakeman mentioned the International Cricket Committee’s T20 World Cup, slated to take place in Eisenhower Park in early June, and several concerts scheduled throughout the summer.

“Nassau County is committed to doing major events, whether it be cultural, athletic, or just entertainment,” he said. “But as we do each and every year, to kick off our spring and summer celebration here in Nassau County, especially on our 125th anniversary, it’s always the Long Island Marathon.”

The 26-2-mile race began and ended near Eisenhower Park’s Field 5. Runners headed west, leaving the park on Merrick Avenue, and then turned toward Garden City on Charles Lindbergh Boulevard. The race looped back toward East Meadow, and runners then headed north and east through Salisbury, around the perimeter of Eisenhower Park, before re-entering the park near Carmen Avenue. The half marathon followed a similar path, but excluded some parts of the race that ran through the park. As runners crossed the finish line, they were cheered on by grandstands full of supporters.

A total of 601 runners entered the marathon, and 1,431 ran the half marathon. Ryan Clifford, 27 of Westbury, was the overall winner of the full marathon, finishing in 2 hour, 31 minutes, 4 seconds. He was followed by George Werner, 21, of Sayville, and Scott Seymour, 33, of Brooklyn.

Cristin Delaney-Guille, 43, of Long Beach, was the fastest female finisher, in 3:03:13. Natalie Lutz, 42, of Delaware, and Rachel Wentnick, 25, of Massachusetts, were second and third.

The Hospital for Special Surgery for Long Island and Queens, one of the race sponsors, operated a recovery zone, offering mats, muscle rollers and other items to fatigued runners. The hospital has a location not far from the park, on Earle Ovington Boulevard in Uniondale.

The event has evolved over the years, County Legislator Tom McKevitt said, and the three-day festival is an entertainment highlight on the county calendar. Everything coming to the park this summer, he said — including the cricket tournament, which will be watched around the world — adds to the park’s value not only to East Meadow, but to the county as a whole.

“Eisenhower Park is more beautiful than it ever has been,” McKevitt said. “We’re improving it, getting it better all the time.”

Peter Purpura, vice president of business development for Jovia Financial Credit Union, the marathon’s title sponsor for the past six years, said the camaraderie of runners on race weekend is what makes the event so special.

“In all of these races, you have family and friends supporting their loved ones,” Purpura said. “But at the same time, we have people throughout the course with motivational signs, cheering on completion. You’ve got community groups handing out food and water. And you’ve got hundreds of volunteers at the finish line, working to handle a number of needs for runners. It’s really a great example of community, and people helping people.

“Jovia is committed to supporting our community,” he added. “We’re an organization of inclusion, and that’s what Long Island Marathon weekend is all about.”