Baldwinite Hareesha Boyagodage was supposed to travel to London in April to run in the 40th London Marathon, but the coronavirus pandemic changed his plans.
Organizers postponed the marathon to October and invited runners from around the world to participate, but this time, virtually. And Boyagodage decided to keep his word and complete the task.
On Oct. 4, he ran 26.2 miles from Fire Island to Baldwin, and raised funds for charity to support people with learning disabilities.
Boyagodage raised $400, donated $600 of his own money and aims to reach a goal of $3,500, to be donated to Mencap, a United Kingdom-based organization that works to improve the lives of children and adults with learning disabilities.
“Not everybody learns the same way,” Boyagodage said. “There are a lot of people who have different strengths and sometimes different weaknesses, so that’s why I’m passionate about it.”
His family members dropped him off on Fire Island and he made his way down the bike path that runs alongside the Ocean Parkway, Boyagodage, 39, explained, tracking his progress on an app until he returned home to Baldwin Harbor. He completed the marathon in six hours and 40 minutes.
“It’s beautiful, and it’s flat as it could get,” he said of the route.
His family members, including his wife, Buddhini, and four children, dropped off water bottles every two miles or so, so that he could pick them up along the way.
“He’s passionate about everything he does,” Buddhini said, adding that his post-run soreness isn’t bothering him so much because he enjoys long-distance running. “That’s something he likes. He enjoys it, so we support him.”
And it wasn’t his first marathon. Boyagodage has run marathons in New York City, Chicago and Berlin prior to the 40th London Marathon.
But this time, for Boyagodage, a certified public accountant and president of H&B Premier Tax and Accounting in Baldwin, it was different. About six miles into the run, he decided to send video messages to special people in his life, including family members and business colleagues, to spread some love.
“I was running by myself and I was thinking what I could do to inspire somebody else and send some love,” he said, “because a lot of people are hurting at this point.”
Sometimes you have to be willing to adapt to change, Boyagodage said, adding that he could have been angry that he didn’t get a chance to go to London and take part in the marathon and collect some swag, like T-shirts and a medal.
“I could’ve come up with a hundred excuses not to do it,” he said, “but it was my goal, and I was going to keep my word.”
This year has been tough for a lot of people, he said, but it’s like a marathon.
“Life is like a marathon,” he said. “If you think about the 26 miles all at once, it’s overwhelming. You don’t know if you could finish it or not, but you could always take the next step. And if you can take the next step, you can take the next one. If you finish the next mile, you can finish the next mile.”
Dilshan Fenevirathne, a property manager in Boyagodage’s office, helped drop off the water bottles along the route and received a video message from him. He said he respects Boyagodage for completing the marathon, adding that he probably could not keep up with him. Fenevirathne occasionally runs with Boyagodage in the mornings and evenings, and said that Boyagodage has encouraged him, despite his asthma.
“He’s a good mentor to me,” Fenevirathne said. “To me, he’s like a role model.”
Additionally, Boyagodage, an enrolled agent, chartered accountant, graduate of the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka and attorney at law of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, kept his office open during the pandemic and helped his clients apply for financial assistance programs, including the Small Business Association Paycheck Protection Program, without charge.
He also picked up and dropped off documents for some of his senior clients and picked up and dropped off those of his employees who were going to use public transportation to get to the office to ensure they stayed safe.
“He’s very encouraging,” said Emilie Calixpe, one of Boyagodage’s clients who received a video message from him, adding that he makes all of his clients feel like he has their best interest in mind. “You can call him any time, and it was very sweet of him that he remembered to send me a message while he was doing this.”