Gerald Cohen and Rafi Zlotnick, both New Rochelle residents, were among the 50,766 runners who completed the New York City Marathon this year.
“Running the New York City Marathon has been a bucket-list item that I honestly thought I’d never get to,” explained Zlotnick regarding why he registered to run. “After getting a treadmill last year for my birthday, I started to run on an almost daily basis. At some point, I realized that if I was ever going to be able to run the marathon, it would be this year.”
The New York City Marathon is considered one of the preeminent running events in the United States, and attracts runners from all over the world. Since 1970, the race has been held annually on the first Sunday in November, with the exception of 2012 due to Super Storm Sandy. The race is organized by the New York Road Runners Club and is an exciting day for both runners and spectators.
Gerald Cohen had a different motivation to run. After helping his friend, Robbie Zellner, successfully train and complete the 2016 marathon, he decided to apply for the lottery for this year’s marathon, thinking, “If I get in, it was meant to be.” Shortly after winning a spot, a close family friend, Adam Krief, passed away from cancer. “I felt compelled to do something to honor his memory so I decided to dedicate my run in his honor and raise money for his widow, who is now responsible for raising three young children as a single parent.” Cohen dedicated his race in Adam’s memory and to the Run4Adam campaign. Cohen proudly explained, “With the help of my generous community and also members of my family and friends, I have raised over $20,500.” Cohen also inspired his children to raise funds for Adam’s family. On Thanksgiving Day, all three Cohen children will be running with their dad in the New Rochelle Turkey Trot. “Ethan, age 7, is doing a one-mile race; Zachary, age 5, is running in a 100-meter race; and my daughter Sophie, age 10, will also be running a mile.”
This year’s marathon took place just days after the terrorist attack on the West Side where a truck rammed into pedestrians and cyclists. When asked if runners were concerned about security for the race, Zlotnick responded, “If you would have asked me before the race, the answer would have been a simple no. I try not to let that stuff really affect what I do or how I act. However, at one point, as I was davening in Fort Wadsworth before the marathon, there was a loud boom. I looked up and there were a couple people looking around, clearly trying to figure out what was going on. It was the starting cannon for the earliest wave of runners, but I didn’t expect it and, for a moment, was scared.” Cohen was a bit nervous, “but the security was very tight. I was comforted knowing that the city took serious precautions.”
For those who have aspirations of running a marathon, Cohen suggested to “run for a cause. It makes the entire experience more meaningful and fulfilling. Also, use a marathon program and stick to the training. If you don’t put in the hours, it will be very difficult to complete.” Zlotnick added, “If you ever do run, enjoy the whole experience because that is what it actually is, an experience. There is no other event that could mimic the feeling of having thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers cheering you on, handing out food, playing music etc. It truly was a unique experience that I will forever cherish.”
Both runners’ goals were just to complete the marathon. As Zlotnick explained, “Finishing was my only option. I didn’t care if I had to crawl across the finish line.” He completed the marathon in four hours and 32 minutes. As for Cohen, his personal goal was to complete the race in less than four hours and be successful in his fundraising attempt for the Krief family. “I hoped to finish the race in under three hours and 45 minutes, but I hit a major wall at mile 20 and my legs felt like two stiff logs that would not go any faster. It was extremely painful.” Cohen finished in three hours and 57 minutes. Cohen is still working to raise funds for the Krief family. You can still donate at http://www.raise4ever.org/run4adam, or consider sponsoring the Cohen children in New Rochelle’s turkey trot race at http://www.raise4ever.org/cohens.
By Judy Berger