Suffolk man to run NYC marathon

Published 10:15 pm Saturday, November 5, 2011

A year ago, Barry George couldn’t run for 10 minutes without having to stop.

But today, he aims to be one of 45,000 people to complete the ING New York City Marathon.

“This was my goal to run the marathon when I’m 50,” he said. “I just turned 50 last week. The one I wanted to do was New York.”

Email newsletter signup

George applied last November and was one of only 20 percent of first-time applicants to win a spot in the race. About 95,000 people were vying for the 45,000 spots, he said.

“I was just lucky enough to win the lottery,” he said. “I know people that have tried three or four years and didn’t get in.”

It has been a long year for George. Even though he walks a lot during the day — he’s a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service — and ran cross-country in high school, he found he was not in good shape anymore.

“I was the heaviest I’ve ever been,” he said. “When I started, I couldn’t do 10 minutes on the treadmill.”

But George persevered, running three to four times a week throughout the winter, spring and summer. He often ran on the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, jumping over snakes and detouring to avoid bears.

“It’s just neat to go down there,” he said.

But with the training came plenty of exhaustion. He would work all day and then have to run six or eight miles at night. One time, he called his wife — Debbie George, the Suffolk city spokeswoman — to come get him from a 7-Eleven because he had gotten sick from heat exhaustion.

“I did too much that day, and I learned,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing I fight against — trying to go too fast.”

He’ll be trying to pace himself in today’s race to fight against exhaustion. Though the race starts at 9:30 a.m., he is lined up in the 10:30 start spot.

“When I start, everybody will just about be gone,” he said.

George will start the race on Staten Island and run across the double-deck Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, past Sunset Park, through Queens, over the Queensboro Bridge and onto the island of Manhattan. He’ll run almost the entire length of First Avenue, go a few miles through the Bronx and cross back onto Manhattan. He’ll run through Harlem and end the race with a winding course through Central Park.

He’s hoping to run an average of a 10-minute mile. He hopes to take photos along the way of the millions who will line the Big Apple’s streets to cheer on the thousands of runners.

“It’s such a big party,” he said. “I’m taking my phone and I’m going to take pictures as I run.”

It’s been a long road to prepare for the marathon, George said, but he’s ready — and he already plans to do next year’s marathon.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s been consuming.”