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Why I Run The New Jersey Marathon: Thousands of Runners, Thousands of Stories

Overcoming disease, competing for others and promoting health are among the reasons many participate in The New Jersey Marathon on May 5. It is the state's premiere road racing event, held at the Jersey Shore, and includes the Long Branch Half.
    NEW YORK, NY, April 30, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Whether it is overcoming their own ailments, running in honor of a friend or family member, promoting a healthy lifestyle or raising money for a cause close to their hearts, each of the thousands of runners at The New Jersey Marathon at the Shore and Long Branch Half Marathon on May 5 has his or her own reason for competing. Each story is inspiring in its own way, and many have shared their experiences with race organizers and other fans.

Some of the most poignant stories surround runners who continue to battle disease or other health-related obstacles. Denise DiMarzo, 50, who grew up on the Jersey Shore (Raritan H.S., also living in Sea Bright, Monmouth Beach and Long Branch as a youth) and now resides in Illinois, was diagnosed with ALS in early 2011. Her husband Chris pushed her wheelchair for the race in 2012, raising funds for the Les Turner ALS Foundation. This year, although the effects of Denise's ALS have become more acute, she and Chris have remarkably continued on in the same tremendous spirit, adding Jersey Shore relief to their cause.

Amalie Park, 36, of Westwood, underwent spinal surgery 10 years ago, resulting in permanent nerve damage on her right side. Rather than give in to the pain and disability, Park walked everywhere she could. And since she entered her first 5K, she is unstoppable, culminating in her first full marathon on May 5.

Aly Pospisil, 27, of Nutley, suffered from melanoma. Two surgeries and six years later, Pospisil has put years of hurt and effort and frustration behind her and has a renewed focus to regain the range of motion and physical activity level she had pre-cancer. She ran a half marathon in September and is "checking a marathon off my bucket list" with The New Jersey Marathon.

Mary Kennedy can relate to all three of those stories. In 2009, at age 56, the Maywood resident learned she had lung cancer after having run nine marathons. Determined to run a tenth, her goal was met at the NYC Marathon in 2001, and she'll be competing in the Long Branch Half Marathon this year.

To celebrate 10 cancer-free years, 36-year-old Chrissy Saffran decided to do 10 big events in 2013, with The New Jersey Marathon highlighting a schedule which includes two Tough Mudders, a 3-day walk and numerous other distance events.

Often the effort and training is for the benefit of friends and family. Scot Burkholder of Scotch Plains first competed for Fred's Team in honor of his father who had succumbed to cancer. Lindsay Freeman of Spottswood says "I am a runner," also inspired by her late father, also a victim of that disease, knowing she is making him proud. Ben Malin's 12-year old nephew is a cancer patient, and he draws strength from his struggles. For Gabriella Nesse, 21, of Silver Spring, Md., whose Aunt Mad was taken by brain cancer, every run is in tribute.

Emily Pedersen, 37, of Mantua, does the half marathon to help raise funds and awareness for the fight against Congenital Muscular Dystrophies (CMD), which her "sweet and sassy, happy and smart three year old" daughter Klara struggles with. While there is not yet a treatment or medicine, Cure CMD continues to battle through dedicated advocates like Emily and Klara.

Jennifer Nachbur, 52, a 1979 Scotch Plains-Fanwood HS grad now living in Burlington, Vt., was inspired to run her first half marathon because of her mother's diagnosis of leukemia. She joined the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program in 2006, then fell in love with the physical activity of running. The Long Branch Half Marathon will be her 24th at 13.1 miles.

Dr. Robert Laitman, 55, of Bedford, N.Y., started Team Daniel in honor of his son, now 22, who seven years ago was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Through the generosity of Laitman's family, friends, patients, colleagues, and neighbors has raised over $100,000 for mental health research.

The New Jersey Marathon's theme of "Up and Running" is reflected in the motivations of three participants in particular who have shared their stories. Animal lover Jen Caroselli, 34, of Toms River, has run the NYC marathon twice to benefit the North Shore Animal League. Supersorm Sandy not only canceled her opportunity to run the race for a third time, but sadly also caused serious damage to her home and loss of nearly all possessions. Displaced for five months, Caroselli runs marathons, as she says, " help animals and to challenge myself. I'm back to me!"

Though not directly affected by Sandy to the extent of Caroselli, Kathleen Carroll-Mullen, 50, of Morristown, and Larry Rosenblatt, 49, of Bridgewater will have Sandy firmly on their minds during next week's race. Carroll-Mullen said she hasn't run a marathon in six years, but will compete in The New Jersey Marathon to be supportive of the "Jersey Strong" movement. Rosenblatt is in the midst of a stretch of four marathons in eight weeks (!) in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the Everett Family Fund, in support of a family that suffered horrible tragedy from Sandy. This is not a first for Rosenblatt, who said he also did four marathons in six weeks back in 2011 to benefit the Cancer Support Community of Monmouth County (Boston, N.J., York, Pa. and Vermont City Marathons).

Causes like these are tremendous beneficiaries of the dedication of these individuals. Team Push To Walk, which empowers people with spinal cord injuries to realize their individual potential, has five clients who will compete with handcycles, including Darren Templeton, 27 of Kinnelon, (the son of the Push to Walk founders and inspiration for the organization); Mike Luciano, 29, of Edison; Lois Hamilton, 63, of Oak Ridge; Lauren LaPorta, 24, of Bergerfield; and Tim O'Neill, 56, of Staten Island.

Team LADACIN, 33 runners and dozens of volunteers strong, raised over $46,500 at last year's event to advance LADACIN's educational and therapeutic programs and services in support of people with cerebral palsy or other physical disabilities. The Central NJ Brain Tumor Support Group had a survivor in each of the four events in 2012 and is aiming for the same this year.

Inspiration comes from many sources, and while many of those detailed above are particularly poignant, for thousands of runners, the desire to be fit and healthy, to simply be a runner, guides them. Aaron Word, 24, of Allentown, Pa., calls it a "running addiction." Stefanie Egbert of Manhattan uses running to overcome what she terms self-confidence issues. Rebecca Jusilla, 44, of Chambersburg, Pa., quit smoking and had never run before and caught the bug. Bill Fleming, 55, of Bloomsbury was inspired by his daughter to improve his health and lost 55 pounds. Similarly, Carolyn Kroeper, 28, of Middletown, lost more than 120 pounds from her 300-pound frame, pushing through knee issues, starting with 5Ks up to the marathon. Erin Andersen, 29, of Vernon, runs to help relieve Joint Hypermobility/laxity Syndrome which causes severe pain. Sarah McGovern, 33, formerly of Rumson and now in West Haven, started a popular blog to motivate her to continue.

Family life can alter running schedules, too. Joanna Koster, 31, of Hoboken, will run the relay instead of the marathon after finding out she is pregnant. A different kind of "pregnant" inspires Brian Erickson, 45, of Verona, whose four-year old son's query, "Dad, are you pregnant?" prompted a lifestyle change that includes regular running.

Milestones are often a goal of runners, and Brian Hurwitz, 42, of Boynton Beach, Fla., will be celebrating his 50th completed marathon on May 5. Armando Tejeda, 31, of Chicago, has pledged to run every event this year in the Allstate Life Insurance 13.1 Marathon Series, also conducted by US Road Sports & Entertainment Group, which conducts road races nationwide.

With the theme "Up & Running," the state's premiere road race event is set to run through eight New Jersey towns, beginning at Monmouth Park in Oceanport and continuing through Monmouth Beach, Deal, Allenhurst, Lock Arbour, Asbury Park, Ocean Grove and Long Branch. The race, which annually attracts thousands of competitors, volunteers and supporters, has taken on additional, poignant meaning to those still affected by the damage inflicted on the region by Superstorm Sandy in October.

A full weekend of activities for the whole family is scheduled for May 3-5, including the Novo Nordisk Health & Fitness Expo, Barnabas Health Family Festival and Kids Races, full marathon, half marathon and half marathon relay.

Registration for all events, course views, information about volunteering, sponsorship and details of the entire weekend of activities are available at the race Website at and the event Facebook page at Runners and fans are encouraged to follow The New Jersey Marathon on its Twitter @NJMarathon.

Official sponsors of The New Jersey Marathon include Novo Nordisk, Barnabas Health and Investors Bank.

About US Road Sports & Entertainment Group
US Road Sports & Entertainment Group is a health and wellness company dedicated to the production of world-class endurance events. The mission of US Road Sports is to offer an unparalleled participant sports experience that showcases host communities and endures as a deeply valued local asset through events that are a part of the city's culture, identity and brand. For each participant, US Road Sports strives to offer events that allow participants of all skill levels the opportunity to improve their physical and mental health and accomplish life-altering goals while having fun. US Road Sports provides sponsors and municipalities highly effective exposure to help maximize their presence and message in the community.

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