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Pat Lafontaine

2011 L.I. Marathon is Inspirational

Long Island, NY – May 1, 2011  –  Almost 100 runners donned the colors of Team Courage today and participated in the 2011 Long Island Marathon in support of the Companions in Courage Foundation. Donors contributed more than $20,000 to the foundation as part of the effort to let hospitalized children know they are not going through it alone. Visit www.active.com/donate/LIMarathon11 to help.

For the 7th straight year, Bill & Doreen Isenberg handled the day's activities that included coordination of runner's numbers and welcome packs, along with the set-up of a great Finish Line tent that included plenty of food, beverage and even massage therapists! Doreen said, "This was our best marathon yet! We had a record number of runners and everyone had a great day."

A couple of runners representing CiC Foundation completed the full marathon, but most (including Pat LaFontaine) opted for the half-marathon distance. The weather was perfect for running with clear skies and cool temperatures in the morning. It was truly impressive to see all of the yellow Team Courage shirts worn by participants on the course.

The highlight of the day for Team Courage (and perhaps the entire field) was the inspirational run of 14-year-old Frankie Pitti. His step-dad Tony Sforza explained, "Frankie is both physically and mentally challenged, and running is NOT easy for him. He has an undiagnosed syndrome which effects almost every organ in his body." Frankie is a sometimes patient at Cohen Children's Hospital, where the CiC Foundation is planning on building its next Lion's Den Room.

He had been doing some training with the special needs Rolling Thunder organization, but recently had to back off training in order to complete various medical tests that will determine future surgical procedures. So on this day, while his mom tackled the full marathon distance, Frankie and his step-dad slipped into the middle of the pack at the start of the 10K race.

Sforza grabbed Frankie's hand and they started on their 6.2 mile journey. He said, "The first tap on my shoulder came within the first half mile as we rose up a slight incline. We were moving along at a 'Frankie Pace' -somewhere between a walk and a jog. At first, I thought the tap was just someone wanting to get around us. But as the runner jogged past he gave us a thumbs up and said, 'great job guys..." 

The taps kept coming for the next 6 miles, along with wonderful words of encouragement. "God bless you!" "You guys are what it's all about!" "Way to go dad!" Some didn't say anything, but their thumbs up said it all. The spectators lining the course recognized what Frankie was doing too, and their admiration was palpable.

As Frankie entered Eisenhower Park he could hear the crowds at the Finish Line and for the first time all day, Sforza allowed himself to believe. "He's going to make it!" After 2 hours, 22 minutes, Frankie Pitti crossed the Finish Line, but his day of inspiration was not quite complete. He turned and asked Sforza, "when can i get my medal?"

His step-dad was about to break the news to him that you don't get medals for finishing the 10K, when a young runner came up to Frankie. He had just completed the half marathon and he asked Frankie, "hey, where's your medal?" But before Sforza could explain the 10K story, the young runner took the medal from around his neck and handed it to Frankie. He said, "No one deserves this more than you today."

The ear-to-ear smile on Frankie's face told a story of how one young boy could inspire Team Courage and an entire field of marathon runners. And it was also a great lesson of how one of the most special runners in the field and his step-dad, along with a complete stranger at the finish line, could teach us about "not going through it alone."

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