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Realizing a dream

  • SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS  Melissa Hager, of Lehighton, was one of several local runners to compete in the recent New York City Marathon. Hager finished in a time of 04:31:15.
    SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Melissa Hager, of Lehighton, was one of several local runners to compete in the recent New York City Marathon. Hager finished in a time of 04:31:15.
Published November 18. 2013 07:25PM

It was a life-long dream fulfilled for several area runners who recently competed in the New York City Marathon.

Known the world-over as one of the marquee long-distance running events in the country, the marathon represents a supreme test of the will.

Though they each finished the grueling 26.2-mile trek with different times, a common emotion shared among them was their shear awe of the spectacle.

Take John Martino, of Dallas, Luzerne County, for example. Originally from Jim Thorpe, Martino placed 745th overall.

Not bad for someone who completed his first full marathon.

Martino said he was a part of Ryan's Run, which sent a team to NYC to help raise money for allied services to help buy equipment.

"It's pretty exciting just to have all the people there," Martino said. "You're just kind of caught up in all the excitement."

Martino said his parents, John and Patty Martino, of Jim Thorpe, were able to follow him over the Internet through a computer chip worn on the shoe.

"I've been running since I'm 13," he said. "I've had lot of good coaches over the years who helped give me a lot of good training programs."

Martino's coaches have included Jeremy Dormer in high school; Dan Pszeniczny, along with Chris and Nick Wadas in college; as well as Joe Mogilski and George Mitzen beyond college.

The event also represented the first full marathon for Stephanie Conti of Palmerton.

Conti, who finished in a time of 04:14:28, said "The experience was absolutely unforgettable, from beginning to end."

"The energy at the start on Staten Island, with God Bless America and New York, New York playing is unbelievable," Conti said. "Then, running through the different neighborhoods and each borough of the city makes it such a unique race."

Conti added, "The amount of spectators who come out has to be unmatched; there is no shortage of spectators for the entire 26.2 miles. It is truly an amazing experience; I'm so glad I had the opportunity to be a part of it."

Prior to the event, Conti said she did the 18 mile tune-up in preparation for the marathon.

"I am satisfied with my finish, but that doesn't mean I don't want to beat my time next year," she said.

Melissa Hager, of Lehighton, finished the run in a time of 4 hours, 31 minutes, and 15 seconds.

For Hager, the event was extremely meaningful after last year's marathon was canceled due to superstorm Sandy.

"It was an overall amazing experience," Hager said. "It really was worth the wait."

Hager said she was especially impressed with the crowds that were waiting in the streets.

"It was really unbelievable," she said. "It was a tough race; it was great."

Though she didn't finish quite as high as she would have liked, Hager said the marathon is "probably one of the most amazing races in the world."

"To see the people come out, and they're calling your name, it's amazing," she said. "This would be the bucket race, I think."

The event marked the third marathon for Hager, who previously competed twice in the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2010 and 2011.

"I think anybody can do a marathon, whether you walk it or run it," she said. "The hardest thing is putting on your set of shoes and going out the door."

A fourt area runner, Barbara Lawson, of Tamaqua, completed the event in a time of 05:28:42. Efforts to reach Lawson in time for today's publication were unsuccessful.

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