The New Jersey Marathon Festival at the Shore will take place Sunday in Long Branch and incredibly, of the 11,000 runners who will participate in either the 26-mile marathon or 13.5-mile half marathon, an astounding 300 will be Hoboken residents.
Only New York City will have more runners in the event than Hoboken – and as everyone knows, there are just a few more people who call the Big Apple home rather than people who reside in the Mile Square City.
But it’s safe to say that the running phenomenon has certainly gripped Hoboken, maybe even more so than people flocking to get to the Cake Boss’ bakery on Sunday morning.
“When I moved to Hoboken a few years ago, it seemed to me that everyone runs and everyone is into running,” said Lori Messineo. “I had a friend who ran in the New York City Marathon and I just started to run with him. It really motivated me to get into it.”
Another Hobokenite who caught the running bug is Nicole Spano, a Hoboken native and aspiring actress.
“I never thought I’d ever read my name in the sports pages, being interviewed for a story,” said Spano, a 2000 graduate of St. Dominic Academy who incredibly never ran at the local track and field powerhouse.
Spano is a singer and performer who has worked with another Hoboken resident, famed actor Danny Aiello, as well as performed in cabaret clubs like “Don’t Tell Mama” in New York. She also had a stint on the ABC soap opera “All My Children.”
Spano began running last fall as a part of a fitness campaign with her friend and fellow Hoboken resident Michelle Sellaro.
“Michelle started running before I did and she suggested it was a good way to lose weight,” Spano said. “That’s how it started.”
“I grew up in Bayonne and used to run in Bayonne County Park,” said Sellaro, a 2001 graduate of Holy Family Academy and a former soccer player there. “But I fell in love with running when I moved to Hoboken.”
After Sellano encouraged Spano to join the running family, Spano learned of the New Jersey Marathon Festival at the Shore and one of the aspects of the race. It’s held to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Spano’s uncle Richie was diagnosed last fall with acute myeloid leukemia.
“As soon as I heard about the fundraising aspect, I knew I had to do it,” Spano said. “It kind of just found me. Here I had a chance to get in shape, raise some money and run for a good cause.”
Spano then joined forces with Team in Training, a group that works with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to get to prepare runners for fundraising marathons and events.
“It’s been a rewarding experience,” Spano said. “When I first started running with Michelle, I couldn’t run far. I could barely break two miles. But once I got involved, I never looked back.”
Spano never dreamed she would be competing in a half marathon.
“I honestly thought I’d raise the money and then walk the race,” Spano said. “I never thought I’d actually be a runner and I never thought I’d be as excited as I am to do it.”
Spano is ready for the challenge of her first half marathon.
“I feel awesome and I feel ready,” Spano said. “It’s really been a rewarding experience. I have family helping, but strangers are giving me money. It’s really been remarkable. I can feel the support of everyone and they’re pushing me along.”
Spano has raised more than $3,000 in donations.
“I had no idea this world even existed,” Spano said. “But I’m excited, psyched and pumped for it. It’s a huge accomplishment for me. My friends are all shocked. They’re saying, ‘You’re doing what?’”
“I think it’s great that we’re doing this together,” Sellaro said. “I think when you do something like this with a friend, it’s definitely more reachable. It will be a nice run.”
Messineo is part of the Team in Training group and is raising money as well.
“My dad [Peter] was diagnosed with lung cancer,” Messineo said. “When you learn of all the people who have cancer, it puts things into a proper perspective. I can’t complain about anything at all, because people with cancer have it 100 times worse. I needed to focus my energy on something positive. It’s definitely a motivating force. I had friends who passed away from leukemia so I’m running for them.”
And the good news is that Peter Messineo’s cancer is currently in remission.
Sellaro is impressed that there are so many people from Hoboken making the journey to the shore for the race Sunday.
“It’s overwhelming when you consider the number of runners,” Sellaro said. “But then again, when you see all the people running in Hoboken, it’s really not that surprising. It’s definitely a good feeling that we’re not alone.”
Spano said that her uncle is appreciating her efforts.
“He’s been so touched by it,” Spano said. “I’ve learned so much about myself because of this. I don’t even go to the store to buy regular clothes now. I’m always looking for running clothes and shoes. It’s nuts. But it’s become a way of life for me. I’ve doubted myself the whole time, but now it’s going to happen. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
If anyone wants to help Spano in her quest, here’s the link to the Team in Training website. It’s definitely worth the while. You can see it at www.pages.teamintraining.org/nj/nj11/nspano....
We’ll have an update next week on how Nicole and her friends did…
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