Among the thousands of runners taking part in today’s world-famous New York City Marathon is Roselle Park resident Greg Niland.
Greg is not alone in being from the 07204 ZIP Code – there are others who are running today and have in the past. But in addition to running the 26.2 miles through all five boroughs, Greg is going to be carrying something else on his back. His friend’s name is written on a ribbon that he attached to the back of his race shirt.
To honor his friend who passed away from cancer, Greg will be running the NYC Marathon this year with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
“I am hoping to raise blood cancer awareness and donations for patient support and cancer research,” Greg said.
You might have seen Greg running through town in preparation for today. He did most of his training running around the streets of Roselle Park. For longer runs, he would start here and continue through Cranford, Garwood, and Westfield.
All that training, all the aches, all the dedication, will culminate at a starting line in Staten Island and end in Central Park.
Greg’s friend will not be alone. Greg will also have ribbons with the names of those who – either personally or through a loved one – have been touched by cancer on the back of his shirt.
But Greg’s mission will not end with the NYC Marathon. He will be back at it, training to get ready for the New Jersey Marathon which will take place five months from now in April of 2015. He will again be running with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team.
During that marathon next year, Greg hopes to see fellow Roselle Parkers join in to show the community’s support and care. Anyone interested in running in the New Jersey Marathon can consider joining the “Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training” program (link). Participants do not need to be professionals or dedicated to jogging; they can run or walk the full marathon, the half marathon (13.1 miles), or do the half marathon relay which is only 6½ miles. Greg added an incentive, stating, “My favorite part of participating with Leukemia & Lymphoma Society are the bacon chocolate cupcakes that the Union County coaches reward participants with after the group runs.”
Of course, the main incentive for Greg is the memory of his friend. During that section in the marathon when the crowds of cheering are scattered and the only thing one hears is their breath, heartbeat, and the sound of sneakers hitting the pavement with legs that feel heavy as a ton, Greg feels the sweat on his back and then he remembers the ribbons. In those solitary moments Greg knows he is not alone, and he has to carry on their names to work through that wall only runners understand to keep going, all the way, to the finish.