Like most big-city races, the New York City Marathon is rife with entrants representing various charity groups. Every mile run and every dollar raised are worthwhile endeavors, to be sure.
When the cause and the sweat equity hits home, the combination makes for a poignant and truly meaningful experience. Such is the case for lifelong endurance athlete Marcy Rynne of New Paltz.
Rynne completed the NYC Marathon earlier this month in 4:34:24. Far more than the digits splayed out on the finish line clock, the meaning in every step of her journey for the Breathe Team charity was real. Very real.
Rynne’s son, Eamonn, lives with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that attacks the lungs. It causes frequent infections and can have a profound impact on the quality of life — Eamonn has been in the hospital for treatments a total of six months throughout the past three years. Mostly, it makes the simple, reflexive act of breathing far more arduous than it should be for a bright-eyed 15-year-old.
The Breathe Team charity raises money for boys like Eamonn. Marcy has raised close to $10,000 already and the team has raised more than $210,000 to date from the 2021 NYC Marathon. This was her third NYC Marathon, racing for the Breathe Team.
However, it was the first marathon without her husband Austin by her side, as he has been sidelined by injuries. Marcy said she missed the amazing pacing help from her husband, who was a particularly strong guiding force in the 2017 NYC race. “I have a hard time with that alone, especially on the packed streets of NYC,’’ she said.
However, the spirit of the city buoyed her efforts. She called the energy on the streets of Brooklyn “unreal” and admitted it took discipline to hold back her pace during the early stages of the race in that borough. She paced the race smartly, never hitting the proverbial “wall” at the end.
Around miles 21 and 22, she said her fueling became an issue because of difficulty ingesting energy drinks, a common malady at the end of marathons for entrants. She was able to overcome this and finish with a flourish. And she was able to soak in the experience of a city that sorely missed the marathon after its shuttering in 2020.
“It was absolutely amazing,’’ she said. “The streets were packed the whole way, three deep at times. Bands playing, giving kids high fives, people cheering with signs constantly. It’s like a huge party on the streets for spectators.’’
Marcy’s husband Austin covered as much territory as he could, seeing her at three different places — miles 8, 18 and 24. “I’m not a group run or crowd person at all but something about the NYC Marathon is just amazing,’’ she said.
Along the way, Marcy’s mind was always on the goal of not only finishing 26.2 miles through the five boroughs, but also for the Breathe Team cause, and how cystic fibrosis charities can ultimately benefit children like her son.
A global pandemic can be a minefield of uncertainty for a family like the Rynnes, given Eamonn’s coping with cystic fibrosis. Along with Eamonn, the Rynnes have a son, Griffin, who is a freshman at SUNY Oswego.
Marcy said Eamonn was able to navigate through the pandemic masterfully, owing to the excellent care he started receiving right before the onset of COVID-19. Eamonn had been admitted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for the first time in January 2020. According to Marcy, Eamonn made more progress in two weeks than he had in the prior two-plus years of his previous treatment at a different facility.
“So, he was in a good place heading into the pandemic and having zero exposure to germs, more time for sleep, exercise and treatments, and the world wearing masks once he did start to re-enter was huge for his health,’’ she said.
Marcy added: “We had just started having conversations about him wearing a mask in public in January 2020 and he wasn’t happy with the idea. I’ve heard from others with CF, especially those that have had double lung transplants who always wear masks, that it was nice to not be looked at strangely and be the only ones wearing them for a while. We still wear masks whenever we’re in public. Can’t see that changing for us anytime soon.’’
As for her endurance training, Marcy said she excelled thanks to a new training program launched for her by her sister, Laurie Barnum, who is an orthopedic physical therapist and certified active release therapy provider. Marcy’s favorite race every September is the Survival of the Shawangunks, or SOS, triathlon, a grueling event in Ulster County.
“I was really happy with my marathon training this year coming off SOS in September,’’ she said. “I was battling injuries in August and not sure I was going to make it to the start of SOS or the marathon when she recommended it to me. It helped me focus my training and avoid injury so much, although I’m still not sure I would have made it to the marathon start if she didn’t treat my injuries twice a week for the six weeks leading up to the start.’’
Marcy, who just turned 50, is an occupational therapist in the Beacon City School District. She said she relies on her endurance-based training to add much-needed balance in her life.
“Training is a huge sanity saver for me and a mental break from what feels like my full-time job (on top of my full-time job) of being a (cystic fibrosis) mom,’’ she said. “It allows me the space to think and gather the strength I need to keep going and stay positive.’’
Marcy Rynne spread that positivity over a city full of good vibes earlier this month. Along the way, she continues to raise necessary funds for a very worthy cause.
She mentioned that the Breathe Team is accepting applications for spots in the Brooklyn half and full marathons in April and the NYC Marathon next year. For information on joining the team, go to events.cff.org/NYCmarathon.
And for those interested in contributing to her Breathe Team efforts, donations are still being accepted at haku.ly/c1cd0061
Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club member Pete Colaizzo, the track coach at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, writes on running every week. He can be reached at [email protected] For more club information, go to www.mhrrc.org