Since the race began spanning all five boroughs in 1976, Staten Island has served as the starting point for the annual TCS New York City Marathon. Not only the local community, but also sporting legends recognize it as an integral part of marathon culture. This year, you can expect the participation of prominent personalities in world sports at the event, as reported by Silive.
Now an annual tradition, the Staten Island Running Association's (SIRA) Marathon Week Legends Dinner at Staaten Restaurant (697 Forest Avenue) has become a national event not only because of the recognition of the community, but also because of the stellar lineup that attended.
This year's event will again feature 1968 Olympic record holder Bob Beamon, four-time New York and Boston Marathon champion Bill Rogers, world marathon record holder Steve Jones, two-time Boston Marathon winner Geoff Smith and two-time British Olympian Tony Stynings.
Also returning after a four-year break is New Zealand Olympic marathon legend Rod Dixon. 1976 Staten Island Olympian Bill Yankunis will also attend.
“SIRA is overwhelmed by the response to the gala this year,” said board chairman Jeff Benjamin, noting that Rogers, Jones and Dixon have a total of six New York City Marathon victories. “Most importantly, thanks to incredibly generous sponsors, over 100 of our young runners and athletes will be able to take part in the event at no cost to them.”
Sponsors include former national 800m runner Scott Ryder, who has since developed Parkinson's disease, a challenge he has turned into an international fundraiser and millions of dollars to fight the disease.
“I'm thrilled to come to Staten Island to see these legends and icons,” said Ryder, a South Carolina resident who is now a national advocate for the development of pickleball for people with Parkinson's disease. Beamon will also be flying in from South Carolina.
“I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones,” says Beamon, whose Olympic achievement 55 years ago was a breakthrough world record and entered the American dictionary as “beamonesque.”
Rogers is no stranger to Staten Island, having competed and visited the area since 1995. “What's really great about this event is all the kids that are here,” Rogers said. “They are the future of our sport!”
40 years ago, Dixon, the 1972 Olympic medalist in the 1500 with a record time of 3:33, was able to pass the courageous Jeff Smith at the 26-mile mark in New York City, leading ABC television commentator Jim McKay to call the finish “the greatest finish in marathon history.” !”.
“Due to Covid protocols and other obstacles, I have not been back to Staten Island or the states since 2019,” Dixon said, doubly excited about his return. “I will be very happy to see Jeff Benjamin, Tony Gulotta, Mike Schnall, Tommy Hart, Mike Brennan and, of course, my comrade Michael McVey and all my friends again.”
For the first time, the gala will be attended by Matt Centrowitz Sr., who 50 years later still holds the state 1-mile record at Power Memorial School (4:02.7). The father of 2016 1500 gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz, he is also a two-time Olympian and former U.S. 5K record holder (13:12).
“You haven’t seen anything yet!” Benjamin said as another legendary first-time guest will also be in the room.
In one of the most dramatic races in Olympic history, American Dave Wattle, who had been running last for most of the race, surged ahead to beat the world's best athletes to win the 800m in Munich in 1972.
“I look forward to attending the dinner on Staten Island,” said Wattle, a former world record holder in the 800 meters and the last American to win gold in the Olympic 800 meters.
“I want to reconnect with my friends Bob Beamon and Bill Rogers, as well as meet Munich Olympian Rod Dixon and marathon greats Geoff Smith and Steve Jones. I always enjoy interacting with the greats of athletics and road racing, and the opportunity to interact with so many young, up-and-coming athletes is a real pleasure,” he said.
“It brings back memories of when I signed up for track and field in ninth grade at Canton Lincoln High School,” Wattle recalled. “This decision changed my life and began a journey that allowed me to travel around the world, dream of one day taking part in the Olympic Games and, ultimately, stand on the top step of Olympus.”
“I can only hope that competing in track and field will have the same meaning for each of these young runners throughout their lives. I also want to give a special thank you to fellow 800m runner Scott Ryder for making my participation in this event possible.”
And considering it's also the week of the New York City Marathon, could other legendary guests be in attendance? “You never know,” Benjamin said.
Katelyn Clish, Joe Perazzo, Lou Bergonzi and Patricia Mulligan will receive the Abel Kivia Award.
Lou Vasquez and Aborn Etchison will receive the Art Hall Awards. The late Bill Kelly will be honored with the Vic Navarra Award, and Dr. Ted Strange will receive the inaugural Arnold Obey Award. Katelyn Clish, Joe Perazzo, Lou Bergonzi and Patricia Mulligan will receive the Abel Kiviat Award.
Race Directors Mike Schnall and Michael DeVito will present a check from race proceeds to the newly created Joseph Merrill/Father Vincent Capodanno American Legion Post on Memorial Day.
Registration will take place on Wednesday (Oct. 23) at Jody's Club Forest (372 Forest Avenue) from 7 to 9 p.m. You can register https://www.izakayasushilounge.com.
Tickets are $75, $85 at the door, and seats are not guaranteed. For more information, contact Jeff Benjamin (917-692-8922).