Hearty group cheers on marathon runners in Long Island City

By Bill Parry

Carmen Rosario gave her lungs and legs quite a workout during Sunday’s 44th annual New York City Marathon, and she wasn’t even running the race this year. Normally around 150,000 runners enter the lottery and only one in three win a spot in the field of 50,000.

“I run every year for children with developmental disabilities,” Rosario said. “I run all year with the team from the Queens Center for Progress but I wasn’t chosen in the raffle so I’m here to cheer them on.” Rosario, a resident of Richmond Hill, was the coordinator of this year’s QCP Cheering Station that set up shop on the corner of 44th Drive and 21st Street in Long Island City.

The Queens Center for Progress is a non-profit that provides services for the borough’s developmentally challenged.

“LIC is the halfway mark for the marathon and we want to give the runners the encouragement they need on the way to the Queensboro Bridge,” Rosario said. “We want to be so loud that they all remember Queens.”

She had been expecting nearly a hundred volunteers to help cheer, hand out water and inspire the runners, but wind gusts of nearly 40 mph and a general lack of parking because of numerous street closures kept many away.

Seth Bornstein, the executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, was on hand early on. “I ran the marathon in 1993 and 1994 and I was really happy that I didn’t finish last both years,” he said. “I love the marathon, so it’s great to be out here supporting the runners. I love it.”

By early afternoon, the numbers in the cheering station had swelled to two dozen. The wind began to die down and the sun started to warm the race enthusiasts as did the music from Manic Blue, a rock band from Bayside and Whitestone.

“We’ve volunteered to play during the marathon for the last eight years,” guitarist Chris Galligan said. “It’s freezing, but it’s worth it. Everyone is here to have a good time.”

Wendy Phaff, a 65-year-old resident of Briarwood, ran the race with members of the Queens Distance Runners and was happy to see and hear the Cheering Station.

“Coming over the Pulaski Bridge was a very emotional moment for me,” Phaff said. “I moved back to Queens a year ago and consider the borough my hometown. Coming up on the cheer spot was amazing, a very spirited crowd led by our No. 1 cheerleader. It was truly an amazing day.”

Rosario and her group were cheering 16 runners from Queens Center for Progress. They were aided by cowbells, whistles and pom-poms.

“This is a very, very tough run this year because of the wind — it’s right in their face,” she said. “I can’t imagine how hard it’s going to be for them going up the bridge.”

She said she can’t wait to run the race next year, but if she doesn’t win a spot in the raffle, she’ll be right back on the corner as the No. 1 cheerleader.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr‌y@cng‌local.com or by phone at (718) 260-4538.