Rockaway Park resident John Edwards, 59, was hoping to run the ING New York City Marathon for the 20th time last year, but Mother Nature had other ideas.
The race was canceled due to the massive city-wide damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. But it wasn’t a time for Edwards, who is not related to the politician, and his family to look forward to a marathon anyway.
Sandy flooded his basement, ruining irreplaceable pictures, documents and furniture, destroyed windows in his house and totaled two of the family’s cars. Edwards estimated that the damage cost more than $60,000.
“People were going from house to house helping each other and people were covered with sewer water,” Edwards said. “I don’t think it was time to be celebrating a New York City Marathon when we had people down here who didn’t know what they were going to do the next day.”
Now, nearly a year later, he has repaired his house and replaced items lost, thanks in part to insurance. And as part of his return to normalcy, Edwards is once again gearing up for the Marathon on November 3.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Edwards said. I don’t expect to run fast, I expect to just get through it.”
Edwards, a manager of a bakery on Long Island, began running when he was 27 years old.
At that time he routinely played baseball in Brooklyn bar leagues with friends.
“On the weekend we played ball, ate burgers, drank beer and gained weight,” Edwards said. “But then the groundballs would be going through your legs, because of the gut you’d be growing, so [a friend suggested] let’s go and do a little running.”
Edwards and teammates eventually began entering races and he developed a love for running. In 1982 he entered and completed his first city marathon. Since then he has completed numerous races around the city and his hobby evolved into an addiction of sorts.
As he is training for the Marathon, Edwards wakes up as early as 3:30 a.m. to do daily runs, which can vary from a short three miles to much longer distances, such as a recent 18-mile Marathon prep race.
“I think it’s a combination of sheer pride and natural endurance and then love of the sport,” Mary, Edwards’ youngest daughter, said.
Edwards is known throughout the community as a “running guru.”
He founded the Rockapulco Running Series in 2001, which are various runs in the Rockaways throughout the year, including themed half marathon runs for Christmas, Labor Day and Memorial Day. He is also a member of the local running club the Rockaway Gliders.
Edwards restarted the local Catholic Youth Organization track team at nearby St. Francis de Sales in 1996 so his daughters could run with other youngsters. But even after his children outgrew the league, he continued to train young runners for nearly a decade.
His daughters will now join him in his 20th Marathon. After more than three decades the hobby has become a family bonding activity for Edwards, one that Sandy wasn’t able to break.
“It’s been a way for us to stay connected,” Edwards said. “It’s nice.”
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