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It took two hours, 45 minutes and 12 seconds for Jacob Caswell to make history: as the New York Marathon’s first non-binary winner to take home a cash prize — and Hell’s Kitchen’s first ever local champion.
Caswell, 25, was one of the Hell’s Kitchen heroes to take part in an especially tough marathon, with unseasonably warm temperatures forcing runners to sweat through the 26.2 miles from Staten Island to Central Park. They moved to the neighborhood after graduating from and running for Columbia University, and had already made waves as the first nonbinary winner of the Brooklyn Marathon this spring — in what was only their first full 26.2 miler.
Energized by that experience, Caswell trained for Sunday’s race with Front Runners, an NYC-based LGBTQ+ running club that prepared over 200 competitors for the marathon. Joined by their teammates both on the course and cheering them on from afar, Caswell cited the group as a meaningful part of their race day.
“When you see people that look like you, and people that have the same values as you, and when you see them cheering for you on the sidelines, or in the race or at the finish line — it demonstrates the importance of community and belonging in the sport,” Caswell said.
The support of the crowd was essential in the unusually warm conditions, they added. “The first half of the race felt good, the second half, not as much,” Caswell said, adding that it was exciting to see “the crazy crowds — they were ten-fold from my first marathon. I started to struggle during the last couple of miles near the park, and I think if I was alone, I don’t know if I would have been able to keep going — the crowd really helped.”
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Caswell was still processing their historic win — “To be the second-ever nonbinary winner felt really good,” said Caswell – runner Zackary Harris won last year’s contest before prize money was implemented. “I felt like all my training and my hard work paid off.” They hope that the sport will continue to make strides in expanding its inclusivity — and as for next year’s race? “I’m tentatively going to run,” they laughed.
For Paul Gealone, manager of Amy’s Bread, finishing his first ever marathon in 5hrs, 22:32 minutes in the summer-esque temperatures was also cause for celebration. “This was my very first full marathon and it just so happened to be one of the warmest marathons in history,” he said. “Though the weather wasn’t ideal, the organization of New York Road Runners and the charity I ran for (Team For Kids) made it a fantastic experience.”
“It truly was a block party throughout all five boroughs,” said Gealone. “The cheers from spectators were so inspiring and definitely kept me motivated to keep going, no matter how much pain I was feeling.”
He came away “so inspired by every single runner who participated yesterday. When I was running, I said to myself, ‘I’m never doing this again!’ — today I’m saying to myself, ‘I can’t wait until next year to do that again!’”
For others, making their final strides down 5th Avenue and into Central Park was a familiar and welcome feeling. Joel Cadman, who completed his 10th New York City Marathon in 5hrs, 31:13 minutes said: “For me, warm, muggy conditions (and a shortened training period due to a summer running injury) conspired to make this my slowest marathon yet, by 45 minutes, but I was thrilled to run be able to run it at all.”
He cited his fellow runners, “from all over the world, of all ages, backgrounds and abilities,” as “inspiring as ever” with the joy of having a field of 47,000 competitors and pre-pandemic-level crowds returning to the course for this year’s race.
Even for seasoned marathoners like Cadman, there were a few unexpected moments of joy — like the “amazing sighting” of 68-year old Israeli runner Moshe Ledefien, who ran the entire course while balancing a pineapple on his head (in 5hrs, 45:30 minutes).
But it was the incredible crowds that kept Cadman pushing forward to the finish line. “So much energy, positivity, support and humor. They offer tremendous enthusiasm that somehow transfers that energy via shouts and high fives to my feet!”
Congratulations to all of our West Side winners — you’re champions! And if we missed you — email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll update this story.