marathon starting line

From first-time marathoners to seasoned racing veterans, several Cornellians are preparing to run the 2021 New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 7. Catch up with them and hear what inspired their journeys.

Erika G. Whitestone ’15Erika G. Whitestone ’15 (A&S)
New York, New York
Bib: 15962
“I grew up in New York City, and I grew up running (most commonly in Central Park and Van Cortlandt Park.) It’s been a dream of mine to run the New York City Marathon ever since my dad told me about his experience running in 1982. It was filled with hard work, sweat, and heart. (It also involved him accidentally eating lotion, but that’s a story for another time.) I’m so excited to experience seeing all the boroughs and feeling all the energy of the 50th New York City Marathon.”

Jill Jahnsen ’19Jill Jahnsen ’19 (A&S)
New York, New York
“During the onset of the pandemic, when all the gyms closed, I needed to find a way to move my body outside. I grew up dancing and being active so when that outlet was closed, I was unnerved. That was when I discovered running. After doing a few half marathons in the past year, I felt up for the challenge to train for a marathon. Running long distances gave me time to breathe and take a step back from the craziness that was this last year. Mentally, this is the hardest thing I have ever done so once I accomplish this, I think anything in comparison should be easy. My charity, Team for Kids, works to provide 250,000 kids this same opportunity to be active every day and learn the importance of its effects.”

Michael Cabana ’89Michael Cabana ’89 (A&S)
New York, New York
“In 2019, I moved from California to serve as the Chair of Pediatrics & Physician-in-Chief at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) in the Bronx. Every year, the palliative care team runs the marathon to raise funds for our pediatric palliative care team. This year, I wanted to join the team and train with them to support this cause. Thankfully, pediatric palliative care is not frequently consulted in a Children’s Hospital, but it is important to make sure this service is available for families and patients when needed.”

Juliana Hughes ’17Juliana Hughes ’17 (Nolan)
New York, New York
Bib: 2769
“It’s the first NYC marathon after COVID! The first time I ran the marathon (NYC, 2019) was a horrible disaster and I made the rookie mistake of going out way too fast and paid for it. This time, I hope to take things a bit easier and soak in all the sights and sounds of NYC and pace myself to enjoy our amazing city!”

Julie Hirsch ’91Julie Hirsch ’91 (CALS)
Branchburg, NJ (Current), Originally from Staten Island, NY
Bib: 20555
“NYC is special to me—but this year is very special. I am running NYC this year, because it is the 50th running of the NYC Marathon, and this will be my 50th marathon. I was going to run last year (when I was 50, but that unfortunately couldn’t happen due to COVID). NYC is, by far, the best and most magical marathon, of any that I have run, from the people (runners and spectators!) to the course (the neighborhoods, the bridges, the views, Central Park). NYC was my first marathon (I ran with my sister in 2004; this is my 6th NYC). Growing up on Staten Island, I volunteered at the start in High School, and have been a loyal volunteer and station captain at the Cornell Mile 25 station for over 10 years.”

Lyuba Golberg MBA ’23Lyuba Golberg MBA ’23
New York, New York
Bib: 25916
“This is my very first marathon and what better time to run but the NYC Marathon 50th Anniversary! This is a great opportunity to celebrate health after the pandemic, especially being affected by the Covid virus myself at the very onset back in March of 2020. It’s been months of hard work and training, and I am excited to share this experience with the Cornell community and grateful for everyone’s support.”

Susan Dauber ’06Susan Dauber ’06 (HumEc)
New York, New York
Bib # 13650
“Getting to participate in the 50th running of the NYC marathon is made even more special because it was cancelled last year. It’s a sign of the tenacity of NYC and is really a day that the whole city comes together to celebrate. Everyone has had a rough year, and this is my opportunity to make something good out of the current circumstance. I’m running with Team for Kids.”

Michael Gabrellian ’17Michael Gabrellian ’17 (Dyson)
New York, New York
“After deferring from last year’s marathon with regular racing still suspended, it’s great to be a part of the city’s biggest block party, especially for the 50th running of the NYC marathon. It reminds me to never take anything for granted and enjoy having the opportunity to run these exciting events. I’m hopeful that this great event helps restore some normalcy for everyone participating, watching, and enjoying this fun day in NYC.”

Mandy Bennison MMH ’18Mandy Bennison MMH ’18
Briarcliff Manor, New York
Bib 32419
“I’m lucky enough to be running as a St. Jude Hero! I love exercising, have run a half marathon, and have always thought about running a full marathon. However, I’ve never worked up the courage to begin the intensive training necessary to complete a marathon until I read an article this summer about fundraising for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and what this marathon means to their organization. I knew I had to sign up immediately! I remember texting my partner and saying this is something I was meant to do. I signed up a little late in the training process, but have completely thrown myself into it. All of the blood, sweat, and tears throughout training will be worth it! (And a lot of blisters! Ha!) As a parent myself, I cannot imagine the pain and challenges that come with your child being diagnosed with cancer. The work that St. Jude does is so inspiring and I feel so grateful and proud to be able to fundraise for them simply by running. Me running 26.2 miles is nothing compared to what these amazing children are doing in fighting cancer.”

Jana Veliskova ’07Jana Veliskova ’07 (A&S)
Brooklyn, New York
Bib: 9013
“On November 15, 1991—almost 30 years to the day of this year’s marathon—my grandfather, my Dede, who turns 90 this November, told me ‘You have to be a good girl now and listen to your Maminka because she’ll need you.’ I left my best friend that day and took his advice to heart. My baby sister, my mom, and I crossed an ocean of fears, of tearful good-byes, and of unknowns in the next twelve hours. In so many ways, New York City seemed like an unworthy replacement for the castles and golden spires of my native Prague. Being an immigrant anywhere is hard, and the Bronx was no different. It toughened us up though, as NYC does. I spent my childhood working as hard as I could to make my grandfather and my family proud—and I remember just how overwhelmed with joy he was when I told him I was to attend Cornell. For complete transparency, he isn’t terribly happy that I’m running and is reminding me that running ultra-marathon distances (my favorite distance is the 50 miler) is probably overkill. However, as a single mother in New York City, running has grounded me and reminded me, once again, that every large challenge can be conquered one step at a time. This is why I keep running and why I’ve picked this marathon to be my first (ever—I’ve never run a marathon and stopped). Unknowingly, I’ve spent 30 years preparing for the NYCM and I’m dedicating the run to my biggest hero, biggest fan, and best friend—my Dede.”

Maria Vilela-Bermudez MBA ’23Maria Vilela-Bermudez MBA ’23
Long Island City, New York
“As many runners, when the 2020 marathon was canceled, I deferred it to 2021. It has been tough to keep with the motivation for training because my parents were planning to be here to cheer at me, but they can’t because of the travel ban from Spain. But New York makes you resilient, not by being tough but through kindness. I will be supported by my closest friends and the best surprise was to find out Cornell alumni will be there!”

Paul F. Parmley ’05Paul F. Parmley ’05 (ILR)
Nashville, Tennessee
Bib #2730
“I love the physical and mental challenge of the entire process—which is not linear—from the months of training to executing on race day. A bucket list goal for me is to run all 6 World Marathon Majors—including Boston, which I hope to time qualify for next year—and NYC is at the top of the list.”

Alex Latella ’10Alex Latella ’10 (CALS)
New York
Bib 15137
“There is nothing like rounding the corner in Central Park and seeing the NYC Cornellians cheering for you at mile 25, it gives me chills! I am fortunate to be running my 5th NYC Marathon this year and it’s the energy of all of NYC that keeps me coming back for more. This year, I am supporting Room to Grow, a wonderful locally based organization dedicated to providing access to essential resources for new parents and their children.”

Let’s root for them all on November 7!

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