Fairfield Runners Find Own Marathon Challenge After Hurricane

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Runners from Fairfield and Southport get ready to run the 26.2 mile marathon distance for the Connecticut Challenge on Sunday.
Runners from Fairfield and Southport get ready to run the 26.2 mile marathon distance for the Connecticut Challenge on Sunday. Photo Credit: Tom Renner
Carrie Cochrane of Fairfield starts out on Sunday's run.
Carrie Cochrane of Fairfield starts out on Sunday's run. Photo Credit: Tom Renner
Runners supporting the Connecticut Challenge cruise near the one mile mark in Sunday's 26.2 mile run.
Runners supporting the Connecticut Challenge cruise near the one mile mark in Sunday's 26.2 mile run. Photo Credit: Tom Renner

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield’s Carrie Cochrane needed to run 26.2 miles Sunday as much for herself as for her late father. With the support of 12 other runners running for the Connecticut Challenge, Cochrane accomplished her goal despite Hurricane Sandy.

Cochrane had planned to run the New York City Marathon on Sunday in memory of her father. At last year’s marathon, she saw her father for the last time when he met her along the race route. He died days afterward.

When this year’s race was canceled late Friday afternoon, Cochrane and running partner Duffy Kilbride planned to run the distance on their own. The Connecticut Challenge was devising its own plans, and the women quickly embraced it.

Runners registered for the Connecticut Challenge started at 10 a.m. Sunday and closely followed a 25-mile loop that is part of the annual summer bike ride. Jon Stellwagen, who coached some of the Challenge runners, and founder Jeff Keith created a course that extended to 26.2 miles.

“We decided right away we would do a run,’’ Cochrane said. “It was something I felt I had to do. I think it will be inspirational.”

Cochrane said her mother lives in the  Breezy Point section of New York, one of the areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Her home sustained major flooding. “She was happy I am able to do this,’’ Cochrane said.

She planned to run with Kilbride, who has ridden the bike ride for the Challenge. “My whole family rides," Kilbride said. “We’re big supporters of the Connecticut Challenge and its programs for cancer survivors. I’ve done this course seven times on the bike. It will be exciting to run it. I’m a little scared of it, though, because there are some big hills.”

The runners included Keri McKay, Karin Keith, Sue O’Neill, Stephanie Kelly, Kristen Huntington, Ginnie Rosow, Jeanine Graf, Christine Gannon, Lexie Maruszewski, John Krietler and Seth Appel. All of the runners are from Fairfield or Southport.

The loop for the runners included roads in Westport, Weston and Easton before it finished at the Connecticut Challenge Survivorship Center in Southport.

The runners were supported by rolling aid stations provided by the Connecticut Challenge. Friends of the runners also joined in for part of the run.

The runners agreed with the decision by the New York Road Runners to cancel the race. McKay found out the race was canceled Friday after returning via train from New York to pick up her number.

“It crossed my mind to enter another marathon,’’ McKay said. “When they told me about this, I jumped on board. It’s a good outlet for my carbo loading.”

McKay, who finished the Boston Marathon in April, has had unfortunate circumstances each of the past two years with New York. She missed the race last year due to injury. “This year I got a step closer, I actually got my bib,’’ she said. “I’m definitely going to run it next year.”

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