In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg cancelled the New York City Marathon — but that didn’t stop Chris Dessi. After spending months training for the race he intended to dedicate to his father, Dessi decided that he didn’t need road closures or supporters on the sidelines handing him gross energy gels to run 26.2 miles. He just needed his father there, cheering him on.
Dessi, who graduated from Baltimore’s Loyola University Maryland, doesn’t think of himself as a runner — despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. But once his father was diagnosed with ALS a few years ago, Dessi started running as a kind of therapy. Soon enough, he settled on the idea of running the race to honor his father and to raise money for ALS research. “It was hard, because, really, this isn’t my sport,” he told Sports Illustrated. “I had some great months, some awful months. I lost weight, fought shin splints, different injuries … it wasn’t easy, but it was very rewarding.”
When Dessi heard that the race was cancelled, he understood. “For us to run while all these people were struggling … as people were dying … it would have been awful,” he said. But then he realized he could still run — just not on the streets of New York City. So on Sunday morning, Dessi woke up and started the much more arduous task of running more than 26 miles on his local high school track. After running 10 miles through his neighborhood, he started in on the laps. Soon enough, spectators gathered to cheer him on. “I don’t know — maybe there were 25 parents in the stands,” Dessi said. “But to me, it sounded like the roar of 50,000.”