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The Race Within a Race: Foot Locker Five Borough Challenge

2011 November 1
by Jess


Each year five runners are chosen to represent each of the New York City boroughs during the New York City Marathon to compete in the Foot Locker Five Borough Challenge. These five individuals will run the first 13.1 miles of the marathon together and then race to the finish. The winner receives a Tiffany trophy and bragging rights for having the fastest borough.

Today, I headed over to the old Tavern on the Green to learn a little about the challenges these individuals have faced and how running played a role in getting them through hard times.


Here’s a little bit about each of these 5 runners:

Andrew Rausa, Brooklyn: When Andrew’s father was diagnosed with cancer, he made a life list. Running a marathon was one of those things. Andrew himself began running to over come depression. He’s father was with him for every step of his training, although not able to run the marathon.

Michele King Gonzalez,Staten Island: Michele is a former member of the U.S. Army who served three tours of duty in Iraq. During her time in Iraq she used running as a way to deal with everything that she was dealing with.


Elizabeth Maniuolo, Manhattan: At age 28, Elizabeth suffered a heart attack and while her doctors advised that she didn’t take up running, she did. Since that time she’s ran marathons and ultra marathons. Her doctors recently told her that she has made an unexpected complete recovery and they credit running as being one of the main reasons for her healing.

Salvatore Polizzi, Queens: He began running as a way to raise money for Fred’s Team in support of his mother. At at time when he felt hopelss running races for a reason helped him to feel empowered.

Rob Vassilarakis, Bronx: Overcome by addiction and homelessness, Rob began using running as a way to battle his past and find a new addiction. He use to walk the streets of all five of New York City’s borough’s and last year for the first time he ran through all five of them. Running is his new addiction.

Listening to each of them tell their story I could hear the emotion in their voices. Running has clearly been a life-changer and a life-saver for each of these inspiring people.

What’s the number one thing that running does for you?

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9 Responses leave one →
  1. November 1, 2011

    This is so cool. Elizabeth is a friend of mine and she is the most enthusiastic runner I know! I want to represent Manhattan next year.

    • Jess permalink*
      November 1, 2011

      So awesome that you know her!

      • November 1, 2011

        Thanks for coming and covering the event!! Loved the post!!! Thanks for sharing! ;-)

  2. November 1, 2011

    Rob works for me. He is truly making us all proud at Harlem United. He is an inspiration to many.

    • Jess permalink*
      November 7, 2011

      I totally teared up while he was speaking. So inspirational!

  3. November 2, 2011

    yay elizabeth!! i love her, and she is always the happiest runner.

    i had a friend run 5 borough last year AND this year! I’ll be cheering for her when i hear them announce her name.

  4. November 3, 2011

    I want them to do one with nurses next year…so cool!

  5. November 9, 2011

    Thank you for sharing this. Their stories are amazing and inspiring. I’ve been saying I want to run to help with all our family is going through right now and I guess it does help. I’m glad you shared their stories.

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