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Rotary President Runs NYC Marathon

Rotary Club of Floral Park-Bellerose President Shane Parouse was among the 50,304 finishers of this year’s ING New York City Marathon, which was held on Sunday, Nov. 3. Keeping stride with the club’s mission “to serve those in need locally, nationally and internationally,” Parouse ran for charity and raised $4,000.

“One of the great things about the marathon is the amount of goodwill that surrounds it,” Parouse said. “Millions are raised every year by people like me, supported by friends and family and strangers who urge us on throughout the 26.2 miles. It’s really a beautiful event.”

The New York City Marathon boasts 317 organizations as nonprofit partners, a 74 percent increase from just three years ago. Runners who opt to run for a charity and raise the requisite funds are guaranteed entry into the race. The NYC Marathon issues 8,200 charity bibs annually.

Parouse ran for the New York Rotary and supported three specific causes: Gift of Life International, which provides life-saving heart surgery to children around the world; Ronald McDonald House, which cares for the families of very ill children; and PolioPlus, which is a Rotary International project to eradicate polio from the face of the Earth.

An athlete his whole life, Parouse is always up for a challenge but admittedly never enjoyed running much. “I’ve run two or three miles a million times, but when you’re talking 8, 10, 12 or 15 miles at a clip, you’re in a whole new world. Aches, pains, boredom. It’s tough.”

Parouse watched the race all his life, but made the transition from spectator to participant this year “because first, my sister wanted to do it with me, and second, I got guaranteed entry because I was willing to commit to raise money. … Shortly after I committed to run, the Boston Marathon bombings happened. I was deeply moved by what happened there. Such a positive, good event, turned into a tragedy. All those innocent people who lost limbs and must recover. Families who lost loved ones and what they must be going through. That’s what went through my head as I trained and thought I wanted to quit. I thought about the emotional and physical struggle the people learning to walk again were going through. That drove me.”

Indeed, the tragedy in Boston last April will not soon be forgotten by the running community. Marathon race director and New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg, flanked by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Athletic Association executive director Tom Grilk, paid tribute to Boston at the start of the race. “Today we are honored to run for New York, to run for Boston,” she said.

While the victims in Boston drove Parouse to conquer his physical training, Parouse maintained his fundraising focus by acknowledging those less fortunate than himself. “I live in the richest nation in the world. I know lots of people, and I had the capability to do some good for less fortunate people. I remember one day I was dressing for a training run. My daughter, having seen this routine many times, wrapped herself around my leg, begging me not to go. I paused, and I thought about it. How much time was I spending away from my kids so I could train? What for? Was it worth it? Then I realized that there was a father somewhere, with a daughter just like me, struggling to survive. In Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Eastern Bloc countries. Places where the charities I was supporting go to help. I could do something to help that father, and if the tables were reversed, I would hope that some guy in some rich country somewhere would help me,” he said.

Parouse’s physical and emotional drive made him a part of marathon history. This year marked the 43rd running of the NYC Marathon and the event’s largest showing to date, topping 2011’s finishers by more than 3,000 — the 2012 marathon was cancelled in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Only 436 of the 50,740 runners who started on Staten Island did not make it to the finish line in Central Park.