When the starting horn begins the New York City Marathon on Sunday, 21-year Dayton Public Schools employee Pete Vlasic will do what many Americans do in the face of tradgedy.
He will show that life goes on.
The course for the 47th edition of the marathon, which travels through New York’s five boroughs, will be the subject of high security after a man drove a rented truck down a West Side bike path, killing eight and injuring 11. Federal prosecutors charged 29-year-old Uzbek national Sayfullo Saipov with the crime.
New York is special to Vlasic, who visited Ground Zero two months following 9/11. He didn’t recognize where he was, as the hustle and bustle of Manhattan had been transformed into a solemn memorial. While in town for the race, Vlasic wants to visit the reflecting pool that now inhabits the spot where he stood almost 16 years ago.
The DPS maintenance worker, who specializes in locks and electronic key tags, wants his run to serve as a reminder that the Big Apple doesn’t go down without a fight.
“New York has a way to respond back to tragedy. They’re very resilient and I know they’re going to have extra security,” Vlasic said. “You can’t live in fear, and I’m not going to let the terrorists scare me away. I’m going to be vigilant, but I’m going to go on.”
Vlasic 59, will compete in a field where the average age is 41.2 years, according to the marathon’s website. He became serious about running four years ago, and he runs regularly with the Four Seasons running club based in Kettering.
Despite being relatively new to the sport, the average onlooker wouldn’t be able to tell, according to the club’s coach, Dan Semsel.
“He’s improved by leaps and bounds [compared to when he first started with us],” Semsel said. “You wouldn’t know that he was a later-in-life runner. He’s got a passion for it.”
Vlasic had been thinking about running in one of the country’s larger marathons. He took a chance entering through the race’s lottery system because he concluded he would never get to run in such an event based on his time.
“I wanted to do either Boston or New York and I couldn’t qualify for Boston. I’m not that fast,” Vlasic said.
In New York, he’ll run in a field of 51,000 in what is billed as the largest marathon in the world. An estimated 1 million spectators are expected to line the streets, cheering on the racers.
“It’s a very cool run, it’s going to be just wild. You just get energized from seeing so many people there, you feed off the crowd,” Vlasic said.
Vlasic’s competed in several local races, such as the Air Force Marathon and the Xenia Marathon, with his personal best time — 4 hours, 7 minutes — coming at the latter event in 2016. He’s hopeful to complete the NYC Marathon in 4 hours, 20 minutes.
But his biggest goal is to finish.
“My running coach told us, ‘You run the first 10 with your head, the next 20 with your legs and the last six with your heart,” Vlasic said. “I like that because that’s when you need to start digging deep down for the will to finish.”