After graduating college, I ran a handful of half marathons from 2009-2015 to lose weight and stay in shape. After every half marathon I completed, I’d always think to myself: you have to be CRAZY to run 13.1 more miles to finish a marathon.
It was always a far-fetched dream for me to run the NYC Marathon, but I thought it would be an amazing feeling to run through the city that I lived in for 6 years and visited my whole life, as I am from Long Island. In March of 2015, I registered for the NYC Marathon with mixed emotions — some excitement, some nerves. During training, I had some calf issues, but I ended up finishing the marathon, and it changed my life forever. And little did I know I’d run the NYC Marathon again, but it would be an extremely different experience for me.
After completing the marathon, I began to use running as a platform to raise awareness and money for the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation, in honor of my Grandmother, Ann Asparro, who is living with Alzheimer’s. I also wanted to run for my parents, my aunt and my uncle, who are my grandmother’s primary caregivers. However, I did not believe a half marathon or a marathon would suffice for raising awareness around Alzheimer’s. That’s when I decided I would run 90 miles over 3 days from Montauk to Plainview on Long Island. The 90 miles represented my grandmother’s age at the time. This is when The Ann Asparro Run was created. On Friday, Nov. 4th: I ran 29.4 miles. On Saturday, Nov. 5th: I ran 31.2 miles. And on Sunday, Nov. 6th: I ran 29.4 miles, completing the 90-mile run.
The 2016 Ann Asparro Run raised $37,000 and for every mile I ran, I dedicated a mile to a family who has lived or was living through the effects of Alzheimer’s. That year, I learned about self-belief, perseverance, focusing on solutions, not the problem, and that anything is possible. The 2016 Ann Asparro Run would have never happened if it wasn’t for the love my grandmother had shown me and the rest of my family. I’m so grateful to my running coach, Alex Arslan, who gave me the encouragement and correct training plan to complete this incredible feat. Also, the support of my local running store, Runner’s Edge. They were helpful with selecting the correct running shoe and accessories I would need to train and complete my 90-mile run. Runner’s Edge also supported me in putting flyers on their counter to promote my run and help with donations.
In 2017, I continued to raise money and awareness for the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation, in honor of my grandmother. My grandparents would have celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in 2017, so I decided to run 75 miles in 2 days. I ran 48.8 miles on Saturday, Nov. 4th from the north shore of Long Island to the south shore. Then on Sunday, Nov. 5th I ran the NYC Marathon. At mile 44 of the 48.8 mile run, I had a sharp pain in my knee, but I was able to push through and finish the run. I realized it was my IT band that was the issue and that it wasn’t something more serious. But when I started the NYC marathon the next day, I had an extremely difficult time bending my knee. This was one of the most challenging and difficult days I’ve ever had to endure, but I knew I was running for my grandmother and for Alzheimer’s awareness. I sacrificed so much during my training and worked so hard that there was no way I was not going to finish. Not only did I finish 75 miles in 2 days, but together, we raised $18,000 for the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation. Again, I could only reach this achievement with the love for my grandmother and my family, as well as, supporting other families living with Alzheimer’s.
In 2018, I challenged myself to complete the Lake Placid Ironman (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run). Unfortunately, during the swim, I had someone swim over me, got kicked in the head, followed by an elbow to the back of my head. Half-way through the first lap, I started to vomit in the water and didn’t feel I could complete the rest of the swim. I had to be taken out of the water and my race was over. But I did what I know I can always fall back on … which is running. So I grabbed my running gear, and I ran 26.2 miles on my own, away from the Ironman race. This was a disappointing day, but I was still able to complete a marathon. Just recently on Sept. 9th, I traveled back to Lake Placid, and I was able to swim around that lake for 1.2 miles and completed the Lake Placid Ironman 70.3. So far this year, we have raised $11,000 for the Long Island Alzheimers Foundation.
My goal for 2019 is to run 168 miles (average 1 marathon/day for 6 days) across Italy. I’ll be running from Bari (my grandfather’s homeland) to Naples (my grandmother’s homeland). This will also raise money for The Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation, in honor of my grandmother.
Jay Asparro, Running for Alzheimer’s Awareness
Jay has trained for long distance runs since 2009. For the last three years, he has helped others accomplish similar dreams of running half marathons and the NYC marathon. Jay lives in Plainview, NY with his wife of 9 years, Allison, and children, Olivia (6) and Shane (3).
Published: September 2018