Cheers, motivation for Lehman runner at marathon Mile 20


Would you place a bet on how long it takes a colleague to run the New York City Marathon?

That’s what Filex Mwake’s colleagues at Lehman College did. He was among one of the more than 50,000 runners who took part in the annual event this past Sunday.

The marathon was a chance for Mwake not only to get into better shape, but also to raise money for charity.

“Coming to this country with your food and all that, I realized I am gaining more weight than losing,” said Mwake, laughing. He moved to the Bronx from Kenya two years ago.

“I started running for weight loss and staying healthy, and I found out about the New York City Marathon through my wife.”

The marathon’s path through the Bronx was brief, but it’s Mile 20 that mattered for Lehman students.

On marathon day, more than 70 — dressed in bright green raincoats and blue Lehman scarves — were among the volunteers on the route handing out water from their spot along East 138th Street between Third and Alexander avenues, giving supportive cheers to encourage marathoners as they inched ever close to the finish line in Central Park.

“It is more than just passing out water,” said Erick Peguero, an undergraduate senior at Lehman who is volunteering for the second time. “You are motivating people to complete this because these people train for

months. Some train for years.”

Mile 20 is where many runners “hit their wall,” Peguero said, feeling they can’t complete it.

“Having people cheer them on, that’s their motivation,” he said. “So, it feels great to be a part of that.”

Mwake ran as part of a fundraiser through Lehman’s Imagine Early Learning Center, which provides care for children of Lehman students. Both students and employees of the center placed wagers on how long it would take Mwake — a teacher there — to finish the 26.2-mile race.

One guess sold for a $2 donation, while $5 would get three. A portion of the proceeds offset shipping costs from a recent campus book drive for Barbuda, the Caribbean island devastated by Hurricane Irma in September. By the end of last week, the effort raised more than $150.

Mwake’s wife, Amanda Dubois-Mwake organized the volunteers for the fourth year in a row. Lehman’s community engagement director actually ran the race herself in 2011 and 2013, finishing in just under five hours, 47 minutes her first time around.

The marathon covers all five boroughs with more than 50,000 runners finishing in Central Park. At Mile 20, runners hit the northernmost part of First Avenue in Manhattan before crossing the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx. Mile 21 of the route was where runners pick up the Madison Avenue Bridge into Manhattan.

What did Dubois-Mwake bet on her husband’s finish time? She bought guesses for around four hours. Mwake’s actual finish time? Four hours, six minutes, earning him 16,236th place.

Not too far off from his wife’s guess, but quite a distance behind race winner Geoffrey Kamworor, who finished this year’s race in just under two hours, 11 minutes.

“I have faith in him,” Dubois-Mwake said before the race.

“He’s ready for this.”