Running for a bigger cause

Running for a bigger cause

Two days after Jay Asparro finished the 2015 New York City marathon, he said, he woke up and ran six miles, and felt completely fine.

Shortly after, he said, he realized that he could use running as a way to honor his grandmother, Ann Asparro, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and others with the illness and their caregivers. 

“I wanted to raise awareness for the disease,” Asparro said. “My grandmother has been living with Alzheimer’s for three years now and either my parents or aunt and uncle are with her at all times of the day. They’re caregivers. So many families are struggling and I want to help them.’’

After watching ultra-marathon documentaries, Asparro, 37, said that he wanted to run 90 miles in three days and that it should be from Montauk, a place where he and his family would visit when he was younger, to St. Pius X, his church in his hometown, Plainview.

Hoping to keep with his faith, one of the most important parts of his life, Asparro said, he decided to run from St. Therese of Lisieux in Montauk, a church he  attended while vacationing there.

“After I decided the length of the run and the beginning and end points, I mapped it out and it came out to 89.7 miles,” Asparro said. “That was a sign. And that’s when I knew that I had to do it.”

All of the money raised from the run will be donated to the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation, based in Port Washington.

Asparro said that his wife, Allison, 4-year-old daughter, Olivia, and 8-month-old son, Shane, have supported him throughout the process.

On Nov. 4, he’ll run 29.4 miles from St. Therese church along the southern fork of Long Island to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.

On the second day, he’ll run the longest leg of the run, 31.2 miles from Hampton Bays to Our Lady of the Snow in Blue Point.

Finally, Asparro will finish with a 29.4 mile run from Blue Point to St. Pius X.

“I don’t know why I chose 90 miles,” he said. “I just felt like I could do it. I felt like it would be a really good run for me.”

Asparro hired a running coach, he said, but the mental aspect of the run will also be difficult.

“It’ll be hard and I’ll be pushing through it the entire time,” he said. “Every time I want to quit, I’ll think of my family and the other families that are going through difficult times. That’s what I do now: When I wake up and don’t want to go for a run, I just remember all of the people going through difficult times.”

On Oct. 1, Asparro and members of the community and his parish will  run a 5K race together.

“I planned the 5K so the community can feel like they’re a part of what I’m doing,” he said. 

The Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation, which was founded in 1988, is a nonprofit that offers activities for Alzheimer’s patients that are in all stages.

“Its about keeping the patients engaged,” said Christine Rice, the community outreach and events coordinator at the foundation. “We have music, dancing and trivia for people with all stages of Alzheimer’s. We think what Jay is doing is amazing and we’re 100 percent behind him.”

Asparro said he decided to donate the proceeds to the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation to raise awareness for the programs that they offer so more people can understand the impact Alzheimer’s has on people who are diagnosed and their families.

“At first, I thought I should run a half marathon or a marathon, but then I realized that it wouldn’t be enough. I wanted and needed to do more to raise awareness. I didn’t think that was the right platform. So this 90-mile run is what I’ll be doing to raise awareness.” 

By Stephen Romano

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