Long Island Marathon Founder Reflects on 50th Anniversary of Race

long island marathon
Paul Fetscher, lifelong marathon runner and founder of the Long Island Marathon

Long Island Marathon Founder Reflects on 50th Anniversary of Race

Although he’s not participating in the race due to a knee injury, Paul Fetscher could never miss attending the 50th anniversary of the Long Island Marathon – a race he started in 1973 with friends from the New York Road Runners Club.

What began as a single, highly competitive race of only the best runners has become a weekend of festivities with runners of all levels in five different races: a 1K “just for fun” kids run, 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon.

“We’ve traded quality for quantity and in this case, it’s a good thing,” says Fetscher, president of Great American Brokerage Inc. in Long Beach. “If someone runs a 5K this year they may run a 10K next year, a half [marathon] after that, and eventually the marathon. It’s like love; the more you share it, the better it is.”

Fetscher has participated in 308 marathons in his running career of nearly six decades. He holds the second-place record for the Long Island Marathon: 2 hours, 21 minutes, 49 seconds in 1977. But it’s all taken its toll – he’s set for knee replacement surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in July.

“I don’t know that there are any marathons in my future,” Fetscher says. “It’s just incredible that in 55 years I’ve had a marathon career that has taken me around the world. It’s been a good run.”

It’s now been two years since Fetscher has run in the Long Island Marathon, but he still attends to see the friends he’s made over the years and to hand out medals at the finish line.

Fetscher speaks fondly of the beginnings of the Long Island races, which became popular even before the New York City Marathon did, he recalls. There were not as many marathons to choose from in the ‘70s, and highly trained runners came from around the world to compete on Long Island.

“To have the quality of runners was terrific but I gotta turn around and say, ‘You know what, I’d rather have 10,000 people do this for the enjoyment of it than just trying to see how many people run it in under three hours,” Fetscher says.

The Jovia Long Island Marathon Festival of Events kicks off on Friday, May 5 with the Friday Night Lights 5K Fun Run. It continues Saturday, May 6 with the 10K followed by the 1K. The 50th anniversary of the Long Island Marathon will coincide with a half marathon on Sunday, May 7. For details, visit runsignup.com/Race/NY/EastMeadow/LongIslandMarathon.