At this Sunday’s ING New York City Marathon, the Mayor’s Alliance for New York’s Animals – a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation – will be represented by a team of dog loverswhosegoal isto “race” funds and awareness for thecity’s homeless animals and the Alliance’s lifesaving programs.
The Mayor’s Alliance Team, “Miles for Paws,” is part of the marathon’s Community Charity Program (when you run for a charity, you’re guaranteed entry to the race). The marathon’stwo million cheering spectators and 315 million worldwide television viewers can look out for the five-member team; they’ll be the ones wearing red T-shirts emblazoned with the “Miles for Paws” logo.
“This is our first year participating in the ING New York City Marathon and we are thrilled to have an amazing group of runners who are passionate about animals and running to support our cause,” says Mayor’s Alliance presidentJane Hoffman. “We hope New Yorkers will support Team ‘Miles For Paws’ – and the animals for whom they arerunning – by making a pledge for individual team members, or for the entire team.” To make a pledge, go here.
One of the team members isDebbie Fierro. She works six days a week as a transport driver for the Mayor’s Alliance Wheels of Hope program, which moves about 150 animals every month, taking them out of New York City’s overcrowded municipal shelters andchauffeuring them torescue groups, foster care, boarding facilities, and forever homes. This isonly the first marathon for the Mayor’s Alliance, but it’sDebbie’s 21st.
Debbie never experiences the loneliness of the long-distance runner because she trains every day with her three Parson Russell terriers.One of her dogs in particular, a recycled Russell named Penny isDebbie’s personal fitness coach. Debbie adopted Penny three years ago from the Staten Island Animal Care & Control shelter. “Penny is my rock,” Debbie explains. “Spencer and Avery, my other two dogs, do three miles with me every day; Penny does four miles. She pulls me up the hills! She’s amazing. She has short legs, but she’s a dynamo, and she’s my strongest runner.”
Debbie prefers running withPenny to running with a human partner. “When I run with my dogs, I don’t listen to music because I want to be able to hear the cars,” she explains. “It’s a really nice experience, and it just does something more for me – it makes me stronger in some way. We have a silent communication; there’s no chatter. When you’re gasping running up a hill, it’s nice not to have to talk! Running with my dog completes me. It just feels so right.”
And it’s not just because taking those hillsis good for the glutes! Now that she’s running the marathon on behalf of New York City’s homeless dogs, there’s an added”Chariots of Fire” dimension toDebbie’s lifelong love of running. RememberScotsman Eric Liddell, the 1924 Olympianplayed by Ian Charleson in that famousmovie, who ran for God? Debbie and her “Miles for Paws” teammates are running for … Dog.
“It just makes the experience so much more exciting and meaningful,” Debbie says. “The Mayor’s Alliance is the most amazing organization I’ve ever encountered. What they do is amazing, and it’s an honor tobe included insuch an operation.”
These last few days leading up to the big race have been more about carb-loading than running, and Penny’s beenpining forthe regularfitness routine. “I know she misses the intensity of the runs we’ve been having,” Debbie says. “Before we started slowing down our regimen, we did 12 miles in 2 hours last Sunday.” But don’t feel too sorry for Penny: Debbie promises to resumetheir routine by Tuesday or Wednesday – “as soon as the body recovers!” – with a two- or three-mile run.
If you’re in New York City on Sunday, please take time to cheer on Team “Miles for Paws.” To choose a convenient location to watch the race, view a map of the marathon route here. To join Team “Miles for Paws”for future events, contact Barbara Tolan, barbara@AnimalAllianceNYC.org.