A total of 169 runners of all ages came out for the first annual Run for Dom at Mill Pond Park Saturday, Sept. 21.
Turnout at Race for Dom Exceeds Expectations
NEWINGTON - Annie Leduc remembers when she was preparing to run the Hartford ING Marathon last year. It was days away, and she was having cold feet.
Apprehensive, she confided in Dominic Mazzoccoli, otherwise known as “Dom,” her friend and an avid runner.
“I was talking to Dom and I was complaining,” Leduc said. “Saying ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ He looked at me and said, ‘You can do this because you can do this.’”
It might sound like oversimplified advice if you fail to consider a major detail--Dom was stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” and bed ridden. He was physically inhibited from enjoying the hobby that would regularly take him on 10-mile runs around his hometown of Newington.
Dom’s words must have resonated with Leduc--she cut 10 minutes off of her marathon time.
“That changed me because I realized I can do something that he can’t,” she said.
Fast forward to last Saturday morning. That day, Dom inspired almost 200 other people the way he drove Leduc, who was amongst the runners, to embrace her Hartford marathon challenge as a gift instead of a burden and rise above her own expectations. Last Saturday’s event was a little less daunting--the participants ran a 5K around the Mill Pond Park area with proceeds going toward ALS related research at the ALS Therapy Development Institute--but the principle has not changed.
“We had a lot to measure up to, because an average run for Dom is 7-10 miles, so this was a warm-up for him,” said Danny Cantafi, the husband of Dom’s daughter Karen Cantafi. “It was a little emotional. Obviously we wished Dom could’ve been with us, but I think he was there with all of us in spirit. We did this for him.”
There seemed to be a little bit of Dom in everybody, from young children crossing the finish line with seemingly boundless stamina to elderly participants walking the final stretch, determined to complete the course no matter what it took.
Bill Lombardi, a member of the organizing “Team Dom,” did more than finish--he won his age group. He found his inspiration in a visit he paid to Dom a few days before the event.
“I’ve never seen such courage and positive thinking,” Lombardi said. “My medal is going to Dom, because he deserves it more than I do.”
Lombardi and Dom go way back. The two graduated from Newington High School together and Lombardi has known the former mayor, state representative and marine captain since they were kids.
“Ever since third grade when I knew Dom on the playground, he motivated me and inspired me,” Lombardi said. “And he’s still doing it today. He is one of the all-time good guys. He’s a model citizen and a model friend.”
The event brought more than Newington residents to the starting line--organizers reported participants coming from everywhere from Glastonbury and Wethersfield, to North Carolina and Maine.
“This is more than just a Newington event,” Cantafi said. “We have people from all over the state and country.”
The sheer volume of participants in itself exceeded expectations, said Karen Cantafi.
“I’m so thrilled,” she said. “We were told by ALS Therapy Development Institute that usually your first event, you get like 50 people.”