Running the New York City Marathon has been an elusive goal for Ryan Struble for several years. Anyone who’s had that goal can attest that securing a spot in the popular race isn’t always easy. But the East Hampton resident finally got in this year, and the way he did it will give him added personal incentive and motivation to perform his best when he takes to the streets of the city on Sunday, November 7.
Struble is fundraising for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by Huntington’s disease, a fatal and genetic disorder that causes progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain, described as having ALS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s simultaneously.
When trying to figure out the best strategies for getting into this year’s race — Struble had lost out in the lottery system a few times — Struble said he was informed by a friend that joining a fundraising team is a great way to nab a spot. When Struble started researching which charity teams would be associated with the race, the choice was easy once he saw that the HDSA was on the list.
Struble knows first hand just how devastating the disease can be. For nearly as long as he can remember, Struble, 39, has watched the illness take a toll on close family members. His maternal grandmother, Dorothy Dunleavy, died after a long battle with Huntington’s, and the disease also killed both of his mother’s sisters, Dorothy (known as Dotsie), and Christine.
Struble said he has childhood memories of spending Sundays visiting his grandmother, watching his grandfather care for her in their home before ultimately having to make the heart-wrenching decision to have her live in a care facility, when the disease progressed and she needed more care than the family could provide on their own.
Struble and his family have participated in fundraisers for the HDSA in the past, and he said discovering he could tie his marathon aspirations — this will be his first— to a cause close to his heart was a “weird little alignment” that he was happy to discover.
“It’s really important to me to achieve this life goal in connection with something that’s so powerful for my family,” he said. “It’s going to be a very cool and emotional experience to get to the finish line.”
Struble, a graduate of East Hampton High School, is not going into what will be his first marathon with any specific goals when it comes to a finish time. He has been an avid runner since his early teens, but was never really interested in racing or the competitive elements of running that are a draw or motivating factor for some people. Instead, he said he thinks of running as his “first form of meditation.”
“I always felt the runners high afterwards, and always felt good and strong afterwards and just enjoyed it,” he said.
He is naturally athletic, and has played tennis and volleyball in addition to surfing. He’s also completed several triathlons. Struble has been sticking to a training and nutrition schedule put together by his friend, Sean Eckhart.
He feels ready, not only to complete the 26.2-mile race, but to soak up the experience for all it’s worth, raising money for a cause close to his heart while returning to a city he loves for the first time since the pandemic started.
“To be part of seeing Manhattan as it’s coming together again, that will be great,” he said. “I have no idea what being part of the race will be like, but I’ve heard it’s very cool. A friend of mine said doing the New York City Marathon is one of the coolest things he’s ever done, and he’s done some cool things.”