CARS HOMES JOBS

Running couple met in Special Olympics

Monday, November 10, 2008
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Competitors in the Stockade-athon 15K race take off from the starting line on Sunday.
Photographer: Ana Zangroniz
Competitors in the Stockade-athon 15K race take off from the starting line on Sunday.

— It has become commonplace for the Gazette Stockade-athon to extend its reach beyond the Capital Region for runners, but it’s still interesting to see what kind of convoluted hopscotch can land athletes in Central Park each November.

Take Sean and Pavla O’Rourke. Pavla was born in Prague, Czech­oslovakia, went to college in the middle of North Carolina and wound up on Long Island, where she met her husband, a Special Olympian whom she chaperoned to the 2005 New York City Mar­athon as part of the Rolling Thunder Spec­ial Needs Program.

Online extra

To view the results of all finishers, click here.

The best man at their wedding, Rob Vanosky, like Pavla a Special Olympics volunteer, lives in Schen­ectady, so it didn’t take much planning to coordinate a visit at the same time the Stockade-athon was scheduled.

Pavla finished in 1:15:13.4, followed less than three minutes later by her husband, an avid Special Olympian who has run the Boston Marathon three times and will be snowshoeing and cross country skiing this winter.

Both appreciated the scenic

9.3-mile course, even if Sean wasn’t a big fan of the two uphills on the second half.

“It never ended. I didn’t walk, though, I jogged the whole way,” he said.

“Absolutely fabulous,” Pavla O’Rourke said. “It was a great course, it has some challenges in it, a couple of hills, but it was beaut­iful, and the competition and the spect­ators were great. It was spectacular, very well-organized.”

Pavla came to the U.S. in 1993 when she attended High Point

Un­iversity in North Carolina, where she was a track and cross country athlete.

After graduating in 1999, she moved Long Island and now works part-time at the Super Runners Shop in Huntington and as a nanny for a family in Northport.

Besides being involved in the Rolling Thunder program, she coaches Special Olympians, including her husband, in the Long Island section.

She has three other runners with Sean who are pointing toward the Disney Marathon in January, and she’ll run, too.

“I enjoy just being there for all the people, because I believe that athletes should be included, no matter what ability you are,” she said. “I mean, there must be precautions taken as far as guidance of the athletes, proper training, hydration. And also, some athletes need one-on-one. Some, like my husband or a couple of his friends, they’re very independent, so just showing them what you need is fine, and some of them need me one-on-one.”

The O’Rourkes plan to keep a busy running schedule. Next year’s Boston will be Pavla’s sixth there, and after visiting her family in Prague last month, they’ve been invited to the Prague International Marathon, although that could be difficult, since it’s scheduled two weeks after Boston.

They liked the Stockade-athon so much that it makes sense for them to plan another November visit to see Vanosky.

“We’ve known him for many years, and we were going to connect sometime,” Pavla said. “He mentioned it [Stockade-athon]. There aren’t a lot of 15ks, and the Expo was nice. It’s nice to come and register the day before. We’ll be back.”

 
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