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Paul Long: Nurys Diaz wins lottery to run ‘dream race,’ represent home country in NYC marathon

Nurys Diaz

Dominican Republic native Nurys Diaz will represent her home county in the 2015 New York City Marathon. (Photo Provided)

In the four years since Nurys Diaz started running, she has logged more than 100 races — including 38 half- and eight full marathons.

So when she opened an email earlier this year telling her she was picked in a lottery to be one of the more than 50,000 people to run the New York City marathon — expected to be the largest ever — she thought she realized her dream. But a few months after that email, she got another one: Diaz was selected to represent her country, the Dominican Republic, in the Opening Ceremony Parade for the marathon, being held on Friday evening.

“I am very proud to be a Dominican and represent the Dominican Republic, because is the place I was born and raised,” said Diaz, who now lives in Cincinnati and runs in Northern Kentucky. “It is a gorgeous island with the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, and we are a friendly, happy people. I love our culture, music and all the traditions.”

Representatives from New York City running clubs and other organizations will join runners from around the world in the parade through midtown Manhattan and across the finish line in Central Park. Afterward, fireworks will light up the city.

Diaz was born in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. It’s located in the Caribbean, on the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola. (Haiti is on the western half.) She remembers growing up with a large, extended family.

“My family is very close to each other, and I visit every other year,” she said. “Something I love is we always got together on Sundays. Since I was little, I remember that was the day I saw all my cousins and aunts and uncles at Grandma’s house. Still the tradition continues, with the grandkids and great grandkids visiting my mother on Sunday evenings.”

Nurys Diaz in traditional Dominican dress

Nurys Diaz in traditional Dominican dress (Photo provided)

Since coming to the United States, Diaz has been as an early education teacher and now is employed as a nanny.

During her youth and early adulthood, she often vacationed in Florida and other places in the United States. She took English classes in Boston, and in 1995 moved to New Jersey. Six years later, a friend recommended that she move to the Cincinnati area, and she soon found a home and a place to work.

Her journey to running is also full of twists and turns.

“I was not a runner,” she said. “I never in a million years would see myself as a runner. But in 2010, I turned 48 years and felt out of shape, so I decided to do something. … A friend who is an avid cyclist and runner suggest running to me, and I laughed. He believed I could run, he printed a 5K run/walk program, and handed it to me. I looked at it and told him I will give it a try as a new year resolution.

“Jan. 1, 2011, was cold, and I was ashamed people would see me huffing and puffing, so I cleaned my old treadmill sitting in the garage, and did 10-minute walk/run. I was out of breath, those 10 minutes felt like hours to me, but I kept doing it every week, three times a week. I still remember the first time I ran one mile without stopping. I felt like a superstar.”

She joined the Runners’ Club of Greater Cincinnati, and a few months later, she ran her first 5K, breaking the 32-minute mark.

“I still remember that feeling, and I got addicted to running that same day,” she said.

She ran her first marathon — Cincinnati’s Flying Pig — two years later. New York will be her ninth.

The New York City Marathon boasted between 50,386 and 50,530 finishers in 2014, depending on who is doing the counting. Either way, it’s by far the largest in the world, with some 10,000 more finishers that the second biggest marathon held in Chicago.

New York’s marathon features a course that goes through the five boroughs in the city, starting on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, heading up through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx before re-entering Manhattan again to finish in Central Park. It’s a relatively flat course through the city, with the biggest hills coming on the bridges across the Narrows and the East River.

“The New York City marathon is my dream race,” Diaz said. “Boston is out of reach for me, because I am not a fast runner. I applied last year for the race and didn’t make it.”

She did, however, get to run a half-marathon in New York in March, and she ran the Chicago marathon in 2014.

Despite its size, the New York marathon is notoriously tough to get into. Unlike Boston and other marathons, New York does not have qualifying times that runners must meet, but uses a lottery system. Like most lotteries, it’s difficult to win — just 18 percent of those who enter get the chance to run.

“In one of the many emails they send you weekly after you are accepted, there was an announcement about the opening ceremony and it says, click here to fill up the application,” Diaz said. “I did, and it asked which country you are a citizen of and would like to represent in the parade. … They asked why, and I wrote how proud I am to be a Dominican and how it would be an honor to represent it in the opening ceremony of my dream race.”

Paul Long, on the road (Photo by Kris Payler Staverman)

Paul Long, on the road (Photo by Kris Payler Staverman)

Paul Long writes weekly for the NKyTribune about running and runners. For his daily running stories, follow him at dailymile.com or on Twitter @Pogue57

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