Printed with permission from John Hanc.


Marathon Man Takes Own Path / Heads for WTC to honor friend


This morning, long before the 10:50 a.m. starting gun of the New York City Marathon, Bill McDermott will cross his finish line. McDermott’s 20-mile run – from his home in Long Beach to lower Manhattan – is six miles shorter than what the marathoners will do. But in a sense, this is the culmination of a far longer journey. His run will close the circle on a solo odyssey that began Sept. 11, while also serving as a memorial to a friend who didn’t survive that day.

McDermott was in his office at Third Avenue and 47th Street when he heard the news about the World Trade Center attacks. Distraught and concerned – and, like most other commuters, wanting to get out of the city as soon as possible – McDermott walked to a nearby Sports Authority, purchased a pair of running shorts and T-shirt and, wearing the old running shoes he used to walk around the city, ran all the way to Long Beach. It took him 5 1/2 hours to cover the approximately 25 miles. McDermott – a computer systems coordinator for TIAA-CREF, the teacher’s annuity fund – made it home that night, but his friend Nina Bell did not. Bell, 39, was a runner, too, and a former colleague of McDermott’s at TIAA-CREF.

They had competed in many Corporate Challenge races together and shared the

love of the sport. “She was filled with life,” McDermott said. In the first week of September, Bell started a new job with the insurance company Marsh McLennon in the World Trade Center. In the days after the attacks, McDermott sought news about his friend. Nobody had heard from her. “Little by little, you lose faith,” he said. “Then it finally sets in.” Eventually, McDermott got in contact with Bell’s family on the West Coast. When they told him they were planning to come to New York this weekend to clean out her apartment, an idea clicked in his head. On Marathon Sunday, a day when New York is united in running, he would run back from Long Beach to Manhattan – to Ground Zero this time – in honor of his friend.

McDermott, 46, is calling it his virtual NYC Marathon. He’ll start at about 6 a.m. from his home on Curley Street, run through Long Beach and continue west along Rockaway Boulevard. He’ll cross over the Marine Parkway Bridge and follow Flatbush Avenue through Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Bridge and into lower Manhattan.

He’s not sure how close he can get to the World Trade Center site, or exactly what he’ll do when he gets there. Perhaps he’ll hold a moment of silence in Bell’s honor and leave a photo of her somewhere. He’ll speak to her family at some point that day, maybe meet them later, if possible. Before that, he’ll jog to Battery Park and look past New York Harbor to the Verrazano Bridge to watch the start of the NYC Marathon.

McDermott has run the NYC Marathon twice before. This “virtual marathon” will be different. He’ll be alone. No one will high-five him at the finish line, and that, he said, is fine. “I’m not racing it,” he said. “It’s an expression … a symbolic run for myself.”

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