Milestone birthdays, loved ones' deaths motivate marathoners

NEW YORK (AP) Some run in memory of a lost loved one. Others are motivated by a milestone birthday. There's a story behind every one of the 50,000-plus runners in Sunday's New York City Marathon; here are a few of them.

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''Rudy'' will be running.

Actor Sean Astin will take part in his first New York City Marathon, although he's run a dozen marathons in other cities.

He said the race will be poignant because New York was the birthplace of his mother, actress Patty Duke, who died in March.

''I'm sure I'll experience a whole range of emotions from bittersweet to sad to nostalgic to excited to hopeful,'' Astin said. ''And that's all before I get to the starting line.''

The 45-year-old Astin is known for film roles such as Samwise Gamgee in ''The Lord of the Rings'' trilogy and the title character in ''Rudy.''

Playing the sturdy Samwise, Frodo Baggins' right-hand hobbit, proved challenging for an actor who was dedicated to fitness.

Astin said the character is derided as a ''stupid fat hobbit'' by the shadowy Gollum. ''Every time I would start to exercise the director would pull out the book and point to that sentence,'' he said.

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Foodies know Elizabeth Falkner from TV shows including ''Top Chef Masters,'' ''The Next Iron Chef, Redemption'' and ''Chopped All Stars.''

''I love food competition. That's my other favorite sport,'' said Falkner, who played soccer until age 38 and then got serious about running but has not run a marathon before.

''I turned 50 this year and I thought this is a perfect birthday present for me to give myself, this goal of running my first marathon,'' she said.

Falkner is running to raise funds for Team for Kids, the youth services program of the New York Road Runners club, the marathon organizers.

She said she's always tried to promote healthy living even when she ran her San Francisco bakery Citizen Cake. ''I'm not the kind of chef who's telling people to always have more bacon and butter in everything,'' she said.

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Four 27-year-old siblings will be the first quadruplets ever to participate in the New York City Marathon.

Elite wheelchair athlete Brian Siemann, who suffered a spinal cord injury a few days after birth, has been in more than 25 marathons, but this will be his first with able-bodied sisters Amanda Siemann, Maria Siemann and Jessica Rowe.

''It's exciting on two fronts,'' Brian Seimann said. ''One, I think, to be the first quadruplets to run the New York City Marathon ever is really cool. But then to be doing this together for the first time is really special, that we'll remember the rest of our lives.''

The siblings were born in Brooklyn but have scattered to different states. Only one sister, Jessica Rowe, is a marathon novice.

''We'll be checking in with her to make sure that she's OK and she's alive and she hasn't totally given up on this,'' Maria Siemann said.

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Gordon Felt, 53, is running with other family members from United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 11, 2001, as the passengers tried to wrest control of the plane from four hijackers.

Felt's brother, computer engineer Edward Felt, called 911 from the doomed plane just minutes before it crashed.

Gordon Felt said he and the other family members are running to raise funds for the Flight 93 National Memorial. ''As family members, our training mantra has been they never gave up and neither will we,'' he said.

Felt, who owns a summer camp for learning-challenged children in upstate Remsen, New York, said he was a middle-distance runner in high school and college but has never run a marathon before. ''I've done my training and I'm ready to go,'' he said.

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Actor Theo Rossi, known for ''Sons of Anarchy'' on FX and ''Luke Cage'' on Netflix, said he chose to make New York his first marathon because it's ''the capital of the world.''

The 41-year-old said it's special that the race starts on Staten Island, his often-maligned native borough.

''As a kid growing up on Staten Island, that really was our only identity, that the marathon starts on Staten Island,'' he said.

Rossi has participated in other endurance events including the Hood to Coast, a 199-mile relay in Oregon. His teammates during the race from Mount Hood to the Pacific coast last August included comedian Kevin Hart.

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