Mary Ann Ratajczak crossed the finish line at last year's New York City Marathon and became a cliché. Like so many who complete their first 26.2 mile race, she vowed never to do it again. "One and done," she pronounced. A year later, she's eating those words. Happily.
On Nov. 3, she will run her second marathon. Like last year, it will be through the five boroughs of New York City. And also like last year, it will be for Mikey Ash.
Mikey was Mary Ann's motivation to get through the trials of preparing for her first marathon, and he's playing that role once again. "When I think it's getting too hard, when I want to quit, I just think of Mikey and I get the strength I need," she says.
As she was last year, Mary Ann will be part of "Ryan's Run," a fund-raising venture spearheaded by WNEP-TV's news personality Ryan Leckey to raise money for Allied Services. Allied provides a variety of care for children and adults with disabilities. Mikey, about to turn 14, is one of those children.
Mikey has a rare genetic condition called Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, which leaves him with a diminutive stature and causes difficulties with language, feeding himself and other degrees of intellectual disabilities. Mikey also has been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. To participate in Ryan's Run, one must identify an "ambassador." Mikey is Mary Ann's.
Mikey's mom Nicole, a pediatric nurse, and Mary Ann, an endoscopy nurse, formed an instant friendship. And Mikey immediately won Mary Ann's heart. She gets choked up when she describes seeing him cheering for her at mile 22 during last year's marathon.
This will be "Ryan's Run 10." Through the first nine, $3.2 million has been raised to support Allied Services.
After meeting Mary Ann a year ago, I wrote she was "a 54-year-old mom, who'd easily pass for 34 or younger." This year, she is a 55-year-old mom … who'd easily pass for 34 or younger. She's completed 8 half-marathons but last year was her first full 26.2-mile run. She credits her husband John for encouraging her to try a marathon and her training partner Paul Shafer for getting her physically prepared. But for her mental preparation – she stresses running a marathon is more mental than physical – she credits Mikey. She lights up when she talks about Mikey's effort at the All Abilities Run, a Ryan's Run pre-event, last week in Scranton where the ambassadors take to the track.