Fernando Puente ran the New York City Marathon in 1976, the year it became a five-borough race, and he’ll run through the five boroughs again this year.
Originally from Guatemala, Puente moved to Flushing, Queens, with his family in 1965 when he was 12 years old, and competed on the Flushing High School track and cross country teams. “Distance running came very naturally to me,” he says. In 1970, the family moved to North Carolina, where Puente finished high school and then attended college and graduate school. He continued to run, and in 1976 he and a friend heard that the New York City Marathon was being staged as a citywide event. They signed up.
Puente trained relentlessly for his first marathon and developed an IT-band injury. He decided to run anyway, hoping for the best. “The last 12 miles were pure misery,” he says, recalling in particular the pain of crossing five bridges in his paper-thin Tiger Jayhawks racing flats, which he’s kept to this day. “Still, I was able to enjoy going through the five boroughs and finishing in Central Park.” His time was 3:05.
“It was an unforgettable experience,” says Puente—and one that hooked him on racing long distances. He ran his marathon PR of 2:33 in Boston in 1981, and he’s completed a total of 79 marathons and 10 Ironman triathlons.
“I always had a special place in my heart for the New York City Marathon,” says Puente, now 63. He and his wife, also an avid runner, completed the race together in 2005 and 2006, and they’ll travel from their home in Raleigh, NC, to run again this year.
“My goal for 2016 is to take it all in,” Puente says. “I’ll enjoy every mile and cherish my memories.”
By Kent Hamlin
GET YOUR STORIES ON. Read more inspiring stories from runners chronicling their journeys to the TCS New York City Marathon starting line.
TUNE IN. The 2016 TCS New York City Marathon will be televised live on Sunday, November 6, on WABC-TV, Channel 7 in the New York tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET, and for the rest of the nation on ESPN2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.