Sean Neal, Bronx

At 6’4”, Bronx native Sean Neal has always been a large guy. However, when his weight reached 300 pounds, he wanted to do something about it. Sean made the decision to begin running as a means of losing weight and getting in better shape. He ran his first marathon in honor of his cousin Phillip, who was killed in Tikrit in 2010.

“Phillip always wanted to run the New York City Marathon, so after his death, I decided to run it for him,” says Sean.

The same year as Phillip’s death, Sean and his wife sadly lost their daughter Eva, who was stillborn due to HELLP Syndrome, a life-threatening pregnancy complication.

“There is no way to describe how it feels to lose a child,” says Sean. “Heartbroken doesn't even begin to touch on the pain or the grief I felt. I had to be strong for my wife, who was struggling with the pain and guilt of losing our daughter. Running helped me find the strength I needed to be there for my wife, and the peace I needed in order to survive.” Since 2011, Sean has run four marathons and one ultramarathon.