The final finisher of Sunday’s NYC marathon has a simple motto: “If you can’t be first, it’s great to be last.”
Fredilyn “Fredi” Bangwa, a 42-year-old civil engineer from Bergenfield, NJ, crossed the finish line past 11 p.m. — when many of the roughly 25,000 participants were likely cozy in their beds. But that isn’t stopping Bangwa from brandishing her medal like a badge of honor.
Her finish time was 10:54:58 — a far stretch from Kenya’s Albert Korir 2:08:22 time, which earned him the $100,000 first-place prize.
She may not have broken any records, but, Bangwa still had an inspiring run.
She’s completed four previous marathons — usually with a finish time of about seven to eight hours. In 2019, she was forced to bow out mid-course. This year, she confronted an even bigger challenge.
“I was always a slow runner and I’m fine with that,” said Bangwa. “But I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis last year — and it became painful.”
Still, Bangwa wasn’t going to let the 50th anniversary marathon milestone pass her by.
Her credo? “Determined to finish” — particularly with the support of her family and friends.
“I had some doubts, but everyone was so encouraging,” said the married Bangwa. “It was important for me to do this. When I didn’t complete the 2019 marathon, I was bummed — I needed to redeem myself.”
She knows a little something about perseverance in the face of adversity. The week after the 2019 marathon, she went back to the course and ran the final eight miles. “[I] picked up from where I left off and finished the course,” she said.
During Sunday’s race, she fought off chronic pain in her ankles.
“There were several times I thought about peeling off the course,” she said. Her two older sisters met her at mile 16 with a walker, which she used for the remaining 10 miles, pushing out any thoughts of quitting.
“I earned the entry in. Considering how many people want to participate in and how many people can’t, I didn’t want to let this chance go by,” she said from her home on Monday, where she was recuperating.
She also made a new friend on the course: Mario Diurno, a first-time marathoner who works for the rehabilitation program, Release.
“We were keeping each other motivated, especially with the course being dead. We couldn’t have finished without each other,” she said, noting the instant and intense bonding that developed. “I think we’re friends for life.”
The last runner she glimpsed behind her and Diurno was around mile 13 by the Pulaski Bridge. The woman said, “I don’t think I’m going to make it” — and wasn’t seen again.
“There were sweepers behind me,” Bangwa said. “The workers on the bike would come by, ask if I could finish, if I wanted a Metrocard. They wanted me to be safe and feel OK. It’s like, ‘Hey, do you want to get on the sweep bus?’”
Despite momentary temptation, she stuck to her guns. “I stayed the course,” she said, with Diurno finishing in front of her.
And she’s already secured her entry spot for next year. While she’s considering giving her body a break, she says there’s just something about this race that pulls you back in.
“I’m trying to talk myself out of it, but you never know — it’s addictive.”
While Bangwa may have finished last — she wasn’t the slowest.
That distinction goes to Rozanna Radakovich, a 74-year-old from SoHo who completed her 35th marathon at 12:21:03.
It was a long way from her first marathon in 1984, when she ran a 5:04, but the slowest runner is still taking a victory lap.
“I don’t care — I’m not going to win anything, I’m doing it for me,” Radakovich told The Post.
“Of course I’m proud of myself — how many people can say they’ve done 35 marathons?”