Life On The Run

If charisma made you faster, an American might actually win the New York Marathon

Rail-thin Mike Mykytok of Ramsey, New Jersey, used to wear shirts labeled Monday, Tuesday, and so forth so that he "didn't have to decide what to wear each day." The quirky Mykytok is also a poet, and, as a member of the University of Florida track team, used to perch himself on rooftops and read his motivational verse to his teammates.

The lure of lucre is part of what's pushing the in-debt Mykytok to tackle this, his "virgin marathon." He's also coming here because "the New York City Marathon is empty" in terms of top-notch Americans--"It's all foreigners out there." And as the winner of the 1997 USA Track and Field 10,000 (the longest race at standard track meets) many will be watching Mykytok with hopes of a breakout American performance. But ever the individualist, Mykytok promises to run his own race and to "not get caught up in everybody's surging and all that crap."

The likeliest 2000 Olympian among the local men is Tom Nohilly, a former Catholic-schools city champ in the mile at Monsignor McClancy High School in Queens. Nohilly, making his marathon debut "to keep me motivated and keep me strong," is currently ranked second in the U.S. in the 3000-meter steeplechase--the event with hurdles and a water jump. Three steeplers make the U.S. squad. At 1992's Olympic Trials in sweltering New Orleans, four men lay prostrate on the ground after a blanket finish; Nohilly was the one who didn't go to Barcelona. He barely missed the cut again in 1996. He's getting used to dreams deferred.

Even in his desired profession. Marathons and steeplechases aside, Nohilly's fervent wish is to be a fireman, like his grandfather. But when he briefly moved to Virginia to train five years ago, his New York nonresidency pushed him further down an already interminable waiting list for the fire academy.

As his freshly bathed infant son pukes all over himself, Nohilly, now living in Manhattan, says he's shooting for a sub-2:20 marathon. That would get him a spot at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2000. "It's my first one. Everything is talk. I could say if I come through in 1:08 halfway and I feel good, I could drop the pace down. But it's a place I've never been before."

Gillian Horovitz has been there. She's run 76 marathons all told, including, as Gillian Adams, a second place in New York City in 1979. She subsequently married playwright Israel Horovitz, whose oeuvre includes a comedy called Sunday Runners in the Rain.

Last year, Gillian was New York City's masters champ (for those over age 40; she's 43) and 14th overall with a 2:43:20. In April, she improved to 2:41:15 in Boston, good enough to earn selection to the English squad for the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia (Horovitz is a Brit, but has lived in the Village for most of the past two decades), where she finished fourth.

Horovitz is mother to 12-year-old twins Oliver and Hannah and a stepmother to Adam, King Ad-Roc of The Beastie Boys. "He came and watched the New York City Marathon once," she recalls. "He doesn't make any derogatory comments. The Beastie Boys are very fit. Their passion is basketball. They bring a net with them on tour."

Israel calls his wife "the only woman I know who warms up for a marathon by doing a marathon." And the famously indestructible Gillian agrees, submitting that after a 26-miler, "I run the next day to get the stiffness out of my legs."

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