Daniel Maya (center, red shirt) competes in the 2022 New York City Marathon
By Gabrielle Russon
Daniel Maya was supposed to be in Hawaii, running his first marathon with a landscape of beautiful beaches behind him.
But this was 2020. The pandemic trashed plans for anyone who had vacations or big goals.
Instead of running in Hawaii, Maya’s race became a virtual one.
The then-Beacon College student ran 26.2 miles in his neighborhood back in his hometown of Westport, Connecticut. He completed the same four-mile loop over and over while his parents cheered him on and passed out Gatorade. His sister made a sign that made for a celebratory ending since there was no official finish line. His Hawaii marathon medal arrived in the mail later.
It wasn’t the race Maya had envisioned, but he was still proud of his accomplishment nonetheless. He was a marathoner and the challenge was tougher, he believed, doing it on his own. But that wasn’t the end of his marathon story either. His chance to run the largest marathon in the world in person was coming this year.
Maya, who graduated in May 2022, came from a family of runners which led him to try the sport as a boy.
“I think seeing me run the marathon in 2010 really jump-started his running, and he’s been running ever since,” said his mother, Susan Maya.
In high school, Maya ran his first half-marathon and joined the cross-country team. He was fascinated by fitness and nutrition which is what eventually led him on a career path to become a personal trainer.
At Beacon, Maya used to run to clear his mind and give himself a break from his homework for his human services major. He headed out to run up and down Leesburg’s Main Street and on the bike trail. Running was the perfect stress reliever. After two pandemic virtual marathons, Maya signed up for the New York City Marathon this year.
Maya ran a long run every week to get ready. By the end of this regimen, he finished an 18-mile workout. The night before the Nov. 6 race, he downed pizza – oh the carbs! – for some last-minute fuel. He woke up at 4:30 a.m. to make his way to Staten Island where the race began going over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn with a view of the city skyline you wouldn’t believe.
Maya and his father were among 53,000 runners in the New York City Marathon. More than a million spectators lined all five boroughs to cheer on the athletes — a far cry from his solo virtual marathons.
“New York is definitely a wild experience. You have all the people. You have the fans. You’re never running alone,” Maya said.
Maya, who doesn’t run with music, soaked it all in.
“I view running as kind of a moving meditation,” he said.
The hardest part was running up the bridges which felt like hills. It was also one of the hottest NYC Marathons on record with temperatures pushing into the 70s.
He reminded himself to put one foot in front of the other. One more step. Just keep going. One more mile.
“I just kept trying to keep pushing, keep going,” Maya said. “I tried to just relax. Enjoy it.”
Maya completed the race in five hours and 32 minutes — which equals an average pace of 12:41 per mile stretched out across those 26.2 miles. He felt ecstasy and pride crossing the finish line, he said.
“It was the greatest thing in the world to watch him accomplish his New York City Marathon,” Susan Maya said.
On Thanksgiving, Maya turned 24.
His birthday present from his family: A new medal rack to hang up his marathon medal.