Runner’s High: One Man’s New York City Marathon Dream Comes True

2 minute read

More than 40 years after its inception, the New York City Marathon on Sunday beckoned another legion of runners to test themselves. For many runners, it was a test of physicality. But for Maickel Melamed, it was a mental test to overcome a struggle that resulted from a birth defect 36 years ago.

Born with a condition called hypotonia, Melamed suffers from low muscle tone, which makes most activities that require any strength extremely difficult. For the past two years, he has been training in his hometown of Caracas, Venezuela for the 2011 New York City Marathon. He applied for the marathon last year and was at first denied, but after completing a half marathon in Miami and joining Archilles International — an organization that helps people with disabilities participate in mainstream athletics — he was later accepted.

Photographer Romina Hendlin, also from Caracas, has been following Melamed since 2009, first as a student in his motivational class in high school, then as a friend and now as a photographer. “It’s the perseverance he has to follow his dreams,” she says of her interest in documenting Melamed’s journey. “He doesn’t take no for an answer. He taught us that you can’t accept no — always ask how.”

The New York City Marathon was important for Melamed to run because it is symbolic of how he lives his life. “If you dream it, make it happen,” he says. “I’m very excited and very focused, and just to be in the start line is a huge step. There are a lot of people who want to achieve their goals but don’t get to the start line. It’s symbolic of my dream and [theirs].”

Hendlin is part of a team of nearly 30 people who helped Melamed complete the marathon. The average completion time is about four hours; it took Melamed more than 15. “My celebration will be internal,” Melamed says. “This is going to help a lot of people. I will be the vehicle to help others find their way.”

Romina Hendlin is a photographer based in New York. More of her work can be seen here.

Maickel Melamed trains for the New York City Marathon in Caracas in September 2011.Romina Hendlin
Melamed runs at the Central University of Venezuela in September 2011. He exercised six days a week in preparation for the New York City Marathon. Romina Hendlin
Melamed at his parents' house with his cat Duquesa in September 2011.Romina Hendlin
Galo Bermeo, Melamed's assistant for the past 15 years, helps him stretch after two hours of training in March 2010.Romina Hendlin
Melamed prepares to train at the Sports Center Zona Pilates in Caracas in September 2011. His exercises help him increase and strengthen the tone of his muscle in order to have more stability and balance. Romina Hendlin
Melamed does his twice-weekly aquatic exercises in March 2010. Romina Hendlin
Oscar Flores, Melamed's physiotherapist, takes his pulse to measure his cardiac response to the training in March 2010.Romina Hendlin
Melamed runs his first 10K, the Gatorade Race in Caracas, in February 2010.Romina Hendlin
Melamed rests after completing his first 10K in 3 1/2 hours in February 2010.
Melamed receives a nutritional supplement after seven hours of training in September 2011. Romina Hendlin
Melamed does one of his last workouts before the marathon in November 2011.Romina Hendlin
Melamed travels to buy clothes for the marathon in November 2011. He was sponsored by North Face and Nike. Romina Hendlin
Gustavo Reggio and Daniela Blank, friends of Melamed, help him try on gloves to wear during the marathon in November 2011.Romina Hendlin
Melamed is carried down stairs of the New York City subway in October 2011.Romina Hendlin
Melamed runs in Central Park in preparation for the marathon in November 2011.Romina Hendlin
The NYPD applaud Melamed as he passes through South Williamsburg in Brooklyn during the race on Nov. 6, 2011. Romina Hendlin
Melamed passes by the Queensboro Bridge during the Nov. 6 race, while his physical therapist Oscar Flores and friend and manager Perla Sananes follow close behind.Romina Hendlin
Melamed's friends, colleages and family cheer him on near the end. He completed the Nov. 6 race at 11:50 p.m., 15 hours and 22 minutes after he began. Nearly 350 people were waiting for him as he crossed the finish line. Romina Hendlin
Melamed's parents, Alberto and Maritza, congratulate their son on Nov. 6, 2011. They flew to New York City from Caracas for the race.Romina Hendlin

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