On Sunday, Dr. Priscilla Romkema will run her 16th marathon. But this 26.2
Fred and Priscilla Romkema during a race in 2009.Priscilla will run the New York Marathon on Sunday.
mile trek will be unlike any other the Black Hills State University dean of business and natural sciences has done before. She will be running the New York Marathon only days after superstorm Sandy ravaged the East Coast leaving millions without power, disrupting public transportation, and flooding streets and homes.

“The news out of New York has been difficult and challenging for many. Yet, the mayor of New York City has stated that he wants the marathon to go on,” Romkema said. “I’m sure it will be a time of many thoughts and emotions.”

In a press conference earlier this week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed the world’s largest marathon would go on as scheduled insisting that resources, including, fire, police and public utilities officials, would not be diverted from storm victims.  Bloomberg said continuing with the race will spur economy and once again show the resilience of New Yorkers. According to the New York Road Runners, the organizers of the annual event, the marathon will bring in $340 million to the city.

The marathon, itself, may not be Romkema’s biggest obstacle - getting to the starting line may be the difficult part. Romkema, and her husband Fred, planned to leave Rapid City Thursday; however, dense fog cancelled their flight. The couple hoped to make it to New York Friday. After getting to the Big Apple, the Romkemas will have to navigate road closures and limited public transportation to make it to the race start in Staten Island, the area’s hardest hit borough.

The course winds from Staten Island to Brooklyn, then Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and back into Manhattan for the finish in Central Park. According to a Washington Post article, the park was still closed Thursday, but will be ready by Sunday.

Romkema’s entrance in the race will also aid in the recovery effort for city. According to its website, the New York Road Runners will donate at least $1 million, or $26.20 for each of the more than 40,000 runners expected to participate. The Marathon Race to Recover Fund will support a number of charities involved in relief efforts, including the Mayor’s Fund and the American Red Cross.

While Romkema has qualified and run the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest and most prestigious race, seven times, the ING New York Marathon has been one she’s wanted to do for many years.

“The NYC Marathon has been on my “bucket list” for several years – due to the location, the history of the race, the number of runners who compete, and the prestige of the race itself,” Romkema said.   

Entrance into the race is a lottery with only 8-12 percent of registrants making it in for the race.

Romkema got in on her first time.  “I submitted my registration, and it was a complete surprise that I was selected in my first year,” she said. Her husband, Fred, also applied; however, did not make the list.

“He will be going to New York City with me and will be my staunch supporter along with our daughter-in-law Vonda.”  Romkema will also be joined on Sunday with two other local runners; Spearfish resident Elaine Doll-Dunn, and her daughter Sami Trask from Wall, both BHSU alumnae, are participating in the race.

Romkema has been running for decades, originally inspired by her husband who is also an avid runner. In 2004, she competed in her first marathon in Carlsbad, Calif, and qualified for the Boston Marathon. Throughout her journey as a distance runner, Romkema said she has had the influence of many runners including BHSU staff, faculty and alumni, who have served as role models in training, running and other areas of life. “Through their individual and collective words of encouragement and their training tips, the journey has been fun and meaningful,” she said.

Romkema said she enjoys running because of the people she meets, the places she goes and the things she learns on each journey to the finish line.

“I thoroughly enjoy meeting people from all walks of life whose lives intersect through running,” she said. “It is a wonderful ‘community’ of people with a common interest and passion for running.”

The journey that Romkema, along with more than 40,000 other runners, will make through the streets of New York City Sunday will be a memorable one and one that will hopefully go down in history as a bright light after days of tragedy.