Our Favorite Feel-Good Stories From the NYC Marathon

Everyone who participated in Sunday's 2013 ING New York City Marathon is a winner. (After all, running 26.2 miles is no small feat.) But victory was even sweeter for a few special individuals. Here are their inspiring stories.

Daradee Murray (second from left) with (L-R) Stuart Olsen, Candace Olsen, Teri Stewart and Ross Murray. Photo courtesy …Fit for Life
Daradee Murray was inspired to start running when her son,Liam, died from a heart defect shortly after he was born in 2009 “We weren’t very healthy or treating our bodies very well, so my husband signed up for an Iron Man [triathlon], and he inspired me to sign up for a marathon,” Daradee Murray tells Yahoo Shine. This race was Murray’s third marathon as well as a family event — she ran the course with her husband, Ross, and her parents, Stuart and Candace Olsen. “We had our names on our shirts, so everyone is cheering for you, and it makes the miles go by extremely fast,” says Murray — who raised $14,000 for Chances For Children Arizona, a nonprofit that supports programs that provide access to sports, physical education, and character education for youth, at Sunday’s race. In addition, the Phoenix -based couple started nonprofit LoveIAM, in honor of Liam, to help raise funds to help local children with congenital heart defects attend summer camp. LoveIAM had its first fundraiser last year and raised $20,000, which helped send 110 kids to camp. They hope to raise $40,000 at their upcoming fundraiser in May. To donate, go to loveiam.org.

Robert Reffkin runs his 50th marathon in New York City. Photo Courtesy of Robert Reffkin 1 runner, 50 marathons and $1 million raised for charity
For Robert Reffkin, Sunday’s marathon marked the finish of a six-year goal — to run 50 marathons in 50 states, and raise $1 million for nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping kids realize their dreams. The New York-based runner ran his personal best, breaking three hours with an impressive time of 2 hours, 59 minutes and 31 seconds. He's now just $10,000 shy of reaching his million-dollar goal. For the past two years, Reffkin has been running to support the nonprofit he founded in 2008, New York Needs You, which enables low-income, first-generation college students to realize their career aspirations. Other charities that he's helped through his dozens of races include Summer Search, which provides low-income high school students with mentoring and support; Teach For America, dedicated to providing excellent education for kids in low-income communities; the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which works with educators in high-need schools to re-engage students in learning and inspire young people from low-income communities to find success; and The Citizens Committee For New York City, which helps New Yorkers, especially those in low-income communities, come together and improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. “Marathons are really hard, and every marathon I felt like giving up multiple times,” Reffkin tells Yahoo Shine. “But, in a way, it’s the best reflection of what the nonprofits I’m raising money for try to instill in the youth they work with, which is don’t give up.” So, what’s next? Says Reffkin, the new father of a 3-month-old baby girl, “I want to focus now on my daughter, my wife and my family. It’s really important to me to be a great father and husband.”

<p class="MsoNormal">Jennifer Davis (left) and Jimmy Jenson during the 2013 ING NYC Marathon. Photo Courtesy of … History in the making
Jimmy Jenson made history on Sunday by being the first person with Down syndrome to finish the New York City Marathon. Jenson completed the race in a little over eight hours with his running partner, Jennifer Davis. “This demonstrates the abilities of people with Down syndrome to accomplish monumental achievements,” David Quilleon, senior vice president, major gifts, mission and operations of Best Buddies International, tells Yahoo Shine. Jenson and Davis were asked by Best Buddies International, dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-on-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with developmental disabilities, to run the NYC race on behalf of the organization. Jenson and Davis met 12 years ago through ARC of North Hollywood, California, an organization which focuses on helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and started running together at Jenson’s request. This past spring the pair ran the Los Angeles Marathon together and they had just 32 days to train for the New York version after Best Buddies asked them to participate. “We are supporters of the awareness of not only health and fitness for the developmentally disabled community, but also friendship and community as well as how important it is for Jimmy and I to be a part of a community together,” Davis tells Yahoo Shine. “The race was tremendous. It was so encouraging to see how much fun Jimmy was having but, also, how much the community of runners and people of New York were encouraging him every step of the way.” And how does Jenson feel about making history? “I loved the marathon. I did it for my friends at ARC and everybody’s proud of me because I did real good,” Jenson tells Yahoo Shine, who noted that in addition to receiving his marathon medal, his favorite part of the race was dancing to the Michael Jackson songs being blasted along the course in Brooklyn. Says Davis, “Every time he wanted to quit, he would name all the people he was running the race for. Jimmy realized the race was bigger than him.”