Jack McShane has only missed three New York City Marathons since 1979.
But on Sunday, the Durham resident will miss his fourth marathon after race officials decided late-Friday to cancel the 26.2 mile race amid growing criticism over plans to hold the event even as recovery efforts continued in the city in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
"When I woke up on Wednesday morning I was in the mindset that whatever decision they make is going to be the right one," McShane said. "It's disappointing, but it's understandable."
The marathon attracts about 50,000 runners each year, including thousands who travel from overseas to race through the city's five boroughs, including McShane's native Brooklyn.
"The course goes right through the neighborhood I grew up in since I was a little boy, until I was about 12 years old. It's always been real special to me, to go back home every year and run that race," said McShane, who grew up in Greenpoint, the half-way point of the race.
A regular on the running scene in Durham, McShane is a familiar face around town where he works for Regional School District 13 and helps out with Coginchaug High School's indoor track and field team.
Not since 1990, when a race application snafu prevented him from running in the marathon, has McShane missed the race. On two other occasions he had a legitimate excuse — the birth of his eldest son and later, his daughter.
In fact, the marathon has now turned into a family tradition for the McShane's.
"I'm most disappointed for Michael (his youngest son). He was really, really hyped up and thrilled about this. I feel for him more than anybody right now as far as our family. Hopefully, everything goes well for the relief efforts and things gets better."
On Thursday, McShane traveled to New York City to pick up his race number and said race organizers remained optimistic about pulling off the marathon despite the growing pressure to cancel the race.
But in the last few days race organizers said runners had become targets of the criticism, which eventually led to the decision to call off the marathon.
McShane said he would have run in the marathon if given the chance.
"That's the beauty of this race. That's the thing that's always fascinated me about it and made me love this race, is that it brings the world together, in one place, on one day, for an event that's so magnificent and is the best of what humanity has to offer," he said.
Prior to Friday's decision, the New York Road Runners Club had committed to donating $26.20 dollars for every runner that ran in the race towards recover efforts. Now the organization must decide what to do with race entry fees, which average about $250, but are non-refundable.
"They do wonderful things for kids running, and the New York Roadrunners Foundation supports a lot of the inner city kids and the programs that they have. I'm sure most runners would say that it's a worthy donation. That money is eventually going to go to good causes," said McShane.
Like a true runner, McShane doesn't plan on letting the decision to cancel the race sideline him.
"We're runners, we'll run. There's other races," he said.