When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast Ahwatukee Foothills resident Deanna Montalbano was concerned about friends and family in the area, but as the worst of the storm passed she was also torn over whether or not she would still be participating in the New York City Marathon.

“I just realized it wasn’t going to be the New York City Marathon for me anymore,” Montalbano said. “It was going to be different. There were people that weren’t going to be able to get there. There seemed to be a lot of animosity and controversy where I was looking on the Facebook pages for the marathon. I didn’t want to be part of the race with controversy. I wanted to be part of this race that’s one of the coolest races most runners have on their bucket list.”

Montalbano won the lottery for guaranteed entry two years ago in 2011 but found out too late to attend the race. So she paid her entry fee and differed to attend the race in 2012.

She started training in July for what would be her seventh full marathon and over 18 weeks her training was going smoothly. Family and friends from the area were making plans to come out and cheer her on as she ran in one of the most popular marathons in the world.

As the storm hit the city, plans began to change and Montalbano just wasn’t sure she’d feel right going to New York to run, even though her flight and hotel were still confirmed for last Thursday morning.

Throughout the day last Thursday, Montalbano made the tough decision to cancel her trip but it seemed a shame to let her training go to waste. That’s when friends and family here in Ahwatukee rallied around her. Montalbano designed a course to run her own marathon around their home at Lakewood in Ahwatukee. Eleven loops around the neighborhood would equal 26.2 miles. She sent out an email to friends and says the outcome was humbling.

“A couple of the teachers from my son’s school and my friends, someone came and met me for each loop so I had one or two people running with me on each loop,” Montalbano said. “We arranged it so we passed by my house on each loop and a bunch of my friends and my husband and kids and a bunch of other kids all stood out and handed me water and Gatorade, like a water station would be at a race. They cheered me on each time I came around the loop. They made me a bib and when I finished they even had a race line to cross and a medal for me. It was super cool.”

Montalbano said it ended up being the easiest marathon she’s ever run because of all the support she received. Every few miles she had a different person running next to her, cheering her on and keeping her going with good conversation.

On the final lap many neighborhood kids climbed on bikes and scooters and went with her around the final loop and across the finish line.

As part of her own race, Montalbano and her family collected cash donations, which they plan to donate to the American Red Cross.

“I made my decision not to go to New York partly because I didn’t want to take up space among all the chaos,” she said. “In time I wanted to do something. I thought maybe if there are other people who wanted to do something as well maybe we can collect it and send it all together.”

Montalbano will have guaranteed entry to the marathon in 2013 because the race was ultimately cancelled. She’s still unsure if she’ll be able to afford to pay the entry fee a third time but says as a runner, having a chance to run the NYC Marathon at all is hard to pass up.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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