Patchogue resident Melissa Pandolf is a wife, mother of four, author, Air Force veteran and member of the Air National Guard. She’s also training for the Suffolk County Half Marathon because as busy as she thinks she is, as hard as running can sometimes feel, Pandolf knows she’s lucky to be able lace up her sneakers whenever she can.
“Being in the military, I know there are people who have lost their legs or have injured themselves and cannot run,” Pandolf said. “I just feel if they can get through their struggles then I can certainly find time to run in honor of them.”
It’s personal for Pandolf. About a year and a half ago, she lost her best friend and fellow member of the Air National Guard, Natalie Tabois, to breast cancer. Tabois, who lived an active lifestyle and worked out regularly, was 37.
“When I think of her, it makes me want to do this. I think, ‘Well, Natalie would do it,’ and then I put one foot in front of the other and keep moving,” Pandolf said.
With veterans on her mind and Natalie in her heart, Pandolf, who started running in 2012, as a way to do something with her husband and wound up doing two half marathons that year, finds the time to run. Her lifestyle isn’t structured, as any working mother of one let alone four could probably attest to, but a training schedule doesn’t have to be. Some days, she heads to the gym, others she hits the road or runs around the track at the park as her four kids, all biological siblings adopted from Russia, play on the playground.
“Whatever works that day that I can squeeze in, I just put one foot in front of the other. The benefits are good, it’s better than sitting on the couch,” she said.
After all that training in spite of a busy schedule, you might expect Pandolf to say she most looks forward to “finishing” the half marathon. She’s actually more excited for the 13.1-mile journey on Sept. 13, one that she will take with her brother and father, a former marine.
“I always run to finish and do my personal best, but this one I’m running with my dad. My time is completely irrelevant,” she said. “I’m just going to stay with my dad and walk it, jog it, run it, whatever his pace is. I just want him to finish and finish strong.”