SHU Professor Will Mayer to Run NYC Marathon for a Cause

News Story: November 28, 2008

Sacred Heart University Professor, Will Mayer, will run the New York City Marathon on November 2 to raise money for a private, independent school in Harlem.

Harlem Academy is a five-year-old K-8 school that had faced nearly insurmountable odds when it began its first academic year in the fall of 2003.

This is the type of school that if you laid the plans out, people would have said that's idealistic, Mayer said of the school, which was founded by his son's Godfather. Good luck.

In fact, some in Manhattan estimated that the school had a five percent chance of survival. The school's goal is to provide Harlem's children with an education that stresses both academic rigor and familial connections. The school's philosophy is that parents play a major and consistent role in their children's academic success. 

The school's unlikely path to success was made more difficult because organizers intended to help children with a great deal of potential, but whose families could not afford a private school education.

Even Mayer, a member of the psychology faculty at SHU, was initially skeptical.

Mayer has been trying to get into the New York City marathon for years. Each year, applications to run far outnumber the available slots, so organizers employ a lottery system. If an applicant is denied by the lottery three years running, that person is granted automatic entry in the fourth year.

Mayer's goal in running is twofold: to raise money and the school's profile.

Just as important is to raise awareness of what a great opportunity this is, Mayer said of the school, which has 75 students. These kids are amazing and have so much potential. The school is an inspiration. If people are interested, it's a way for me to spread the word. 

Mayer has issued a fund-raising letter asking people to volunteer their time if they can't donate money. He is also asking contributors to match donations in order to maximize the funds going to the school.

I'm trying to set myself up for a high goal and have other people do the same, Mayer said. "For me the highlight of this marathon will not be crossing the finish, but it will occur between the 22 and 23 mile.  That is the point in which I will run past the front door of Harlem Academy supported by family, friends, and the children of Harlem."

Mayer began running three-and-a-half years ago when he got the idea to run the New York City Marathon. Until that point, he had only run one half-marathon. He began running intensively and lost a lot of weight. If he was too tired to run, he forced himself to go out and walk. He never stopped training. He was intent on completing his first 20-mile training day. He ran slowly, but finished. Eventually he ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., breaking his goal time of four hours with a three hour thirty-six minute finish.

Training can be mentally taxing by the third or fourth week of running 50 miles per week, according to the professor, who in addition to teaching owns a private psychology practice for children and families in Southport. Mayer teaches introduction to psychology, sports psychology, a variety of human development courses and he is the director of the psychology undergraduate internship program. In addition to teaching, Mayer is involved with a variety of Sacred Heart organizations, including assisting the men's golf team with sports psychology techniques.  At home Mayer prides himself in being actively involved as a husband and father to two young children.