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The running of the bulls
graphic November 2, 2001: 10:57 a.m. ET

Wall St. puts aside its heartache to take part in Sunday's New York City Marathon.
By Martine Costello
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  • A survivor's marathon dream
  • Why we run marathons
    NEW YORK (CNNmoney) - Nick Benvenuto is a lifelong New Yorker, a tough kid from Cambria Heights in the borough of Queens who has spent the last two decades working on or around Wall Street.

    He's a strapping guy with a passion for rugby who is fighting a new battle on Sunday -- his first marathon.

    But after Sept. 11, the New York City Marathon means more than a personal challenge and a chance to support his company, Andersen, a global consulting firm. For Benvenuto and other Wall Street bulls, it's a chance to reach out.

    Nick Benvenuto is running his first New York City Marathon Sunday as part of Andersen's corporate team.
    "It seems like a much bigger event than me competing in my first marathon," said Benvenuto, 46, a partner at Andersen. "We are New Yorkers and we're here to support New York and the victims of the tragedy."

    Wall Street reaches out

    Andersen, one of the major marathon sponsors, has the one of the largest corporate teams of the 2001 race, sending about 140 runners from 34 states and 24 countries to the start line.

    Other teams include JP Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM: Research, Estimates) , which will have more than 200 runners; Continental Airlines Inc. (CAL: Research, Estimates) with about 40 to 50; and ASICs, the footwear maker, with 50 to 100.

    Every top sponsor gets a certain number of marathon entries based on the level of their donation, said Ann Hinegardner, vice president of sales and marketing for New York Road Runners Club, which organizes the event.

    The marathon doesn't say how much the sponsors give in order to get the coveted spots, Hinegardner said. Many companies have more runners than the number of race bibs they receive because some of their employees get in the traditional way, through the lottery system.

    Benvenuto said he tried twice to get into the New York marathon through the lottery. This year, when he found out Andersen was putting together a team, he wrote an essay explaining why he wanted to run. "I said I've lived in New York all my life, that I was trying to get in shape, that I would enjoy running for the firm."

    Benvenuto, like many veterans of the Street, grew up in the shadows of the Financial District in the hardscrabble neighborhoods of Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn. Kids on his block wound up on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, at fire houses and at precincts across the five boroughs.

    "You always hear about the MBAs and the economics majors who are traders," Benvenuto said. "There are a lot of people from the neighborhoods who work on Wall Street. Their fathers worked there. Their brothers worked there...They are the people who are in it for the long haul."

    A founding member of the rugby club at St. Bonaventure University near Olean, N.Y., his first job was in the accounting department of the old Domino Sugar refinery off Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.

    He's also worked at CS First Boston, the former Chase Manhattan Bank and Prudential Investments. He worked at 5 World Trade Center when a terrorist bomb killed six and injured more than 1,000 others at the towers in February 1993. At Andersen, his focus is on technology risk consulting.

    The company had an internal Web site with training tips on which team members from around the world could swap ideas, get nutrition help and stay motivated.

    "A few times I said maybe I don't want to go forward with this, maybe I want to forget about this," he said. "But some of the global runners said to stick with it."

    None of runners from the team has dropped out, he said.

    "It's to show the world that we're not going to take a back seat and we're not afraid," Benvenuto said. Plus, Sunday is his daughter's 11th birthday.

    A lost friend who loved to run

    On Sept. 11, he was heading to the lower East Side of Manhattan to meet with a client. He was on the FDR Drive when the cab driver said, "Did you see that?" It was the first plane slamming into the World Trade Center.

    He turned around and headed back to his midtown office. "I could see the second plane hit the building. It was unbelievable. My thoughts were, 'Where are all the people who work for me? Where are my friends who work in that building?'"

    One of the victims was a fellow St. Bonaventure alumnus, rugby player and marathoner, Rob Peraza. Peraza, 30, was a bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald. Some kids from his neighborhood, firefighters and cops, also didn't make it out.

      We are New Yorkers and we're here to support New York and the victims of the tragedy.  
      Nick Benvenuto  
    "It was a couple of weeks walking around in a daze," Benvenuto said.

    While Benvenuto gently declined to talk about his firefighter friends, he said Peraza's running ability and athleticism have given him strength during his marathon training. While they weren't in college at the same time, they met through alumni rugby games and other events, and became buddies.

    "He was a good athlete, and that's given me strength," Benvenuto said.

    He's hoping to set up a St. Bonaventure scholarship in Peraza's name, and he's launching a campaign to rename the college's rugby field -- called the "pitch" -- after his friend.

    A lot of people from Wall Street will run with Peraza's name on their jerseys, Benvenuto said.

    New camaraderie after Sept. 11

    The Financial District in general has changed since Sept. 11, he said. Even Harry's, a landmark watering hole and restaurant on Hanover Square, seems different. Nicer, maybe a little less cutthroat.

    "Although there's a lot of competition, a lot of dog-eat-dog, who can get to market the quickest, who can make the sale, there's also a lot of camaraderie," Benvenuto said. "This is a tough city with a warm heart." graphic

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    A survivor's marathon dream

    Why we run marathons