Jeremy Holland and Domenique Pulli both complete the celebrated race and are enjoying all the accolades that come with it.
CLEARWATER BEACH — What started as a suggestion between coworkers more than six months ago became a reality earlier this month, as Palm Pavilion employees Domenique Pulli and Jeremy Holland both completed the New York City Marathon.
The two ran to raise money and awareness to fight Parkinson’s disease, an affliction that claimed the life of Pulli’s father, former Major League Baseball umpire Frank Pulli, in August.
Holland, a server, and Pulli, a cook at the restaurant, said their journey from the sands of Clearwater Beach to the finish line in the Big Apple on Nov. 3 was an experience they’ll never forget.
“There were 50,000 runners in the race, and 2 million spectators watching, and people were yelling our names and cheering and singing and clapping,” Pulli recalled.
“It was awesome. I didn’t expect it to be anything like that. It was like a huge party.”
“It hasn’t stopped since we got home, either,” Holland added. “Everybody has been wanting a piece of us!”
After qualifying to run under the Michael J. Fox Foundation banner, the pair raised more than $15,000 for their cause, aided by Holland’s decision to donate all his tips on Tuesdays to Team Pulli.
Boosted by contributions from coworkers, family and strangers, plus a generous donation from Palm Pavilion owner Ken Hamilton, the two set off for New York four days before the marathon unsure if they’d even be able to finish the race.
And although they both completed the 26-mile course— Pulli with a time of 6:18:33 and Holland in 6:14:14 — there were times their faith and strength were called into question.
“I didn’t start feeling (like I couldn’t finish) until mile 17 or 18,” Pulli said. “It was a feeling like you know you’re done, but you’re not done.”
“She hit the wall,” Holland explained. “We both did. Every runner has it happen to them around that point, and that’s when you find out if you really have the desire to finish the race.”
The pair, who began their friendship in January, ended up separating and completing the last part of the marathon alone with their thoughts.
For Pulli, whose final months with her father were some of the most painful yet most fulfilling of her life, she never doubted she would cross the finish line.
“I honestly wanted to finish by myself,” she said. “The first 19, 20 miles were fun and exciting, but those last six miles, it was cold and dark and there were a lot of emotions going on inside me.”
“When I heard them counting down the last mile, I just lost it. The tears came pouring out. It was extremely emotional. I wished my dad was with me, and I knew he was.”
Following an extended stay in New York City following the race, the pair has been trying to get back to normal since returning to Clearwater.
While Pulli said she doesn’t plan to run another marathon anytime soon, she does want to keep fundraising for the Fox foundation and see what the future holds.
But Holland, the planner of the two, already is working on their next project.
“I haven’t told her yet, but it’s there. It’s coming,” he said. “It might not be a race, and we might have more team members, but it will be an adventure, to say the least.”