Borgata dealer Carmello Rivera has been at the property since it opened in 2003. For dealer Donna Grocki, it will be 13 years this April. Their long-term employment at Borgata is just one of the similarities between the two. The other? Both are accomplished marathon runners who have their work friendship to thank for qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
“I used to run in my younger years, but to be honest, in my early 20’s, I stopped,” said Grocki, 58. “My daughter was doing the Philadelphia half-marathon four years ago, an I joined her. From there, that was it! It made me realize that I wanted to run a marathon. I wanted it on my bucket list.”
Rivera, who will turn 55 in 2018, started running in 2016, when a fellow coworker on his shift at Borgata persuaded him to join a running group at the Galloway Wildlife Refuge. He soon signed up for a 5K race in Sea Isle City.
“My results were really nice,” he recalled. “I started getting better, training more, and adding more miles. I ran throughout that year, until I had a calf injury on the Ocean City Boardwalk.”
That took him out of training for a bit. However, one day, when he was waiting for his wife at a dentist’s office near Stockton University, Rivera took to the college’s track. It made his recovery worth it.
“I remember thinking, ‘It’s really great to be running again,'” Rivera said.
Now, both Grocki and Rivera have their eyes on their next big goal: running the 2018 Boston Marathon. For the two co-workers turn training partners, the support has been a huge part of why they’ve each been able to athletically succeed.
“It’s so much better when you have a running partner,” Grocki explained. “Carmello takes long runs with me, and it’s so much more motivating to have someone who keeps pushing you. I love running with him.”
However, marathon training isn’t just fun and games. It takes hard work and being both physically and mentally fit. Rivera, who has lost 25 pounds since starting his marathon training, said he studies videos of the Penn Relays and of high school runners and appreciates the physical endurance of the younger athletes. He also realizes how lucky he is, given his age, that he has been able to train as effectively as he has.
“It’s extremely hard,” he said. “Cardio fitness is supposed to decline as you age, and I’m aware that this Boston Marathon may very well be my last, but I take it one day at a time.”
For Grocki, who ran both the New York City and Chicago Marathons, feels like she’s got the mental toughness to succeed once she gets to Boston.
“I’ve always been competitive and I have high expectations of myself,” she said. “I’ve set my mind that I’m going to do it. You just have to have that mindset. You have to stick to it.”
These two Borgata team members turned marathon runners seem ready to tackle the literal road in front of them to Boston. Rivera has already rented out his Airbnb for his stay, and is excited to take in the entire city while he visits. His fellow runner, Grocki, is excited to see how well both of them do once they take to the course.
“We push each other and we’re so excited to see the other one do well,” she said. “That’s really good for each of us.”
“The exclusivity of the event makes you realize that you are amongst the best in the world,” Rivera added. “It really is exciting.”