Jay Klein: Celebrating a Lifelong Friendship and Life Itself

Jay Klein: Celebrating a Lifelong Friendship and Life Itself

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When Jay Klein and Joe Wykowski cross the finish line at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon, they will be celebrating not only the accomplishment of their first marathon at age 60, but also 47 years of friendship. They met at age 13 on the school bus in Suffolk County, NY, and have stayed in touch ever since. As Jay’s wife states, “I’m not sure who takes priority!”

In December 2015, their friendship meant life itself. Jay and Joe were walking together when Jay went into cardiac arrest and fell on the sidewalk. His heart had stopped. Joe immediately performed CPR and called 911. During a very tense four minutes, Joe kept Jay alive. With a borrowed AED, he administered the first of four shocks to his heart. Without Joe’s quick response, Jay would not be alive today. At the hospital, Jay was outfitted with a pace maker and a defibrillator.

Jay has always dreamed of running the New York City Marathon—as a born New Yorker, it had to be this one—and is now sharing that dream with Joe, who initially had no desire to join him.

With four knee surgeries under his belt, Joe hadn't run in 12 years. But that changed after Jay's cardiac arrest. He will now join his friend on a 26.2 journey, adding another notch to their friendship.

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Jay and Joe are running as members of NYRR Team for Kids, a committed group of adult runners from around the world who add meaning to their miles by raising funds for New York Road Runners’ free youth programs while training for major endurance events. “By running for Team for Kids, we hope to help kids develop a love for physical activity and lead a healthy lifestyle,” says Jay.

They will pull each other through the five boroughs of New York and joke about who is gimpier: Joe with his knee issues or Jay with his heart issues and recent double hip replacement. “We won’t set any records except another level of our friendship,” jokes Jay.

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Jay and Joe are avid cyclists and hikers and have been putting in the requisite training miles for the marathon. Jay gets up at 2:30 a.m. in his hometown of Phoenix, AZ, to get in his long runs before the temps get too high. Joe is doing his training at home in Portland, OR.

“I feel great! The hips are holding up and the heart is pure,” says an excited Jay. “I feel so lucky to have my family, grandkids, and Joe at my side. I am fulfilled and rich with friendship. Life can’t get better, except when I cross that finish line!”

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