Holli Martinez went to New York with her husband, former Mariners star Edgar Martinez, to run in the New York Marathon. When the race was canceled, she ran anyway, raising money to benefit the hurricane relief effort.

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Holli Martinez didn’t get to the run the New York City Marathon, an event for which she had been training for months.

What happened instead was even more fulfilling for Holli and her husband, former Mariners star Edgar Martinez.

Shortly after she arrived in New York, Holli learned the marathon, scheduled for Sunday, had been canceled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She decided to run Sunday anyway, and raise money for the hurricane relief effort in the process.

Putting out word through social media and the Martinez Foundation, they enticed a group of about 75 people to Central Park to run with them in support of New York Cares, a local relief organization. That included about 10 runners from Seattle “who heard about it randomly and just showed up. It was great.”

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As it turned out, thousands of like-minded people showed up in the park to run an informal version of the fabled marathon.

“We chose New York because there’s no other place on Earth like it — it’s a spectacular city,” Holli Martinez said Monday just before boarding a plane back to Seattle. “I wanted to run my first marathon here; I’d have to say this was better, to gather runners in the name of ‘Let’s raise money for New York under stress.’ I can’t imagine running under better circumstances.”

Edgar Martinez, who retired after the 2005 season, embraced a cheerleading role.

“He was so sweet,” Holli said. “He was part of the support team that gave us water and Gatorade. After the race, they had gone out and made us medals out of keychain and ribbons. It was really cool — they sat out there for hours and cheered us on and didn’t complain.”

Laughed Holli: “I did remind him I sat through a lot of baseball games.”

Edgar, who was born in New York but moved to Puerto Rico as an infant, said: “It was pretty amazing to see so many runners. It looked like a lot of people had the same idea. There were multiple groups trying to get out and make something positive out of a really tough situation.”

Holli had initially been inspired to run the marathon after Edgar’s cousin, Annabelle, died of multiple myeloma last spring. She planned to run in Annabelle’s honor and raise money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. When the race was called off, she wasn’t about to be deterred.

“You cannot tell me no,” she said. “So many people had sponsored me to run, and Edgar’s cousin dying had inspired me. No way I wasn’t going to go out and honor those donations and Anabelle.”

Martinez estimated she raised about $4,000 for the MMRF, “and hopefully far more than that for New York families.” The final tally isn’t available yet, but donations are still being accepted for New York Cares.

Sunday’s makeshift marathon course was set up with help from Lesley Mettler, a running coach from Seattle whom Holli had met on the flight to New York. They calculated that four times around the park, plus a partial loop, would be the requisite 26.2 miles.

Holli figures her time was in the five-hour-plus range, noting with a laugh that she kept getting passed. “I felt like the caboose,” she said.

But this was one marathon where the finish time was insignificant.

“The whole journey was incredible,” Holli said.

Donations to support Hurricane Sandy relief efforts can be made directly to New York Cares at http://newyorkcares.kintera.org/martinezfoundation

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @StoneLarry.

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