NEW YORK -- Their given names are Amanda, Maria, Jessica and Brian Siemann, but the more attention they get and the closer they get to race day Sunday, the more they're starting to be referred to as simply the New York Marathon Quadruplets. Their entry is believed to be a first for the five-borough race, which has set a lot of firsts and is often called New York's biggest block party, not just the world's largest marathon.
The Siemanns were born in Brooklyn, raised in Jersey, and sometimes admittedly lose sight themselves of how close-knit or extraordinary a story they are. They each arrived only a minute apart at birth and weighed only nine pounds combined, spent the first two months of their lives in a hospital neo-natal unit and have maintained an ineffable bond ever since.
"There must be some 'quad' thing because we've gotten asked things in interviews, like whether we all answer questions at the same time, [and] we all say 'No' in unison," Maria, second in the birth order, says with a laugh. "So I guess that tells you something."
Still, until Jessica entered a 10K road race with her sisters in Florida last November at their urging and Brian, a two-time Paralympic wheelchair racer, later asked her if she would consider trying to "walk/run/jog" with them in the New York Marathon, Jessica was the last of the 27-year-old siblings to try running at all, let alone dream of attempting the 26.2-mile marathon distance.
By then, Amanda had already enlisted Maria to run the San Francisco and Chicago marathons with her -- "It was a bucket list thing for me," Amanda says -- and Brian had an extraordinary record in racing. He's the defending U.S. Paralympic champ in the 100 and 800 meters and competed in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Games in addition to having raced in more than 25 marathons around the world.
All of that could have been daunting to Jessica, except she almost immediately answered Brian's text about New York by saying yes, she was in.
Which has been another source of comedy for all of them.
The Siemanns are believed to be the first quadruplets to compete together in the marathon's 45-year history, according to New York Road Runners, the organization that stages the race. Nowadays the four of them are far-flung -- Amanda lives in Connecticut, Brian and Maria live near each other in Illinois and Jessica is in Pennsylvania -- so they've leaned on each other throughout their past five months of training for tips and encouragement and needling about what to expect.
Jessica says when she plugged a few bits of information into the racing app that she and her sisters have used to guide their training, the initial message that came back to her was: "We don't suggest you run a marathon till December." She was half-amused, half-terrified. When asked for the biggest lie her siblings have told her about what the marathon experience will be like, Jessica deadpans, "That the training would be 'fun.'"
She pauses a beat.
"I've told them, 'I hate you,' like, every day since."
Then they all break up laughing.
Jessica predicts race day will be a "sentimental" journey for all of them. The hospital where they were born is the same place where their mother, Teresa, worked as a nurse in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and it sits just a few blocks from where the marathon course travels along Fourth Avenue. All of them played sports throughout their childhood and laughed Wednesday about how their mother would load them in the back of their Chevy Suburban that ended up with more than 350,000 miles on it from ferrying them and their older brother, John, to their various activities. They smile about how she'd snap pictures of them curled up together in the back, sleeping off the ride home, or how she posed them for pictures as bald-headed little babies by leaning them against each other so they didn't topple over.
Though they all played sports, it was Brian who became "the star," Amanda says, after picking up wheelchair racing as a teenager. He suffered a spinal cord injury in the hospital a few days after they were born and was paralyzed from the waist down. But it wasn't until he went to Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, N.J., that he tried wheelchair racing as a freshman, at the suggestion of a coach. Not only did he enjoy it more than other sports he tried -- he was good at it. Then great at it.
"But a marathon -- a marathon is not just something you wake up and do," he says. "So when a coach I later had suggested trying one to me, I said, 'I'm not sure I'm ready.' He said, 'I'll make sure you're ready.' My first marathon was Chicago, and I did well enough to qualify for Boston."
He has never stopped racing them since, and says he can't wait for Maria, Amanda and Jessica to join him on Sunday. Amanda and Maria, veterans of past races, have assured Jessica that she can set the pace. They plan to run the whole race together. Jessica has told them she was already starting to feel the butterflies Wednesday, and they've told her that's normal.
"I remember the first time I was at the start line, I thought, 'Oh man. Am I ready to do this?" Maria says. "But we'll be checking on her to make sure she's OK."
"And that she's still alive," Amanda jokes.
All kidding aside, the quadruplets agree on what they expect their takeaway from Sunday to be.
"For the three of us to cross the finish line together and to see Brian cheering for us there, I think doing this is something incredible," Maria says. "Something we're going to remember the rest of our lives."