Considered by many to be one of the greatest marathons in the world, the ING New York City Marathon attracts more than 40,000 professional and amateur runners every year. While some run for the prize money, accomplishment or prestige, on Nov. 7, seven teammates will speed through five boroughs and across four bridges to raise money and awareness for children with special needs.

The grassroots effort is a first for the Friendship Circle, a network of Chabad-Lubavitch programs around the world that typically pair teenage volunteers with children with special needs. Although many individual chapters raise money through smaller local events, such as the Walk4Friendship, this is the first time that the idea is being adopted by Friendship Circle International.

According to Mendel Groner, the organization’s director of operations, one of Team Friendship’s top goals is to get people to look beyond children with special needs’ diagnoses and see them instead as individuals with innate potentials.

“Though they might look or act differently, they are human beings just like you and me,” he explained.

The team – which is looking for more runners – includes Friendship Circle supporters, volunteers, participants and parents. Some will be competing in the full skirts and beards typical of religious Jewish women and men. One month before the event, other teams had enrolled in the marathon in support of Chai Lifeline, an organization that supports children with life-threatening or chronic illnesses; and The Blue Card, which provides financial assistance to Jewish Holocaust survivors.

Abraham Borenstein of West Hempstead, NY, heard about Team Friendship from his two children, who volunteer at their local Friendship Circle. He’s run the NYC Marathon three times before, but said that this time around will be the most meaningful and fulfilling.

Nancy Miller of Teaneck, N.J., another of the runners, said that her family got involved with their Friendship Circle several years ago through its “Friends at Home” program that sent a playmate to socialize with her special needs daughter each week.

“I hope to give back for all their love and support,” she said.

Other team members include Yossel Groner of Melbourne, Australia; Chana Pawliger of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Steve Wiesblatt of Great Neck, N.Y.; Warick Sneider of Johannesburg, South Africa; and Yigal Dakar of New York City.

Under the marathon’s rules, each team member must promise to raise at least $2600 toward their sponsoring charity. Each Team Friendship runner is designating the funds for his or her local Friendship Circle.

Borenstein said that each member has been training hard for the marathon. Most exercise regimens, which last for up to five months, include running at least four times a week.

“Sometimes you do feel pain,” he said, “but you're running for a good cause and that helps to give you an extra push.”

The runner said that his goal is not to win, but to finish the race.

“The accomplishment is not personal, but it is shared with others,” he explained. “When you help others and share with others, your joy and gratification is not just the physical challenge, but a meaningful experience that transcends the physical achievement.”