by Paul Thompson
Kilts, bagpipes and other Scottish paraphernalia took over Central Park during the Scotland Run, the highlight of Scotland Week held in New York every year. The least Scottish thing was the weather: bright sunshine and a light breeze.
This year almost 8,000 runners toed the start line – including several Warren Street team mates clad in an almost Scottish blue. Starting at the bottom of the West Drive, the run takes in a full lap of the park and ends just north of the Tavern on the Green, sharing the same finish line as the New York City Marathon.
New York Road Runner (NYRR) races start with the US national anthem. But this time a rendition of the Flower of Scotland rang out before the Star-Spangled Banner. For us English it was a timely reminder of the long, sometimes troubled relations with our northern neighbor: right now all the talk is of Scotland getting full independence from the Auld Enemy.
The race was loaded with Ethiopians from the West Side Runners (WSX) stable and a posse of newly minted college grads from the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) (this is where Don Draper in Mad Men takes a dip). I got caught in their jet stream and passed the first mile in 5:10 and the second in 10:22. The race then hits Central Park’s Northern Hills, including what some dub Heartbreak Hill. A bagpiper piped an inspiring tune at the foot of the hill but it would need more than inspiration to overcome my tiring auld legs.
By this point I was running alongside my key masters rivals – Hector Rivera of NYAC (in 2005 he finished 2nd to my 4th) and Matt Chaston (a Welshman whose brother Justin ran 3000m steeplechase for Britain in three consecutive Olympics) of Urban Athletics, the team that edged us for the title of New York’s top masters team in 2011.
I ran an over zealous Heartbreak Hill, reaching 3 miles in around 15:30. That was to be my undoing – I dropped off the back and passed 4 miles in 26:05. Rivera surged ahead, and went on to take the masters’ honors, while I spent the last few miles trading places with a WSX runner who outsprinted me in the final few metres. I clocked 32:49 for 19th overall, 2nd masters, 1st M45-49 and top age grade.
In the finishing funnel I congratulated key rivals and Warren Street team mates (handshakes for the Brits, yo bro fist pumps for the Americans). After a short warm down, joined by Boston Marathon bound Sebastien B. and Fabio Casadio who sat this one out, the team retired to a classic diner for a team brunch where we refuelled (no haggis mind) and did a race post mortem.
The team had mixed fortunes but Peter Heimgartner (35:47), Michael Anderson (36:00) and I got us 2nd Mens Masters (of 49 teams). Lauren Salisbury (37:10) was the standout individual, finishing third woman overall, and Micaela McMurrough (41:22) took top spot in the W35-39 age group. Ryan Korby (34:49) and Danny Tateo (37:30) logged PRs.