by Paul Thompson
The NYRR Team Championships is New York running’s Super Bowl. Any New York area running club worth its salt is there. Men and women run seperate races. This year the women had the early shift at 8:30am, the men following an hour later. This guaranteed us men having the pleasure (or pain?) of hundreds of women, many on their warm down, screaming their support around the course.
It’s 10 to score in the open category, 5 for masters making it hard for smaller clubs like Warren Street Social and Athletic Club to field a team. However, team captain Mike Guastella press-ganged the unwilling and a full house toed the start line in each race.
I had several goals for the race – including to run under 26 minutes (I ran 26:28 in the recent Pride Run and a sub-26 would reinforce my 3rd place in the Running Times 2014 Masters Long-Distance Runners of the Year and top 5 position in the UK rankings for 5 miles), get the highest age grade (AG), top the masters age group, and lead the men’s masters team to first place (as a double pointer in the NYRR Club Points race series that would close the gap on leaders Central Park Track Club). I’d get to tick almost all these boxes.
With brother Steve, his wife and two young lads visiting from the UK, Sham and I had been on tour guide duty in the week leading up to the race. That was a welcome distraction even if it wore through shoe leather and patience. And after some gentle persuasion my brother decided that his inaugural run in Central Park would be this race.
A light drizzle greeted my brother and I as we commenced our warm-up from Harlem 125th Street Metro North station (after the 50 minute train journet from Peekskill). The rain soon passed leaving a damp roadway. We entered the park at the north-east corner and arrived at number collection at Ballpark 8 just before the lead women came into view.
NYAC women dominated the leader board. But Mike’s efforts were not in vain. His scratch team, led home by ultra ace Michelle Goggins, came 16th of 24 teams. The men’s team were at full strength though missing Charlie Baily, who’d recently moved to Washington D.C., and Emilio Garcia who had jumped ship.
At 9:30am sharp we were off. I resolved to start conservatively so settled on starting deep in the first corral. The opening few miles head south taking in the East Drive’s undulations. I passed mile one in 5:10 and got ahead of team mate Sebastien B. With the help of the long descent to Strawberry Hill I was able to hold the pace and passed two miles in 10:20.
In the third mile I caught another club mate, Travis Roberts, making me third scorer for the team. I could just make out Sam Lynch, piggy backing the leaders, and Robert Dugger chasing the second group. I passed the three mile mark in 15:33, still on track for sub-26. Cat Hill put paid to that. The clock read 20:57 at 4 miles and a 5:19 final mile saw me cross the finish line in 33rd place in 26:16 giving me first AG with 91.41%.
The mens team finished 4th and the masters 2nd. Sam Lynch led the team home in 25:05, Robert Dugger was second scorer in 25:30 and Carlo Agostinetto bagged a PR in 27:15. Steve meanwhile clocked 29:40. After a short warm-down the Thompson clan headed to team mate Fabio Casadio’s apartment so runners could shower. I explained to Fabio’s wife Melina how finishing is the best part of any race since pain and stress gives way to relief. In response to why I put my body through all this I borrowed from Sir Roger Bannister and said “I don’t know why, all I know is I have to”.
Post race the team, many with family members, descended on Don Wilcox’s apartment for a BBQ. A team PR came in the shape of record attendance and perhaps the most booze I’ve seen outside a liquor store. After a few beers failing to dip under 26 was a distant disappointment.