by Paul Thompson
In just a few years Steve Lastoe and his New York City Runs (NYCRUNS) outfit have quickly established themselves as a credible grassroots race organizer and emerging rival to the incumbent New York Road Runners (NYRR). In place of thousands lining up in Central Park, bereft of $30-40 in exchange for a sponsors smothered tee shirt and bagel, NYCRuns offers no frills races for $10. It’s a throwback to how races used to be before big time corporate sponsorship and the masses got in on the act.
So here I was lining up at 7pm, in unseasonably chilly temperatures, to give a 5K in Riverside Park a shot along with 153 other runners. I’d run the 4 miles from my office in Midtown as a warm-up. As my club Warren Street were co-hosts, providing a supporting cast of volunteers, I was assured of plenty of familiar faces in fluorescent yellow volunteer bibs enroute as well as Sham with our niece, Eloise, and her parents. The race was part of the NYCRUNS InterClub Challenge and my aim, as the lone Warren Street runner competing, was to create some visibility for the club.
After a few opening words from fellow club captain Mike Guastella, decked out in Wall Street suit and tie, the course headed north from its start at 108th Street and Riverside Drive. After barely 600 metres we were met with a short sharp incline of 50 metres before turning south. The course undulates along the path sitting beneath Riverside Drive until 97th Street, circumnavigates a play area before it retraces the route back to the finish.
Clubmate Aaron Mendelsohn was on his bicycle showing the way and clearing pedestrians free of the route. After a mile I started to edge away and over the remaining 2 miles built up a lead of almost a minute, breasting the tape in 16:39, an average of 5:22 mpm.
Overall it was a welcome change from the big NYRR weekend morning extravaganzas. It was intimate, friendly and amateur in the nicest possible way. It was not without its problems. Aaron struggled to clear the path so runners had to navigate pedestrians. And some might have complained that the prizes were surplus mugs from a past race series. Still I will be back for more.
Victory felt sweet. It was the first since January 2006 – the Manhattan Half Marathon, my first race as a masters runner. But the time was disappointing. I had hoped for closer to 16 flat and for much of the race it felt that fast. Still it’s my hard to please mentality that serves to motivate me to train harder. Odd though it may sound I fear the day I cross the line completely content. Discontent drives me. Long may I be discontented.