by Paul Thompson
As far as I can recall – and I’d be the first to admit that as I pile on the years my ability to recall relentlessly erodes – this was my first ever foray into the corporate cum charity run arena. But I was determined to give it my best shot. After all I had a number pinned to my top and there was chip timing so as far as I was concerned that made it the real deal. And I was a member of corporate team.
I came upon this race thanks to the guy that keeps me on the road – my sports injury and wellness guru Dr Stuart Geitzman (Dr. Stu). In 2014 Dr. Stu’s team had placed well in the team competition at the Westchester SUNY Purchase 5K. But this year he led an intense recruitment drive in search of top 3 team placings. Turns out his recruitment drive – which extended to clients, family of clients, and friends of family of clients – paid big dividends. Anyone reading this, no matter where you are, beware. You might end up running in Purchase in 2016 whether you plan to or not.
The race venue was SUNY Purchase. Getting there posed some logistical challenges. I was scheduled for a management team meeting at my place of work for the afternoon through to 5pm. The race start was at 6:30pm – 35 miles from my office and in a part of Westchester County I had no knowledge of and some 5 miles from the nearest train station. The Amazing Race before the race loomed.
So the plan was to bail out of the meeting at 4:30pm, get changed in the office, jog the few blocks to Grand Central, catch the 4:52pm train to Tarrytown arriving at 5:29pm, meet Sham arriving by car from home and then drive 20 miles to White Plains. The ETA was 6:10pm, just enough time to locate the team, collect and pin on my my race number and do a short warm-up. Incredibly all went to plan until we came upon a closed gate barring our way as we approached the start area. Sham to had to fend for herself as I made for the start area on foot.
I located the team, huddled around a table with Dr. Stu, and then proceeded during the warm-up to get quickly acquainted with the men’s team, which seemed to comprise sons and friends of sons of Dr Stu’s clients. With me the average age of the team leapt from Gen Y to baby boomer in one fell swoop.
We assembled at the start area and were advised the start was delayed until 6:40pm. Sham appeared: she’d had to do a U turn at the gate and enter the campus at another point. Almost a thousand runners were entered. The weather conditions and course were almost ideal. It was in the 70sF with low humidity. The course was one full lap of the perimeter ring road circling the campus. I was reliably informed it was pretty flat with just one small hill that we would descend in the first mile. With a 16:29 and 16:39 to my credit on hillier courses earlier in the year I felt sub-16 minutes was possible.
On the start line there were a number of college kids who looked like they’d be the main competition. Until that is Kerwin Vega came into sight. I do not think I’ve ever beaten Kerwin and he’d run 15:39 at Coogans 5K in early March (I did 16:29!).
Even before the first mile was completed it was pretty clear who’d be on the podium – a fast college runner who I later learned to be 2014 winner Jake Feinstein, Fermin and me in that order! I maintained an even pace of 5:15 mpm but Jake and Kerwin edged away and Jake slowly built up a commanding lead over Kerwin. Once again I found the short distance a shock to the system. You really have to get used to hurting right from the outset. At least at 49 you do.
The campus course was quite pleasant. Trees line one or both sides of the road for the majority. When the finish area came into view I was pretty much done but did manage to pick it up in the closing 50m to get under 16:20 and clock 16:18. Jake was timed at 15:50 and Kerwin 16:05. At least this time round Jake had to work a bit harder for his victory. In 2014 he ran 16:45 and was over 90 seconds clear of his chaser.
After the customary post race chin wag with Jake, Kerwin and Dr. Stu teammates Shane and Jonah Avidon I warmed down with Kerwin. Back at the finish area Team DrStu waited with baited breath for the team results. We had first woman and third man (me), first men’s team , first women’s team and first mixed team. We’d pretty much wiped out the opposition including corporate teams from the likes of Fortune 500 giant Pepsico. Our domination was such that I almost felt embarrassed for Dr. Stu – that his recruitment drive had been too successful.
I’m up for the 2016 race. While you may think it’s not for you remember that’s for Dr. Stu to decide. If he decides you are to join his team and you wish to maximize the chance of avoiding being in Purchase in July 2016 book yourself on a spacecraft to Pluto. Now.