Each year follows a familiar pattern: I plan and I scheme and I think: If I were running this race, how would I make it perfect? Not just good. Perfect. Then I beg, cajole, wheedle, sweet-talk and otherwise beg and grovel for volunteers as I try to bring the plans to fruition.
Hey, we all need a hobby.
But there’s magic involved too, and the magic comes home to me not when the shirts, medals, water bottles and other items arrive, or even when runners stream into Westchester Road Runner to pick up bibs.
No, the magic really hits me late Saturday afternoon before the race when I drive home from the store and see those hot pink flags lining the course. Flags. Laid down by our invisible trail pixies. It. Just. Seems. To. Happen.
The highlight of the race had to be the woman who followed those flags to shatter the course record on a warm and humid day by a full three minutes (and three seconds).
Thrilling those on the field lucky enough to witness it, Shelby Goose of Englewood, NJ, flew home in 1:28:35 to become the only woman ever to break the 1:30 barrier.
I had noted last year, when the race was run in similarly warm and uber-humid conditions, that no records were likely to be broken:
I tip my colonial tricorn hat to those that braved the trail on our Yankee Doodle Sunday. This was not a day for course records (nobody came close) or personal ones. It was a day simply to test your inner strength and bring it home to the finish. That was one hard-earned medal.
And yet there was Goose, roaring home across the field to blast through our over-sized winner’s “tape.” To put this in perspective, only three women in the past 10 years broke 1:35, and here she was going sub 1:29. Wowsa.
Joelle Reeves from the Prospect Park Track Club followed in 1:33:32 — making her the 4th woman to go sub-1:35 and a champion in most other years — with Lindsey Felling of Larchmont (1:39:59) taking the final podium spot (if we actually owned a podium).
On the men’s side, Tom Diliberto of Pelham took top honors in his rookie running of the course with a 1:23:28. And the talent trying to chase him down was formidable. Brooklyn’s Steve Crnic followed him to the finish line, in 1:24:16. Crnic not only finished second last year, but in 2016 he set the existing course record. And Crnic, in turn, had defending champion Arnaud Enjalbert on his heels as he finished in 1:24:50.
And all those on the podium get some swag from Salomon:
1st place will get the new Sense Pro 3 running shoes
2nd place will receive the Agile 2 set (hydration vest)
3rd place male receives the Agile mid (half zip pull-over)
3rd place female receives the Agile LS hoodie.
And the champions will come back as my guest for as long as I remain race director.
As the runners streamed in, Reckless Jester struck up the tunes, with the food and drink — served up by a dedicated team of volunteers — coming from A.J.’s Burgers, Texas Roadhouse, North End Tavern, Hand Crafted Catering and Events, DeCiccos, and the Athletic Brewing Company (who answered the eternal question in the positive: yes, you can make non-alcoholic beer that actually tastes good).
You know how I often say that a race like this doesn’t happen without volunteers? Well, it also doesn’t happen without sponsors. Without them the race would cost twice as much and you’d never see that stupid-cheap option.
These sponsors give you a small clue as to what it takes to put on a race like this: In addition to the above, our thanks to Ultima for their sports drink that you had at the aid stations, to Symmetry Physical Therapy and Finish Line Physical Therapy for their finish line massages, to Pepsi for all that water, to Stop & Shop for their fruit and cookies, to Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital for the finish line medical tent, to Empress Ambulance for their EMTs at the aid stations, to Echo Design Lab for its help on those groovy tie dye shirts you’ll be wearing for a very long time, to the Westchester Emergency Communications Association, whose ham radio operators let us know who the leaders were and where we had runner break downs, and to PennyWise Consulting for the tech end of our website.
Whew. I was able to just scratch the surface of what it’s like to do this.
Now before turning to the Race Director’s Prize – awarded annually in my absolute discretion as Grand Poobah – you should know that registration for 2019 has opened, once again for a Stupid-Cheap© rate! Just $35 for all that you just experienced. It’s good until Saturday night at 11:59, and it comes (as always) with our no refund / no exchange policy. Signing up a year in advance? It’s legal gambling! And its one way we keep the costs of the race down.
As to the Race Director’s Prize, I have awarded it for turning a cartwheel down the stretch, for helping another runner, and for inspirational stories. There are no rules. The winner comes back as my guest the following year, and it’s the only bib that can be deferred to another year if the runner can’t make it.
This time it goes to a volunteer-runner, but as you might guess, not just any volunteer-runner.
Remember how I started this piece about those magical flags appearing on the afternoon before the race? There were trail pixies out there laying down hundreds and hundreds of those flags on Saturday afternoon.
The Chief Trail Pixie doesn’t need direction from me. She puts together the team to lay them down, and to sweep them up over the next couple days. From my vantage point, it’s just magic that happens in the woods, virtually unseen.
Races don’t happen without volunteers. They are really the secret sauce for any decent event, and the reason we get such great reviews, handling a multitude of different functions. While race tradition specifies that speedsters wear single-digit and double-digit bib numbers, at P2P we give them to our volunteers.
Our Chief Trail Pixie is none other than Nina Steinberg, who’s also the only runner to have completed all 11 Paine to Pain races. This year, her bib said, 11(!).
For all that you do to help out Nina, and to lay down the trail for so many hundreds of runners year after year after year, I am exceptionally grateful. There’s a good reason you get a shout-out every year from the start line and a good reason for you to be singled out for this modest Race Director’s Prize. Thank you.
And now a closing thought: You know what else would be magical? A horseback rider appearing in colonial garb galloping up Broadview leading the first wave charge. With a Betsy Ross flag. Know anyone? Asking for a friend…