Race Director’s Recap and Prize – 2023

The day before, as Trail Pixies laid the trail. Photo by Lou Klein

The word for the day was “mud.”  Was there a better choice?

Despite downpours the day before, over 600 of you actually showed up to run 13.1 through that muck. But why? You could have slept in, right?

Perhaps because you were able to appreciate more than most that we only go through  life once, and you wanted to make the best of it?  Life is not lived in these pixels but in the real world, and there are no dress rehearsals. And each of you embraced that (as well embracing your inner puddle-stomping child).

I tip my colonial tricorn in your direction.

Powering through all that mud was a woman who now stands in a class without peer. Joelle Reeves of Brooklyn who won this race in 2019, and again in 2022 (in perfect weather conditions), defended her title and became the first ever three-time winner, racing down the home stretch in 1:31:24.  She wins on hardpack; She wins in the mud.  She stands today as a champion’s champion.

Following Joelle to the podium was newcomer Madeline Villalba of Manhattan, followed closely by Lindsay Felling. Felling has now ascended the podium four times, with a silver and three bronzes. (If we actually gave out those kind of medals — but we don’t  because you can’t drink out of a podium medal, so I am instead filling her cupboard with engraved tankards.)

On the men’s side, Seabiscuit Horseman (yes, that is his chosen name, do not blame me), was the very last person to register for this race, punching in just 11 minutes before the clock struck midnight to close this puppy up. And then off he went to power through the mud in a remarkable 1:24:25. Seriously? In those conditions?  A true mudder.  As every other P2P champion knows, Seabiscuit comes back to run as my guest for as long as I remain Race Director.

Leaf-covered boardwalk winding through woods
Photo by 2008 finisher and current Trail Pixie, Heidi Hanley

Seabiscuit was followed to the tape by Hugh Tibbs from London, as in Great Britain.  I believe he is the first international runner to ascend the podium (if we actually had podiums). And taking 3rd was Ian Stowe, who also owns a 7th place finish (2022) and a 4th (2021).  Methinks Ian will be back to try and crack that overall 1-2-3.

While there were many other runners that I’d love to give a shoutout to for plowing through the mud —  including 72-year-old Marty Friedrichs, 73 -year-old Sue Sharkey, 78 year old Ed Lynch and 80-year-old Ramon Escobar – there’s also last year’s 3rd place overall runner Eamonn Sullivan, who is just 20. He had a good lead heading into Saxon Woods, and a volunteer mis-directed him off the course. He ran an extra mile and settled in for 6th overall. While we have no idea how he would have done without that snafu, he will come back again as my guest for as long as I am Race Director, as if he were a champ. Just because I think it’s the right thing to do.

This entire day, of course, was not devoted simply to the frontrunners.  I hope you know me better than that.  My guiding sense of how to direct this race was always governed by New Rochelle’s two most famous people:  Thomas Paine and Norman Rockwell. If they ever met, and decided to put on a race, this is what I hope it would look like.  Fifes and drums. Cheerleaders. Boy Scouts. Girl Scouts. Great food. A local running club that cares about doing the best it can. And everyone treated as special. Every. Single. One.

We can’t do that alone, of course, and still make this affordable to everyone. Because that stuff takes money and donations.

So before I tell you who won the Race Director’s Prize this year, I hope you will first appreciate that we are underwritten, in part, by benefactors, some of whom provide cash, and some of whom provide services.

And this includes new-coming sponsors The North Face and RXR Realty.  It also includes Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital at the finish line and Empress EMS out on the course. Finish Line Physical Therapy and Breaking the Tape Production.

Logistical assistance came from our only 15-year sponsor, Westchester Road Runner of White Plains.

Food and drink came from The Fresh Market, AJ Burgers, The Smokehouse Tailgate Grill, Beechmont Tavern, Neri’s Bakery (cookies!), Pepsi and Athletic Brewing.

Professional PT too over one of the water stops and NeverStop Moving 365 kept kids running around like crazy at the finish line.

And those tunes you heard?  Fifes and drums by Erik Lichak and rocking the finish was Artie Tobia.

Communications (ham radio operators out on the course and with me the whole time) were provided by the Westchester Emergency Communications Association.

Additional awards and swag provided by Nathan Sports and Dr. Bronners.

Website assistance by Arunwithaview Media, and additional physical therapy by Tony’s Kneaded Touch.

 Whew!  That’s a lot of moving parts to put this thing on!  And then there’s the volunteers…

 While runners see many of the volunteers on race day – shirts, medals, registration, intersections, aid stations, food, merch —  you don’t see all that goes on behind the scenes beforehand to make this race special. The phone calls, the permits, the tents, the meetings, and the begging.

Volunteers, ahh, yes. Without them, events such as this (are there any others like this?) simply wouldn’t happen.

And that brings us to the Race Director’s Award, sometimes given to runners and sometimes to volunteers, but always given out in my absolute discretion as Grand Poobah.  Who’s going to overrule me?  (Insert maniacal laugh.)

On Saturday, it poured. But rain or not, the trail had to be set with hundreds of hot pink flags. We live in a world that has mud, and that mud must be flagged for by runners. Who’s gonna do that? You….I’m sorry, my mind is a bit fried at this point.

Answer: That muddy path though the woods was going to be flagged by our dedicated team of Trail Pixies. Braving the slop, out they went into the woods in the pouring rain to slowly plant their markers, and then reappear to sweep them up so that we leave behind nothing but footprints. Deep, deep, footprints.

And so, while I usually give the award to a single person who has done something special,  usually  for the benefit of others, this time I give it to eight.

The following volunteers all come back as my guest next year:  Nina Steinberg as Chief Trail Pixie, along with her Associate Pixies: Lou Klein, Stephen Herzberg, Heidi Hanley, Darlene Vallar, Judy Rubin, John Cannistraci and Bea Weinberger.

Because a non-profit running club like NewRo Runners can’t put on a race without volunteers. It just doesn’t happen.

Race Results are here.

Photos are available here.

Race reviews are here.

— Eric