Thursday, July 5, 2012

Race Report: The Great New York 100 Mile Running Exposition

The runners at the start in Times Square

Elaine Acosta and pacer at the Unisphere

Keila Merino, me and Michael Samuels at the finish

Sorry about the delay in posting on my blog. But better late than never I guess. June 23 marked the running of The Great New York 100 Mile Running Exposition. I came up with the idea for this over a year ago after getting sick of people thinking the only place to run in New York is Central Park. My own long runs have taken me to the most far-flung reaches of the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and to some extent Staten Island, so I decided to put this race together to show off the great places to run in this city. Unfortunately, there is no pedestrian access to Staten Island (except via Bayonne, NJ), but I mapped out a course around the other four boroughs that used as many parks, greenways and beaches as possible, connecting them with city streets (some quiet residential streets, some gritty industrial areas) and bridges, going over seven major bridges (and under three others). With this being my first job as race director, I wanted to keep the field small and the race low-key, so I did no promotion, charged a small entry fee and promised to provide only minimal aid stations with fluids, requiring runners to carry food, purchase it along the way, and/or have it crewed for them. This was not meant to be a highly competitive race, and with open streets it would not be a fast race. But I wanted it to be fun and exciting, so I had to had to have it start and finish in Times Square, and cover as many scenic areas as possible.

During preparations, I really gained a new appreciation for the work that race directors do. I won't bore you with the details, but I was working frantically and was quite frazzled by the time I arrived in Times Square early Saturday morning. But once the runners began arriving, I was losing the stress and was getting caught up in the excitement myself. 32 runners signed up and 31 started (one unfortunately had an injury). It was a mix of veterans and newcomers, youth and experience, even a few legends with Ray Krolewicz, Dave Luljak and Trishul Cherns signed up. Most of the runners were New Yorkers, but there were a few from Philadelphia, the Boston area, and a few from farther down the east coast. Liz Bauer flew up from Georgia to run her 18th 100 mile race of the year in her attempt at a record-breaking 30 hundreds for 2012! Somehow I felt more pressure with people traveling to the race!

During the race itself, naturally my experiences were much different from the runners'. I had tried to estimate how fast the lead runners would reach the aid stations to get them set up and staffed in time. Eliot Lee had loaded his pickup with water and with Gatorade that was donated by runner Dennis Ball, and Eliot and I would get to each aid station before the first runners. I also had to do some last-minute race-day course marking in a few spots, which caused me to do some scrambling and running. I was covered in flour after marking the trails in Van Cortlandt Park! Since at most locations we had to set up and leave in the hands of volunteers, I didn't get to see too much of the runners, except the leaders

And I apologize to the runners for not getting enough volunteers to man all the aid stations I had planned. There are definitely lessons I learned about volunteer coordination. But the volunteers we had were awesome! Some of them spent many hours waiting for runners to come through and helping them on their way. Thank goodness the weather was good! But I have to give special thanks to Eliot, to Nick Palazzo, Tim Ryan, Lucimar Araujo, (who monitored the runners on her bike throughout the race), Fong Lui, Deanna Culbreath, Lydia Redding, Reiko Cyr, Rich Innamorato, Elizabeth Hamrick, Stephanie Camora, and Susie Schmelzer for their work on the course, and for Dave Obelkevich and Donald Ying for helping out at the finish.

Speaking of which, even though it was not meant to be a competitive event, it did have quite the competitive finish! After early leaders Mike Arnstein, Dennis Ball and Dante Simone dropped out, all by the Unisphere at mile 58, Keila Merino took the lead, with Michael Samuels and Jodi Kartes-Heino chasing about 15 minutes behind. Slowly, Michael closed the gap, but Jodi couldn't keep up. By the 95-mile aid station at Brooklyn's Borough Hall, Keila came through with Michael only about a minute behind! But Keila kept her lead and crossed the finish line first in 21:05:55, with Michael in 21:09:50. Apparently, Michael had to stop for traffic at least once near the end, which slowed him down. The unpredictability of an urban adventure race! One by one, the finishers came in:

1. Keila Merino, 21:05:55
2. Michael Samuels, 21:09:50
3. Jodi Kartes-Heino, 24:35:52
4. Liz Bauer, 24:44:12
5. Milko Mejia, 24:45:25
6. Otto Lam, 24:52:20
7. Marc Vengrove, 25:08:25
8. Chris Solarz, 26:29:13
9. Becky Tsai, 26:40:40
10. Weihao Xu, 26:51:24
11. Gerald Tabios, 26:55:25
12. Rebecca Schaefer, 26:59:43
13. Emmy Stocker, 27:16:15
14. Elaine Acosta, 27:32:02

Ray Krolewicz, true to form, despite arriving more than an hour late due to car trouble on the ride up from Georgia, kept on running, despite missing aid station closings and course cutoffs, resting as he felt like it, swimming in the ocean as he felt like it, and finished unofficially in 35:35:55. Congrats to all of them, and to all the other runners who toed the line: Mike Arnstein, Paul Arroyo, Dennis Ball, Carol Buonanno, Trishul Cherns, Marco Cheung, Frank Colella, Jesse Gellor, Mat Gerowitz, Dave Luljak, Shannon MacGregor, Michael McDuffie, Jess Movold, Michael Ryan, Dante Simone and Tatsunori Suzuki. Five runners recorded their first 100-mile finish, including the two winners, as well as Gerald, Becky and Rebecca, and many of the others recorded their longest runs ever!

Thanks to everyone for their support and good spirits! It really shows the great ultrarunning community we have here in New York!


  1. thank you for the great blog post Phil --Race Director duties are not easy and certainly underappreciated!!
    You did a fantastic job with the course layout, the aid stations, the yellow arrows (ha), the monitoring of runners (thank you for calling me in the middle of the night to check in), the start and finish --all of it was truly a lifetime experience for me...especially at age 54. The amt of pacers and volunteers who came out, as well as the 31 runners was outstanding. Good luck at badwater!

  2. Awesome. Looks like it was a great event - looking forward to volunteering or participating in the future!

  3. Great to hear the trials and tribulations of your first time as a race director. I'm hoping to participate in 2013 for just the reason you started this - to see all that the boroughs have to offer. Great job, and congratulations on seeing your efforts come to fruition.