Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year

2013 began with bright light and thunderous explosions in Central Park when the clock hit midnight on New Year's Eve.  As the 4,000 runners in the Emerald Nuts 4-mile took off from the starting line on the 72nd Street traverse that bisects the Southern portion of the Park, a fireworks show began over the starting line and behind the spectators gathered along the slight ridge adjoining the course.  

Fueled by the adrenalin rush generated by the pyrotechnics, the elite field flew through the opening stages of the race with the more experienced racers quickly adjusting so as not to spend too much of their energy in the first mile.  Woman's winner Delilah DiCrescenzo, a NYC resident who warmed up in her in her plain white long-sleeved T, said she consciously took her foot off the throttle at the beginning because she was concerned about getting sucked into too fast an early pace. 

NYRR Emerald Nuts Midnight Run by jferstle
The men settled into a group of nearly a dozen in the front pack who were watching one another and waiting for someone to make a move. That move came at around a mile and a half when two-time Olympian at 1,500 meters, Ethiopian Mulugeta Wendimu, who now runs for the NYC-based West Side Runners, surged to the front. Wendimu, who eventually finished third, was followed by his West Side teammate Tesfaye Dereje Girma and the Boston Athletic Association's Tim Ritchie, as that pack of three separated themselves from the field. 

Wendimu kept throwing in surges for the next half mile and looking around to see the impact of his tactics on his companions.  As the pace slowed a bit in the third mile, DiCrescenzo's NJ-NY Track Club teammate,  Christian  Johnson, who had been left behind by the Ethiopian's early accelerations, gradually worked his way back to the front pack. 

Ritchie and Johnson then became the aggressors, one or the other alternately making the pace too hot for Wenimdu to handle.  By the time the duo reached the final half mile, Johnson had taken control, even though he had continually expended extra energy by running in the center of the road, while Richie hugged the curbs and ran the tangents.  

As the pair neared the final quarter mile, the firework finale began with a machine-gun-like burst of concussive thunder as the aerial explosions began coming in rapid succession.   Ritchie finally wilted from Johnson's relentless pace and the red-haired Pennsylvania resident outran Ritchie by five seconds in the last quarter mile to win in a  time of 18:49.  DiCerscenzo had a much less contested victory, cruising to a 17 second win in a time of 21:07 over runner up Frances Koon, and 34 seconds over third place finisher Ashley Higginson.

NYRR president and CEO Mary Wittenberg was at the finish to great the elites and stayed to congratulate the rest of the finishers.  Some sharing  a high five, others receiving plaudets for their efforts.  Despite having access to the latest in timing technology, the Midnight  Run elites were timed with stopwatches not computerized scoring systems and chip timing.  It's in keeping with the the purpose of the event being a "fun run" to provide runners with an alternative celebratory activity for New Year's Eve.

While a burgeoning crowd of revelers filling the streets from just below the Park to past Times Square in an attempt to view the annual ball drop and accompanying fireworks, the race site was filled with runners,  some of whom sipped the sparkling apple cider at the race's aid station, and joined the spectators at the post-race concert at the bandshell near the baggage claim area where runners picked up their warm up clothing after finishing.  By the time the New Year had passed its first hour, many of the participants were on their way to boarding nearby subway trains to take them back to their homes or hotels.  

A young couple from Pennsylvania, who traveled to the city to run their third Midnight Run said that it had become their way of celebrating on New Year's Eve.  An IT manager from the city, who took up running in high school as a way in getting in shape for his first sport, hockey, has been running the race for the last seven years.  "It's become a tradition," he said.  Another young couple who live in Alphabet City on the lower East side of Manhattan, said it was their first time running the race, and that they planned on coming back.  They were hooked by the fireworks and the festive atmosphere.  

Just as the famed Midnight Run in Brazil inspired the NYRR to create their New Year's Eve event, other US cities are trying similar events in their cities. A variation on that theme that takes into account Minnesota winter weather being the January 1 Lifetime Fitness Commitment Day 5K run/walk in the Metrodome.


Chad said...

"Woman's winner Delilah DiCrescenzo, a NYC resident and 2012 US Olympian..."

Delilah wasn't an Olympian.

jdf said...

You are correct, my goof. Thanks.

Andy DiConti said...

do you know about the midnight run Runners World used to host in the late 70s in San Francisco? a 5-miler?

jdf said...

Andy, Midnight Runs have become an industry. I don't know the full history, but do have vague recollections of Runner's World events back in the '70s, but as the Delilah goof illustrates, one's memory is not something trustworthy all the time.