This was my incredible send-off to the 2015 IAU 24-Hour World Championships. My final long training run before heading to Italy and one of my all-time favorite running experiences.

Back around mid-February, perhaps inspired by the fundraising efforts of others on the US team, some of my NYC running club teammates inquired if I had any fundraising plans and if they could do anything to help. Honestly I hadn’t given any thought to fundraising- apart from the funds committed by USATF and the IAU, and the very generous support of RunnerClinicNYC, I fully expected to cover the rest of the costs out of my own pocket.  I hoped to secure some kind of stipend from the NY office of USATF, as our team manager said we could contact regional chapters about this, but had no luck there.

So I got to thinking, if people would like to support my efforts, I would certainly be grateful for any help. But rather than just say, “hey, gimme some money!,” I wanted to do something special for the fundraising and give something back that could be of value to the running community- so I came up with the idea of organizing a 50K run around the perimeter of Manhattan and making shirts to commemorate the run (and, by extension, my participation in the world championships). The run around Manhattan is something many runners might think of doing but wouldn’t necessarily know how to- there are some tricky stretches, and the two times I had done the route previously I wound up somewhat lost in Harlem, where there is no path by the river.

I felt uncomfortable asking people to donate just to run with me, so I decided run itself would be free and open to all, with donations of $20+ getting a shirt. And knowing that 50K is not everyone’s idea of a fun run, I encouraged people to join for whatever mileage they felt up to and we combined it with the regularly scheduled Saturday morning Whippets run which I co-host- mainly I wanted to have a big running/going-away party!

A few weeks before the run, I scouted out the more unfamiliar northern half of the route to make sure I’d get all the directions right. I thought about letting people “race” Fat Ass-style, but figured it would be more fun if we could stay together as much as possible or at least regroup regularly, so I planned stops every 4-6 miles, where people could also find toilets and buy food or drink. These break points were near public transit, so others could also join in or leave the run as needed. I estimated the full route, with breaks, would take about 6 hours (5 hours of running at an easy pace, plus 1 hour divided among the five rest stops, waiting for traffic lights, etc.).

Im a sticker!

Im a sticker!

Thanks to my the design talents of Dashing Whippets teammates Patricia Tirona and Jerlyn Thomas, and financial support from the Whippets and RunnerClinicNYC, I was able to offer a nice soft long-sleeved cotton t-shirt (with snug ladies sizing too) and a commemorative sticker that I had printed up while I was in Hong Kong. I got back from Hong Kong late on Thursday night, organized all the things on Friday, and was up bright and early on Saturday to get rolling.

The ultra-rock star Mary Arnold of New York Running Company in Time Warner Center had offered to open the store early so that people could leave drop bags there for the finish, and she even brought coffee. There were already a bunch of people there by the time I got there around 7:45, and I was soon busy distributing shirts and stickers, posing for photos and signing some shirts. Mary was a great help with keeping things organized, as we had to hurry down to meet the other crowd of mainly Whippets who had gathered downstairs.

Swag pickup. Photo: Jerlyn Thomas

Swag pickup. Photo: Jerlyn Thomas

I made some announcements- most importantly, about food and beer downstairs afterwards, and we were ready to go around 8:10. It was cold! When I started thinking of this run back in February, the only Saturdays I could fit into my schedule were March 7 or 28, and I picked the later date for a better chance of nice weather. Not so, as we had a final bit of winter in store, but at least the paths were clear compared to earlier in the month, when too many of the uptown sections would have been covered in snow and slush.

Briefing the downstairs crew. Photo: Vincent Hsu

Briefing the downstairs crew. Photo: Vincent Hsu

Here’s the rest of the run, mostly in photos:

Early miles heading down the west side. Photo: Vincent Hsu

Early miles heading down the west side. Photo: Vincent Hsu

We started a little faster than expected.

First stop, South Ferry/ Staten Island Ferry Terminal Building (mile 6). Photo: TSP

First stop, South Ferry/ Staten Island Ferry Terminal Building (mile 6). Photo: TSP

Best to get the downtown portion of the run over with early before the area gets busy with tourists.

Heading north, we pass under the first of three bridges on the east side. Photo: Vincent Hsu

Heading north, we pass under the first of three bridges on the east side.  Photo: Vincent Hsu

We started seeing snowflakes as we headed uptown and some of us thought we were hallucinating.

After a detour onto First Ave. due to the UN, we took our next break at 59th and First Ave and a few others joined us there. Photo: Vincent Hsu

After a detour onto First Ave. due to the UN, we took our next break at 59th and First Ave (mile 12) and a few others joined us there. Photo: Vincent Hsu

 

Photo: Vincent Hsu

Up the East River Promenade. Photo: Vincent Hsu

Into Harlem, a bit of zigzagging inland as there is no river path through this part of town. C’mon NYC- let’s give this neighborhood river access like the rest of the city! But we got to see some of historic Harlem- 125th St and Malcolm X Blvd.

Starbucks at 145th and Bradhurst mile 18. Photo: Wade Lambert

Third stop: Starbucks at 145th and Bradhurst (mile 18.) Photo: Wade Lambert

We all went a bit crazy for coffee, food and the restrooms at the Starbucks here and spent a bit more time than scheduled.

Giant stairs on the way to Harlem River Drive. Photo: TSP

Giant stairs on the way to Harlem River Drive. Photo: TSP

By now the snow was really coming down. and we are running into a headwind. Crazy!

Twin Donut. Photo: Vincent Hsu

Twin Donut. Photo: Vincent Hsu

Fourth and most fabulous stop: Twin Donut at 218th and Broadway (Mile 22.5). We were running a bit late due to our extended break at the Starbucks but that gave a few more people a chance to meet us there, including Eric who had gone to the other Twin Donut 2 miles south of here!

GWB. Photo: Vincent Hsu

GWB. Photo: Vincent Hsu

Onto Seaman Avenue, Riverside Drive and the west side, with a few bits of hill before we head under the GWB and cruise the flats to the finish. The snow has stopped and the wind is at our backs, we can even see the clouds are starting to break.

Fifth and final stop: Fairway Supermarket at 125th and Riverside Drive (mile 27.5) I told folks back at Twin Donut that this stop would be optional since it was only 4 miles to the finish from here. We only pause briefly to say goodbye to Sara who has to get back to her family.

A few more miles to the finish. We have one more uphill stretch to climb in the last half mile back to TWC. I tell my companions we have to run it since we haven’t walked any of the previous 31 miles. I do feel a little tired in the last two miles.

Photo: Tiger Ellen

Photo: Tiger Ellen

And then we were done! Beer and food at Whole Foods Tap Room: a great spot for post-race/long run activities since you can bring in whatever you want to eat from the supermarket.

Huge thank you to everyone who joined for any mileage, and congrats to the full 50K finishers: Jeremy (longest run ever!), Martin, Wade, Margaret, Themba, Jerlyn, Otto, Stephen, Keila, Vincent and Vadim! I am so happy I could get a bunch of around your first trip around Manhattan!

Week in Review: 3/23

Monday: 11 miles easy

Tuesday: Rest and strength training

Wednesday: 6 miles easy

Thursday: 9 miles mostly easy to moderate with a few short intervals, strength workout

Friday: 5 miles easy

Saturday: 32 miles easy

Sunday: 13 miles easy