I had a front row seat to the 10K race last Saturday from the end of the driveway at my Midway Road house. I sat in a beach chair with my 4-year-old granddaughter Anouk. We watched the runners push through their last mile.
It’s called Joey’s Mile in honor of Army Lieutenant Joseph Theinert who lost his life in Afghanistan. The roadway is lined with American flags.
In every one of these that I have watched, there are always a few guys who seem to effortlessly fly by with no one else behind them. Then we wait for the crowd to follow.
I had three family members running the 5K which runs over part of the same course and comes together for the last mile, so Anouk and I were eager to see them — my son Rich and grandchildren Maudie and Myla.
As we watched, I could not help but notice the runners’ enthusiasm, even present in those who were struggling. They all seemed to be dedicated runners focusing on their goals.
I was taken back more than a half century to when I first started high school and was convinced to join the cross country team. We would practice each afternoon at the one-mile track on campus and then go a few times a week to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx for longer practices. I got myself lost on the subway many times. We also had our meets at the same park. Schools from all over the city would converge there.
The reason I’d get lost on these interminable subway rides was that I’d be exhausted from the practices and meets and would fall asleep — missing stops and transfers.
I never won any of the meets but became a respectable runner so I joined indoor track for the winter. We’d practice on a wooden track at a local armory. My event became the 440 and I even ran at the old Madison Square Garden when we had an all-city meet there.
In all my time on the teams I only missed practice once and that was because of a misunderstanding. The bulletin board in the locker room said “no novice practice today.” I figured that I was a novice to running so I did not go. I was wrong. I was on the freshman team or “frosh” as they called it.
I continued running for the next year and then left it behind. Later on I coached cross country and track and field for a few years, learning that serious runners who are successful are extremely dedicated and enthusiastic.
And watching the runners last Saturday, I noticed numerous competitors of a certain age pushing themselves to their limits and seeking their personal bests.
I know that it’s not very scientific but I would say that some 20 to 25 percent of the competitors were seniors.
I saw my granddaughters just effortlessly run by and saw my son keeping up his pace.
From what I have learned, Maudie finished fourth in her age group (girls under 14) and 84th overall. Myla placed seventh in the same age category and 142nd overall.
I remember being a spectator at the Island’s first 10K and wasn’t sure it would last. Running was a fad, I thought. Was I mistaken. We have an Island bonding event that everyone can be proud of.