By Chris Lotsbom (c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Under a sky filled with bright fireworks, Cole Atkins and Amanda Winslow won the 35th NYRR Midnight Run presented by Emerald Nuts here in Central Park, beginning the New Year with meaningful victories. Atkins, 28, covered the hilly, four-mile loop course in 18:45, while Winslow, 23, stopped the clock in 21:31.
"It means a lot to me [to win]. It was such a fun race," Winslow told Race Results Weekly. "Every New Year's I thought it would be so fun to be out running a race, unlike most people who would rather be doing something else. I'm really glad I finally had the chance to do that and it was way more fun. So much energy."
Representing Oiselle and the NJ-NY Track Club, Winslow took the women's lead from the start and never looked back. Despite building a comfortable lead early on, the Florida State alum kept her focus on the task at hand: winning.
"I kind of always thought they [fellow elites Katrina Spratford and Jane Vongvorachoti] may be right there, so I just tried to push myself as hard as I could," said Winslow, bundled up to fend off the chilling cold. "There were mostly a few guys around me, and that was my motivation."
Winslow earned $500 and a $100 bonus for timing under 23:00. More importantly, though, was the confidence gained from a win in her first contest of 2014.
"I always kind of tell myself that the first race, you think of it as a sign of what might be to come," she said. "To start off on a high note like this, it definitely gets me excited and pumped for 2014."
Spratford, a member of the Rhode Island-based New England Distance Project, placed second in 21:52, while Central Park Track Club/New Balance's Vongvorachoti rounded out the top three in 22:04.
In the men's race, ZapFitness's Atkins fended off Boston Athletic Association member Tim Ritchie in a close battle to the finish.
After both men broke from the field in the second mile, it was Ritchie taking control of the pace. But, the 26-year-old Boston College alum couldn't quite separate from Atkins.
"He was staying the same distance ahead, and on the uphills I'd catch him a bit. I knew that I'd have a chance at some point to make a move," recalled Atkins. "He wasn't far enough away that I knew I couldn't get him."
That confidence and faith in strategy paid off with 16 minutes on the clock. Glancing at the pace truck, Atkins realized there was less than three minutes remaining in the contest. At that point, he decided to go.
"At 16 [minutes] I picked it up and he hung on just a little bit but I felt very strong," said Atkins. Two minutes and 45 seconds later, Atkins found himself in the lead as he broke the finish tape. His final time of 18:45 was three seconds up on Ritchie.
"It feels good and was a lot of fun. I've never really run in the dark like that," Atkins told Race Results Weekly.
One thing Atkins especially enjoyed about his win was the fireworks display that began at the start of the race and concluded moments before he crossed the finish.
"They were really going off," he said, emphasizing how loud the booms sounded. "I actually looked up. Not to say that I was relaxed, but I looked up and noticed it and it was pretty awesome. No better place you can run on New Year's Eve. Or I guess New Year's Day now."
Taking third overall was Deriba Degefa in 18:59, followed by Atkins's ZapFitness teammate, Kevin Schwab, in 19:06. Abiyot Endale (19:31) and Tyler McCandless (19:33) placed fifth and sixth, respectively.