Pre-gaming has never felt so healthy. Hours before tackling an afternoon of nachos, chicken wings, cheese dip, and libations, about 5,200 runners--many wearing the jerseys of their favorite teams--looped through Central Park in this morning’s annual NYRR Gridiron 4-Mile.
The cool, springlike temperatures seemed to give everyone a little extra bounce as the snow evaporated into a light mist after more than two weeks of frigid, single-digit low temperatures. Matt Lacey and Caroline Lefrak took the top spots in 20:36 and 22:04, respectively. And while it was every bit a race, football was in the air.
Dan Dunninger of Long Island, who’s rooting for the Broncos, said he’s “not a regular runner” but came out because of the Super Bowl. “It motivates me,” he said.
Terrell Kopkas traveled all the way from the state of Washington and had never run in Central Park before. For Kopkas, the highlight was “getting to run through the Seahawks’ arch” on the 102nd Street Transverse, referring to the two arches with special timing mats set up at the halfway point that allowed runners to “vote” for the team they expect to win tonight’s game. (Sorry, Seattle, but New York has spoken: The Broncos got about 1,000 more votes than the ‘Hawks.)
Plenty of others came just to run. Beth Hickey, a two-time New York City Marathon finisher, said she’s not a football fan, but that the Gridiron race is “always a great way to start the new year.”
That buoyant spirit permeated the field. “At the end of the race, I felt like I wasn’t even touching the ground,” said 9-year-old Robert Macalister, who was nonetheless disappointed that his three-mile split was a bit slower than his 5K PR of 28:04.
Macalister was in good company. Among the finishers were about 500 Young Runners--members of NYRR’s program to help foster a love of the sport in third- to 12th-grade students at schools in New York City, across the country, and around the world.
Fikirte Hunt, 11, ran a nine-minute personal best, and her friend Jennifer Wan, also 11, said she never misses a practice. But did she have a pick for the Super Bowl? “I don’t really watch sports,” she said with a smile.
That's okay, Jennifer. Better to participate than merely observe.