As we continue to celebrate New York Road Runners’ 60th anniversary, Peter Ciaccia, president of events of NYRR and race director of the TCS New York City Marathon, takes a look at the creation and the evolution of races in the “Boogie Down" Bronx. Excitement builds for this year’s New Balance Bronx 10 Mile on September 30.
The New Balance Bronx 10 Mile celebrates NYC's northernmost borough.
Something in the Air
New York Road Runners was founded in 1958 when a hearty group of runners decided to make Macombs Dam Park their gathering point on a regular basis. They would frequently organize races of various distances on the roads surrounding Yankee Stadium, Sedgwick Avenue, Fordham Road, and north through the backwoods of Van Cortlandt Park. What better borough to lay claim as the birthplace of New York Road Runners (and hip hop) than the “boogie down” Bronx?
An early NYRR race course in the Bronx. Image courtesy of Gary Corbitt.
The start of a 1950s-era race on Sedgwick Avenue. Photo courtesy of Gary Corbitt.
The Bronx Half Begins
Over time, as opportunities opened up to race in other parts of NYC, NYRR moved most of its runs out of the Bronx (though we continued to stage fall cross country races in Van Cortlandt Park). Then, in the 1990s, we decided there needed to be more opportunities to race in the Bronx, and in June 1995 a Bronx half-marathon was added to the NYRR calendar.
With a start and finish on Goulden Avenue near Lehman College, the course took runners on some hefty climbs up the hills of Sedgwick Avenue, around the Jerome Park Reservoir (which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places), along the beautiful tree-lined Mosholu Parkway, and to an out-and-back on the Bronx’s famed Grand Concourse, finally looping back to the finish line. The inaugural year of the Bronx Half Marathon saw just over 1,000 finishers. The Bronx vibe was underway!
The NYRR Bronx Half-Marathon celebrated the borough and the iconic course, just as the New Balance Bronx 10 Mile does today.
I ran the Bronx Half back in the days when the distance was 13.1 and the race was held in steamy midsummer.
Some Growing Pains
The Bronx Half-Marathon grew in popularity. It was part of the NYRR Half-Marathon Grand Prix Series, a program that awarded a special commemorative patch to those who completed a half-marathon held in each of the five boroughs. Though the race still started and finished near Goulden Avenue, we made several tweaks to the course; however, with the growth in participation, the event began to put a strain on heavily populated Sedgwick Avenue and some of the adjacent narrow streets. Another area of concern was running a half-marathon distance during the heat of summer. So, our team began to think through better options for a Bronx race.
The early Bronx Half-Marathon was part of the NYRR Grand Prix Series.
Nature and a New Plan
In 2011, the Bronx Half was planned to run on a new course that would accommodate 10,000 entrants. But Mother Nature had other plans, as Hurricane Irene hit the East coast on August 27, race weekend, forcing us to cancel the event. In retrospect, the cancellation turned out to be the respite we needed, allowing the NYRR team to use the ensuing months to assess options that would address our concerns. Our goal was to deliver a great event while minimizing the impact on the surrounding Bronx communities.
Hurricane Irene in 2011 forced the cancellation of the Bronx Half and allowed NYRR to hit pause and make some improvements to the event.
The idea was to take advantage of the wide, relatively flat roadways of the Grand Concourse while showcasing some of the iconic buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods—a “Tour da Bronx” where runners could take in some great architectural sights, such as the facade of the historic Paradise Theatre (formerly the Lowe’s Paradise Theatre), the clock tower in the art-deco styled Emigrant Bank building (formerly the Dollar Savings Bank), historic Poe Park featuring the summer cottage of Edgar Allan Poe, and much more. Working with our city partners, we designed a new course and selected a new fall date. In September 2012 we launched the new NYRR Bronx 10 Mile.
The NYRR Bronx 10 Mile course, inaugurated in 2012, passed the historic Paradise Theatre...
...and Poe Park, which is home to the summer cottage of Edgar Allan Poe.
Returning to Our Roots
The changes were met with enthusiastic feedback, and over the next several years participation continued to grow by the thousands. But a few things were still missing. For one, how could we integrate our youth events, and where would those activities be held? The answer was simple: If we moved the finish line closer to Macombs Dam Park, we could utilize the track and field inside the facility for our kids’ activities, plus we would be adding another iconic sight to the event: Yankee Stadium. Those changes were made in 2015, and close to 9,400 runners finished the Bronx 10 Mile the race that year, along with hundreds of kids participating in our youth events. It was official—NYRR had returned “home.”
Our Rising New York Road Runners at the New Balance Bronx 10 Mile youth event takes place across the street from Yankee Stadium.
New Partner, New Heights
In 2016 New Balance joined as the title sponsor and together we added more entertainment zones along the course and created a great post-finish festival that featured Bronx hip-hop legend DJ Kool Herc. Team New Balance athlete Kim Conley won the women’s open race in 55:37.
The enthusiasm and support from the running community continued in 2017 with 14,989 runners finishing the race, making it the fourth-largest 10-mile race in the United States.
Runners approaching the finish are thrilled to have completed 10 miles through Bronx streets.
DJ Kool Herc spun tunes at the 2017 New Balance Bronx 10 Mile.
Great Race on Tap for September 30
This year’s field will be headlined by Puerto Rican Olympian Bev Ramos. She’ll run the New Balance Bronx 10 Mile as a tune-up to the TCS New York City Marathon.
Puerto Rican Olympian Beverly Ramos will run the 2018 New Balance Bronx 10 Mile.
It is a privilege for me to work with such talented individuals at New York Road Runners. We pride ourselves on delivering the best experience to our runners, and work very hard at making sure we meet that objective. Our goal is to continually improve upon what we do. This year, we made some adjustments to help the pre-race and post-race runner flow: Reducing the distance between the start and finish lines, and reconfiguring the location for race day bib pickup and bag check. This will be a home run!
As always, I'll be waiting at the finish line to greet and boogie with you all, from the first to the final finisher. After you get your medal and pose for a selfie, check out deals in the neighborhood to continue your celebration.
I look forward to welcoming all the finishers of the 2018 New Balance Bronx 10 Mile!
And just remember, in the words of Kurtis Blow (with a few tweaks):
Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Italians and Jews
Bronx River Casanovas and the [NYRR] Crew
The Bronx is the place where I [did] reside
I'll be a Bronx boy 'til the day I die
It's called the Bronx.
See you all on September 30.
The 2017 New Balance Bronx 10 Mile had nearly 15,000 finishers. We can’t wait to see you at the 2018 race on September 30!