As runners made their way to 5th Avenue to race down 20 blocks of Manhattan's iconic location, they were greeted with perfect conditions for the 2019 New Balance 5th Avenue Mile. With temperatures hovering in the high 60’s and overcast skies, the weather played its part. And then it was over to the 9,000-plus runners competing in 29—yes 29—different heats throughout the day.
As runners and their supporters gathered on 5th Avenue, there was an energy and excitement in the air. The course, on first glance, looks simple, 20 blocks straight down 5th Avenue, but the course has a few tricks up its sleeves.
With the streets shut down and traffic-free, runners discovered first-hand the slight hill that hides in the middle of the course, and realized how long a mile really is as they gazed down the avenue toward the finish.
The general heats were split up by age, starting with runners aged 50-59 and ended with runners aged 19-24, rather than projected pace. Runners who raced this distance for the first time ran alongside veterans of the mile and beside athletes who have been training all summer for a fall marathon, which resulted in a high level of competition and stunning performances throughout the day.
The event also had special invitational heats and wheelchair and handcycle runners started proceedings, with youth races taking place later that day.
At the George Sheehan Memorial Mile for runners aged 60+, 98-year-old Jonathan Mendes (who will be 99 soon) completed the mile as his daughter ran alongside him from the sidewalk, cheering and telling everyone about this remarkable man.
The FDNY-NYPD Mile saw New York’s bravest and finest take to the streets to determine which department had the best runners. In the end, it was the fire department that took home the trophy, as well as a full year’s worth of bragging rights.
FDNY's Gregory Dotson II breaking the tape in the FDNY-NYPD Mile.
Media professionals in New York City competed against each other in the FuelCell Media Mile. The field included ABC7's Sam Ryan and NFL legend Tiki Barber. And in a sign that news travels fast, The New York Times took home the prize for the fastest media team.
As the day progressed, so did anticipation for the pro athlete heats. But first, our Rising New York Road Runners had their chance on the course. NYRR is celebrating 20 years of free youth programs this year, and the RNYRR races were an excellent display of what those programs are all about. Kids aged 2 all the way up to 18 gave it their all, while demonstrating a love for a sport that will help them develop healthy living habits for life.
Also out to celebrate this celebrate this special anniversary were some educators connected to RNYRR programs as they raced in the Back to School Mile heat alongside marathon legend and RNYRR ambassador Meb Keflezighi.
The Back to School Mile heat competitors before the start of their race.
Competition was fierce in the NYRR Road Mile heat, which pitted some of New York's fastest amateur runners against each other. Eric Holt of Garden State Track Club broke the tape with a sub-four mile (3:59) in the men's division, with Nuhamin Bogale Ashame of West Side Runners dominating in the women’s race with a time of 4:41.
Finally, Jenny Simpson and Nick Willis broke their respective tapes in the pro field and they had to battle to the end to claim top honors. It was Simpson's eighth victory overall (seventh consecutive win), while Willis now has five victories in this race.
NYRR's Michael Capiraso (left) and Jim Heim (right) with the 2019 New Balance 5th Avenue Mile champions Jenny Simpson and Nick Willis.