Vic Barkoski and his daughter, Danielle, after finishing the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon together
The 2019 United Airlines NYC Half will mark the event's 14th running, and Victor Barkoski of Northville, Michigan, has made it to the start line of nearly every edition of the race to date. Although he did not participate in the inaugural event in 2006, the Northville, Michigan, native has covered 13.1 miles through New York City streets in 11 of the past 12 years.
Through changes to the race's date—it began as a mid-summer race before moving to March—to the numerous course layouts it's presented throughout its history, Barkoski has taken on the distance while aiming to stay competitive in his age group. On March 17, he'll race the event for the 12th time, and his first in the men's age 70 to 74 division.
Barkoski's path to distance running began in 1975, when he joined a local group, the Belle Isle Runners, with a goal of losing weight. He would ultimately drop 55 pounds as he moved up to longer-distance races. Through his 30s, 40s, and 50s, he remained a sub-3:00 marathoner, and to date, he's logged 28 finishes at the Boston Marathon—and is training for his 29th finish this April.
His introduction to New York City running came at the 2001 New York City Marathon, which took place less than two months after the September 11 attacks.
"I was so impacted by the event," he recalls. "The people in the streets hugged me for being out there."
He returned to run the five boroughs in 2003, and has been back in the Big Apple every first Sunday in November since; his 2018 run marked his 15th consecutive finish, cementing him as a New York City Marathon "streaker."
By 2007, he had five Marathon finishes to his name when he embarked on a new challenge: The NYC Half. A year earlier, one of his daughters had graduated from college and moved to New York; the race then presented an opportunity to visit her while also fitting in a race through Central Park and Times Square.
As a competitive runner, Barkoski had the opportunity to line up in a corral at the front of the pack, and he remembers standing only steps away from world-class athletes like Haile Gebrselassie; that year, the Ethiopian set the still-standing event record in the men's open division (59:24). "I was blown away by how you've got the world's best right there and you can be a part of this, too," he says of the race. "No other sport is like that."
Over the years, he refined his approach to running the course—how to handle the rolling hills in Central Park before the flat, straight section on the West Side Highway. The new course this year, which connects Prospect Park and Central Park, "Causes you to rethink your game," he says. "There's a whole 'nother challenge coming this year."
And over his 40-plus years of racing, he's also drawn others into running, from former patients at his dental practice to members of his own family. In fact, in 2017, he ran both the Brooklyn Half and the TCS New York City Marathon alongside his daughter, Danielle. Often, his wife and his other two children will make the trip east to cheer from the sidelines.
As he enters his 70s, he continues to adjust his training to make it to the start line healthy, hoping to keep the tradition of running New York every March and November: "These two races I'll keep doing as long as I can keep doing them."