Spectator Report: NYRR Emerald Nuts Midnight Run

I spent New Year’s Eve and day playing host and driver to another coachee of Kevin’s, Kim Duclos. Unlike me, Kim is young and fast. She just ran a 2:38 at Huntsville in mid-December and is gearing up for an even faster run at the L.A. Marathon in the spring.

Kim had been invited by NYRR to to run in the elite field of their four mile Emerald Nuts Midnight Run. She drove down from Worcester, MA for the race yesterday, hanging out at our place for a few hours before we drove in. Jonathan has a bad cold, so he skipped the festivities.

Despite the fact that I felt like I was a combination interloper/running groupie, accompanying her to the race and hanging out in the elite tent was a huge treat, as well as a glimpse into how the other half races.

NYRR required that Kim pick up her number by 11PM for the midnight race. Since I didn’t want to be responsible for missing that deadline, we left ridiculously early — 9PM for what’s usually a half hour drive to the Upper West Side. I’m glad we left early since not only did I space out and miss the Boat Basin exit, but no one knew where the elite tent was (we’d walked right by it, unlabeled). Half an hour later, we found a volunteer who knew where it was and settled in.

The conditions in Central Park were awful. A snowfall of around 1-2 inches earlier in the day had turned to icy slush. NYRR had salted the course, but it was still treacherous just walking around. We claimed a couple of chairs in the heated tent and surveyed the table of cookies, water and tee shirts. I spotted a few others who were not there to run, so didn’t feel too self-conscious in there, although I did eventually give up my chair when it started to fill up.

The highlight was when the star of the evening, Erin Donohue, appeared about 40 minutes before race start. At two feet away, this was about as close as I was ever going to get to an Olympian (unless, of course, Kim continues to get faster over the next couple of years, heh heh) and I tried not to stare. But, people, that girl is built: 5’7″ (she looks shorter in person) and around 145 pounds. Solid muscle. She’s got legs like cherry tree logs and you can see every muscle in her shoulders. She was friendly, but I sure wouldn’t want to piss her off.

Runners got the call to get ready to get their asses outside in 10 minutes. Then Mary Wittenberg wended her way through the tent for the pre-race meet and greet. I hid behind Derek Scott, who was conveniently tall, serving as a potted plant proxy. I’d told Kim that I planned to introduce myself as her “handler” if anyone asked, a term that she said had come up for her in a few interactions with race directors. I love how it makes the runner sound like a circus animal.

The race started at midnight sharp, as did an impressive show of fireworks. I watched from the start/finish in a prime spot, thanks to my elevated hanger-on status. Despite the crap weather, people were clearly having a blast. It took close to 12 minutes for the entire race field to pass the start line, and lots of the back-of-the-packers were jolly already. Good costumes, many fist pumps, and some unsteady legs!

As for the elite race, which was the only one being timed (at least for the top five in each gender field), it was pretty competitive, considering the conditions. The first man, Patrick Smyth, came in less than half a minute off the course record, and Donohue won the women’s race in a little over 21 minutes. Kim came in shortly thereafter, perhaps a minute slower than would be expected under normal racing conditions. But she was smiling as much at the finish as she was at the start, so she had a good time, which was her goal. Not falling on her ass was a bonus.

After her cooldown we wandered around, hitting the dance party and pretending we didn’t speak English when some guy started babbling to us about portapotties. But the ground was an ice slick and it was getting cold, so we headed home for some wine and other treats. Got to bed around 3:30AM, which is probably a personal record for me for New Year’s.

All in all, a great start to 2010.

18 Responses

  1. That’s very cool! Envious of the opportunity. Sometimes spectating is way more fun. Usually hurts less, and involves less opportunity for failure.

  2. How fun! What a great report, I love the whole “handler” aspect too, too funny. I spoke to Erin Donohue at a race last year, she was made to stand there for some charity and cheer the finishers as they passed the line. It was a dinky race, I felt kind of bad for her. Her handlers must have been on vacation. :-) But she was nice, as expected.

    Anyway, thanks for the birds eye view into the elite world, sounds like a total blast for bringing in 2010. Happy New Year Julie, may this year bring you everything you want, without a hitch in sight.

  3. What a great thing to experience. I have always been in awe of Erin Donohue and her solid build. Love watching her run track on t.v. She kicks ass.

  4. This is so awesome that you got to go into the elite tent. Aww, to be a fly on the wall! It always amazes me that not all runners are rail thin! Those legs sound powerful!! Well, I’m glad no one was injured with all that ice! I slipped last weekend on the ice here, and it sucked!

  5. A cool and literally cool start to the year. Nice handling and staying power — congrats on your first PR for the year.

    I like athletes like Donohue — happy in her event. No self-talk about possibly running NY ;)

  6. A bunch of runners from my running club bussed it up there for that race so I head about how much fun they had and how wet it was, etc. Neat to hear your perspective from the elite sidelines.

  7. If you had just gone to the race, to run or watch, I’d say you were crazy. I did it in one of its first years way back when, but I lived up the street and it was, as I recall, cold but dry. But it sounds like you had much fun and a good experience on the “other side” of things.

    And she runs in snowshoes!

    • Hah! Yes, that’s photographic evidence that she’s raced in snowshoes exactly once, but she said she won’t do it again. Apparently you’ve either got the right form/body for it or you don’t, and she falls into the latter category.

  8. Great start to the year.
    Have a nice and fun run year 2010!.
    Rinus.

  9. Good chilly fun! I like the “Handler” job title. Happy New Year!

  10. Congrats on the P.R. I never knew that there was an elite portion of the Midnight Run. Seems kinda strange to have that attached to an otherwise untimed fun run.

  11. Erin is an absolute bad-ass and a sweetheart all at once. She’s not as effusive as Shannon (Rowbury) but I had a great time running with those two for a couple of weeks a little less than two years ago. And had a lovely time getting dropped by Erin during a six-mile tempo run (Shannon would have kicked my ass as well had she not had shoelace issues). She ran her last four miles probably as fast as she raced on New Year’s Eve and had to have dropped a 5:05 for the last one.

    One of my happiest moments in running is when Shannon and Erin went 1-2 in the Olympic Trials in the 1500m and both made the team. I was screaming the entire time at the TV set, but you just knew Shannon was going to win in a rout–that was obvious from 700 meters on. Or maybe I just knew that because I was scared shitless doing a track workout with those two and knew she had 25-second 200m speed.

    Erin may not ever break 4:00, but she’s been the fastest miler from the United States in one year (2007). Her dad ran a 1:07 half-marathon at 190 pounds, so the whole muscle/endurance combo obviously runs in the family. And I would bet she is closer to 5′ 8″ or even 5′ 8 1/2″, she was barely shorter than me and I’m 5′ 10″.

    • I dunno. She didn’t seem that tall when I stood next to her in her racing flats. You forget that many of us ladies, even the stout and sturdy ones, sometimes like to confuse the menfolk by wearing heels. :)

  12. Part of my work includes staffing VIPs, so this post hit close to home. Those in charge of dignitaries are often called “control officers.” The diginitaries themselves are called the “principals.” The room where they wait is called the “hold room.” It sounds as though your VIP was much nicer than the ones I’ve had to work with. I’ve been asked to carry bags, fetch meals, and ask the limo driver to turn on the air conditioner in a foreign language.

    • This was considerably more casual. My “principal” was also my houseguest. So if she’d treated me like dirt, she would have not only been denied the impressive array of post-race goodies I purchased but also would have had to find somewhere else to stay on New Year’s, on short notice, in a strange city, in sub-freezing weather. Fortunately, she turned out to be a delightful person spend a few hours with.

  13. [...] weeks later — sorry, Ewen) did I realize that I was rubbing elbows with these two when I gatecrashed the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run elite tent on New Year’s [...]

  14. [...] enjoyed the NYRR Emerald Nuts run on New Year’s Eve, despite the bad weather, noting the novelty of racing with fireworks going [...]

  15. [...] I did some great interviews with directors of races both large and small, along with Kim Duclos, of Emerald Nuts Midnight Run gatecrashing fame. Unfortunately, because of tight space considerations, I could only use about 1% of their [...]

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