Sunday, October 14, 2012

For New York Cross-Country Runners, a Century-Old Proving Ground In a Bronx Park, a Century of Testing Runners’ Speed and Spirit -

Across the flats in a herd of two hundred, bunched up at the bottle neck entrance to the dusty cow path, around the bend, across the Henry Hudson Parkway footbridge, up freshman hill, then a precarious, twisting run down the rutted path, back across the bridge, then gasping the last 3/8 mile to the finish line. Van Cortland Park has been the scene of cross country running for New York high schoolers for 100 years. Marc Bloom - a track coach remembers his first "terrible experience" on the two and a half mile course which he finished in 21 minutes. I don't know what my personal best was. Was it 15:30? Hmm. I know I ran a 5:25 mile. Could I have done 2.5 at almost 6 minutes per mile? Maybe I dreamed of it. I know that I ran my heart out, feeling like my lungs were bleeding at the end of the race. - GWC
For New York Cross-Country Runners, a Century-Old Proving Ground In a Bronx Park, a Century of Testing Runners’ Speed and Spirit -
by Marc Bloom

"Fifty years ago this fall, my running career began the way most do in New York, with a trip to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx for a high school cross-country race. It was an inauspicious debut to say the least. My 1962-63 racing diary from junior year at Sheepshead Bay High in Brooklyn contains this comment about a team time trial on the 2.5-mile course: “Stopped five times. First time on course. Terrible experience.”
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Van Cortlandt Park is commemorating its 100th year as a mecca for high school meets. More Photos »
I actually wrote those words 50 years ago: terrible experience. Yet I have run at Van Cortlandt every year since and found it to be a wellspring of athletic purity and a touchstone of grace and empowerment, as have thousands of other runners. My time that day was an embarrassing 21 minutes 50 seconds. I improved by about four minutes in ’62 — and completed the course without stopping — but never broke out of what the Public Schools Athletic League then designated the “scrub” division, sort of a third-string junior varsity."

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