First timers like race course

The outdoor road racing season has recently and officially begun as more than 3500 entrants jammed Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. The occasion last Saturday morning marked the fourth annual All State Life Insurance New York 13.1 marathon and the 5K race for athletes who were not trained or did not want to compete in such a long race. The latter race got festivities off at 8:30 a.m.

The weather was almost ideal as it was on the chilly side with sun in the skies. The races stayed within the park itself and started in front of the Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), National Tennis Center, home of the United States Open Tennis Tournament during the late summer.

Outside of five Ethiopian runners who dominated the half marathon and proved to be the faster runners, the races were very competitive. Most of the athletes came from the tri-state area , but still the two events still drew an international field , including from such places as Mexico and Canada. Some of the runners especially entered into the longer event, are pointing toward marathons.

Mikael Kahsay and Tigist Tufa in the longer event and Joshua Lerch and Lauren Valentino in the shorter one captured the male and female races in separate divisions of the age group events.

Most of the participants agreed that the races were excellent and one couldn’t ask for anything better.

Some of the entrants entered it for their very first time. Their entry fee was well worth the price. And there were veteran athletes in the huge field.

Take for example, Manuel Minja covered the flat course in two hours 28 minutes, way off his personal best time of 1:48. The winning time was turned in by Mikael Kahsay, who ran a 1:08.

“The course was a little bit hard because I didn’t train,” Minja said. “I never played any sports and just want to try it (running) out. I came from Houston, Texas. In Texas, the weather is hot.”

Then there was a native of Jamaica, 34-year-old Ronnie Campbell, who arrived in America right after finishing his high school days in the West Indies.

“In Jamaica I played soccer only for fun,” added Campbell. “I started running about six months ago on and off. And I don’t belong to any running club. I practice three times a week within Prospect Park (near my house) and the streets around the park.”

Campbell plans to participate in road races when he can and if he signs up in time.

“I like running and it’s fun,” continued the Park Slope resident.

Everyone was indeed satisfied with the race except a few would say ‘there were too many turns.’

“For a lot of runners it (the races) gave them the opportunity to run somewhere different than in Central Park,” said PA announcer Ian Brooks said. “It’s very historic with the U.S. Open tennis here (come late summer). All the runners that we had were outstanding in their own mind.”

Brooks has been doing the announcing for this race for four years.

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