Category Archives: Meet the Members

Getting To Know Al Goldstein

by Stuart Kaplan

What makes PPTC unique and special are the traditions of the club. One person who is responsible for some of these traditions is Al Goldstein, who served as the President of PPTC from 1990-1996. I should have known when I got off the phone with Al the night before the final eponymous speed series that driving him to the race would be an experience to remember.  At 97 not only was he able to give me directions to his home from mine, but also he informed me that he still drives but is not allowed to drive to the race or as he said, “ Tom won’t let me drive.”

When I picked him up I felt like I was talking to an old friend. Al starts a conversation as if you’ve known him for years, and as I drove him to the race I began to understand why he is a patriarch to our club.  As we drove to the park, Al and I talked while he gave me the fastest directions to the park including where to turn to drive into the park, even where to leave my car — true VIP status. I was with a legend, and as humble as he is about it, you could see how respected he is, as members of PPTC came up to him to shake his hand.  I was lucky enough to hear the stories about Al’s running, and why he is so important to our club.

Running at 57 and the marathons

Al didn’t start running until he was 57. His first love was basketball. Al got the “bug” for running when he bet someone he could run a mile in 6 minutes at the Lincoln High School Track.  The first time Al ran the NYC Marathon, the longest he had run before was 13 miles.  Between the age of 57 and 73, Al has run 18 marathons.

NYC Marathon -11 times

Boston Marathon – 6 times

Long Island Marathon-1 times

When Al was training for marathons, he never had a dedicated day for speed or hills. He always ran his 8-mile pace, and would incorporate hills into his runs. He used a regular watch (these were the pre-Garmin/pre-Strava days). Al said on marathon day aim slower, you will finish faster. He also said he never ran the day before the race. When Al was running marathons in the 80s it was harder to qualify for Boston. He said to qualify for Boston in the ‘80s you had to finish a marathon twenty minutes faster then you have to finish today.

[Editorial note: Here are the BQ standards for men and women in the 1980s

1980

MEN WOMEN (ALL DIVISIONS)
19 – 39: 2hrs 50min 3hrs 20min
40 and over: 3hrs 10min

1981-1983

19 – 39: 2hrs 50min 19 – 39: 3hrs 20min
40 – 49: 3hrs 10min 40 and over: 3hrs 30min
50 – 59: 3hrs 20min
60 and over: 3hrs 30min

1984-1986

19 – 39: 2hrs 50min* 19 – 39: 3hrs 20min
40 – 49: 3hrs 10min 40 – 49: 3hrs 30min
50 – 59: 3hrs 20min 50 – 59: 3hrs 40min
60 and over: 3hrs 30min 60 and over: 3hrs 50min

1987-1989

18 – 39: 3hrs 00min 18 – 39: 3hrs 30min
40 – 49: 3hrs 10min 40 – 49: 3hrs 40min
50 – 59: 3hrs 20min 50 – 59: 3hrs 50min
60 and over: 3hrs 30min 60 and over: 4hrs 00min

end of editorial note]

Renting schools after the NYC Marathon

Because Al was an elementary school principal, he knew that you could rent schools on the weekends and thus began the PPTC tradition of renting a school by the finish line near Central Park. He would line the locker rooms with towels so his runners could shower and relax after the marathon.  One year he even made five gallons of vegetable soup. When I asked him why he did this he said “I knew how great it was to have hot soup and a shower after a race.”

Teaching his students the joys of running

The best thing he did as a principal was teach every student how to run a mile.  He taught his students valuable life lessons as he taught them to run.  He told them run the mile if you feel like you have to stop walk but don’t stop running.  He even taught his students how to pace. He said you need two leaders. One leader to set the pace, and the other to check that everyone is running with that leader. If anyone runs ahead, they have to sit down.  This taught the students not to run too fast. After they learned how to run a mile, he would let them compete. He gave medals to every student who finished their race whether they ran or walked.  Later on in life, some of his students qualified for Boston by finishing the NYC Marathon in 2 hours and 50 minutes.

Running in the Heat

We also talked about running through the heat. He told a story about when he became victim to the heat during the Boston Marathon. He finished that marathon in 3h and 47 seconds as opposed to his usual marathon time of 3h 27seconds. Then five days after Boston, Al finished 5th place in his age group for the National 5K in Prospect Park. So being that there has been so much discussion about hot weather running and races that don’t go as planned I asked him how he was able to do it. This is what he said, “ I jogged every day instead of running my usual 8 minute mile and had self confidence.”

A Gift from Al

After the race, Al gave me one of his medals, which is an honor to have. Al directed me out of the park we continued to talk about running.  When I dropped him off he thanked me for driving him. I thanked him for the souvenir and for the privilege and honor of getting to know him.   He reminded me that at 97 he still drives, but Tom wouldn’t let him drive to the race.

If you would like to read more about our past PPTC presidents, including Al Goldstein, please read this page.

Meet Your Team Captains

by Jana Trenk

Did you know that PPTC has four team captains? Captains work to bring team unity, as well as plan, organize and lead programs and group activities. Our current team captains are Michael Koplin, Linda Ewing, Adam Devine and Missy Burgin.  Read their bios to learn a little more about them! If you need to reach them, you can contact the captains by email at team@pptc.org

Michael Koplin

Michael Koplin

I started running in May 2010 when I was 63 years old.  After losing weight, my routine exercise of walking morphed into running.  I quickly fell in love.  I ran the Baltimore Marathon in October 2011 with my cousin and then joined PPTC.  Since my first race in 2011 I’ve completed over 160 races, including 7 marathons.  I have always enjoyed the competition and fellowship of the running community.

Over the past 6 years I’ve witnessed and participated in the development of many PPTC runners and consider our team competitive and able to run against all other teams.

One of my goals has been to encourage our Masters runners to participate in NYRR team points races and other races.  We have an amazing group of Masters runners that bring honor to the PPTC colors.  Of course, our younger runners are quite extraordinary and I always look forward to seeing them compete against the best of the other running clubs.

I am a USA Track & Field (USATF) Level-1 Coach, National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Certified Interscholastic Level-2 Coach, and have a US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Track & Field Technical Coaching Certification.   I’m also a Track & Cross Country Coach at St. Edmund Preparatory High School.

Being a co-captain of the PPTC Men’s Team is an honor and I am thrilled to work on behalf of our club and its great group of runners.

Linda Ewing

Linda Ewing

I was a latecomer to running, nagged into it by a couple of friends who watched me walking on the treadmill and tried to persuade me to run instead. I thought that if I ran a few times to demonstrate that I hated and was bad at it, I’d shut them up. (It seemed a safe bet, since at age 35, my only prior running experience was a mandatory, torturous mile back in high school phys ed.)

To my surprise, I liked it.

Over the next 20+ years (gulp), my motivations for running changed – from weight loss to fun to friendship to (modest) competitiveness as a member of Motor City Striders and the Front Line Racing Team – until, finally, running was simply part of my identity. When I moved to Brooklyn from Detroit, I was thrilled to discover in PPTC the running club of my dreams, a combination training group, racing team, roving gastronomic society and all-around great community.

My PR days (19:21 5K, 1:29:21 Half Marathon, 3:15:32 Marathon) are behind me, but I love running as much as ever (if not more so). While I feel a special bond with my fellow masters runners, I especially love watching members who are new to running fall in love with the sport and run faster than they ever imagined they could. I see our role as captains as being to support and encourage *all* our members, whatever their pace, as they chase their racing goals.

Adam Devine

Adam Devine

I have been a club member since May of 2015, and at this point, it is hard to imagine how I survived so long without y’all. I had a bit of running experience back in my early 20’s, but was hit by a car while cycling back in 2008, and that put a damper on my running for a bit. Sara signed us up for the Brooklyn Half back in 2015, and we both had terrible races. But we both saw how much fun PPTC members seemed to be having, and decided we wanted some of whatever Kool-aid you all were drinking.

Since then I have gotten more serious about running, completing a few marathons and a handful of ultra-marathons. I’m also trying to get a bit faster, and am inching towards my goal of breaking 20 minutes in the 5k. I owe almost all of my improvements to the support and motivation I get from the club.

My favorite part about being a captain is getting to be a cheerleader for my teammates. I have gotten to know so many more members, and can’t get enough of screaming for them and banging away on my cowbell to cheer them to success. I am a better runner and a better person due to my membership in the club, and I can’t wait to share many more miles with everyone in the future.

Missy Burgin

Missy Burgin

With my Midwest sensibilities in tow, I joined PPTC in 2013 after moving to Brooklyn.  I was looking for new training buddies (friends) and found so much more. I’m a long time runner and natural motivator, and since my middle school days, friends and teammates have looked to me for advice and encouragement.  I’ve been a driving force in the creation and continuance of the Marathon Training Group (MTG), and beyond my Team Captain duties, I enjoy giving back to the club by helping put on PPTC races and serving on the Board of Directors.

When not running, you can find me frolicking around Prospect Heights eating ice cream (year round), making small batch pickles & jams, and laughing my way through life.

I’m always looking for new training partners, so don’t forget to invite me out for a run!

Training Goals:  3:07 marathon & being as good of a cowbeller as Adam Devine.

Meet the #PickMePPTC Winners

by Jana Trenk

PPTC was offered three guaranteed entry spots for the 2017 NYC Marathon. Using the hashtag #PickMePPTC, interested members were asked to submit a selfie and write up via social media explaining why they wanted to run this year’s marathon.

Congratulations to our contest winners: Noah, Jennifer, and Carlos! Wishing them the best of luck for an amazing training cycle and marathon.

I asked each of them to tell us a little more about themselves.  You can read about them below:

Noah Devereaux

Noah Devereaux

I’ve been a runner for a little over a year but really started getting serious after I impulsively joined Oren and Leiba on a 15 mile run to the Rockaways last July. Somehow it seemed like a good idea even though I’d never run more than 10 miles in one go before. After surviving that I started to get ideas that maybe I could actually do a marathon myself. A year later running has become such an important part of my life that it’s been easy to get motivated even before I got chosen to run New York. But now that I do have the marathon to train for I have a better excuse to run so much with all my friends in the club.

The part of the marathon I’m most looking forward to is passing Peter Pan Doughnuts in Greenpoint. Back when I lived in the neighborhood I would sit outside the shop and watch the marathon with my friends and wonder why all these people were choosing to suffer so much. Funny how things change. It’ll be hard to resist the urge to stop and get a doughnut in the middle of the race.

Jennifer Bolstad

Jennifer Bolstad

I started running when I was in 6th grade… so… over 30 years ago. I competed in cross country, indoor and outdoor track from junior high through college and between college and grad school. Then I took a 10-year hiatus from all athletic activity because I didn’t have the time or the will to train hard enough to stay in competitive shape, and — hubris alert! — I felt that “recreational” running was beneath me. I started running again in 2008 when a friend dared me to sign up for the Brooklyn Half with her. Soon after I got back into running, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the tender age of 32. I kept running all through treatment and it was my way of making friends with my body again; of showing myself it could do good things, too, when it wasn’t trying to kill me. That experience really got me over any feelings of being ashamed that I’m not as fast as I used to be (it’s pretty humbling to come in close to DFL in a giant NYRR race!) and helped me to just accept that running is its own reward, independent of the time on your watch or your place in the pack. Now I run to maintain my healthy relationship with my body and my healthy relationship with running itself.

I’m most looking forward to training with my fellow PPTCers. There’s really nothing I enjoy more than long runs, exploring the five boroughs with my teammates. I recently read an article about how difficult it is to make true friends, as opposed to just mere acquaintances, as an adult. Most people don’t find the time to just hang out for long stretches with no agenda other than talking to each other. As I was reading, I kept thinking… none of this is true! I definitely have many deep friendships that have developed in just this way: through the luxury of lots and lots of agenda-free conversations. Then I realized that almost all of those conversations were with my PPTC teammates on our runs.

Carlos Vazquez

Carlos Vazquez

I started running in 2005. My girlfriend at the time (who is now my wife), told me about a local 5k in Orlando and how much fun they were. I looked up a training plan, similar to Couch to 5k, and trained for a couple of months.  Not knowing my pace, I ran it conservatively in 35 minutes, with tons of energy to spare.  After that, I never ran slower than 25 minutes and I was hooked.

I realize when I stop running, or do nothing physical, I feel restless. Running keeps me both mentally and physically fit. Signing up for races also motivates my training. Plus, being part of a running group, like PPTC, keeps me socially active.

Besides running over the Verrazano and the cheering crowds, there is that brief period in Queens, where we will run where I grew up as a kid. I went to school a few blocks away from the Queensboro bridge and it will add to the memories growing up there.

Member Spotlight: Interview with Janet Gottlieb

Interview by: Jana Trenk

Jana Trenk joined long time PPTC member, Janet Gottlieb for a mid day loop of Prospect Park, starting at Grand Army Plaza.  Janet gets in 15-20 miles per week, and has been a regular at New York City area races since 1984!

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? Where are you from originally?
I have lived in Brooklyn (first Bay Ridge, now Park Slope) for 31 years. I grew up in The Bronx, and lived in Queens as a young adult.

How did you start running? What got you interested in running?
When I was a teen, before I knew anything about training or specialized running shoes, running seemed a great way to get cardio exercise, and living near the Jerome Park Reservoir, a popular running loop, made it very convenient. In my late twenties, now properly shod, I began entering local races in Queens and also NYRR races.

How has running changed your life?
Running has helped keep me fit, and the people I’ve run with have become some of my closest friends. Some people become so totally consumed with work that they forget health and fitness, but registering for goal races required me to take time for running throughout my working life.

For many years, I considered marathons to be things other people did, and then, when I was 45 and going through some personal adversity, I went to the NYCM Expo and decided to sign up for the Prague Marathon the following May. The demands of marathon training are a great distraction, and I recommend a first marathon to anyone having a hard time who already has enough of a base to contemplate it.

What are your goals for the future?
Unless a brand new, odd distance race is offered, I know my PRs are behind me, but I expect to stay active even if my finishes are DFLs.

Janet with her dog, Cathy. Photo credit: Paul Schickler

What do you do outside of running? Can you tell us a little about your work, hobbies, life other than training?
After more than 33 years working as an attorney for the Administration for Children’s Services, I retired in the Fall of 2015, allowing me more time with my husband Paul, a retired teacher, and our dog Cathy. With New York’s museums, theatres and varied neighborhoods, there’s always plenty to do.

What was it like running in New York in the 80s? How was running culture similar or different to running in 2017?
 It’s my sense that people who ran in the 80’s, obviously a smaller group than we have now, made it their #1 priority, more important than civic action and sometimes even relationships. When there was a plan to make big changes, good for business but bad for park users, in Flushing Meadow Park, I expected my running friends would want to join in opposing the politicians advocating for them, but they didn’t seem to care. Today’s runners—and it may be because this is Brooklyn, and not changing times—recognize how civic action can work in their favor: When I came to Park Slope twenty-five years ago there were cars in the Park almost all the time on weekdays. Political pressure changed that.
Women were certainly in the minority of runners in the eighties, and I got used to being told by the ignorant that jarring one’s reproductive organs was unhealthy. Many got tired of being “welcomed” by runners and then mansplained, which is why women-only events were established. Now there are many New York races in which we predominate!
Those who were involved with PPTC in the old days report that it, too, used to be male-dominated and much more speed-driven and less welcoming of non-champions than it is now.

 

 

 

Member Spotlight: Anh-Tuan Tran

Member Spotlight is a feature on the PPTC blog to introduce our wonderful members to a wider audience. As a club with over 800 paying members, we know PPTC runners are doing incredible things.

Anh-Tuan Tran

Recently Jana Trenk met Anh-Tuan, a fairly new member of Prospect Park Track Club, after work for one of his usual running routes, a partial run commute from Union Square to Flatbush. Anh-Tuan recently ran 70 miles at the Laurel Highlands Ultra!

 Jana felt inspired to get some insights into an ultra runner’s mentality, so she grabbed a slice of pizza to fuel herself for their conversation during their run. 

Read Anh-Tuan’s interview by Jana.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? Where are you from originally?

I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 9 years. I was born in Lancaster, P-A but did some growing up in Hershey.

How did you start running? What got you interested in running?

To cope with a breakup, I was doing a ton of aimless walking (both sober and not), which was getting old. We’re talking 2-3 hours each night after work for about two months. My little sister recognized that this roaming habit could be channeled into something that actually counts as exercise for an otherwise-healthy 28 year old, so she paid my registration for a 10k in Trenton. On that day I was not interested in pursuing anymore running, but I came around before long.

How has running changed your life?

Running has connected me with a lot of great individuals. I’ve made friends who will drop everything and come running for 13 miles at almost a moment’s notice. Other people I call friends I have met only once during a race, but over a couple of hours on the trail we’ll talk each other through some big life questions. It’s a remarkable diversity of community resources that are available to runners.

Running has also encouraged me to question my perception of limits. Five years ago I was in a lot of pain after running that first 10k. I was certain it was going to be the most mileage I’d ever do. A couple of 50k’s and one 70 mile race later, I now often question the signals that my body gives me. That skepticism extends to other times in my life where I’m tempted to throw in the towel, but I’ll instead take a step back and check in with myself to see if my complaints are legitimate. It’s a useful tool.

And, I dropped smoking like a bad habit after 10+ years.

What are your goals for the future?

I have dream races like the Ultra Fiord in Patagonia and Hardrock in Colorado. However, I also want to strike a balance and expose myself to other endurance activities that have a team aspect. I recently learned about outrigger paddling where you are six people in a canoe and participate in endurance events like 3-day races or expedition paddles. That kind of very pure team environment appeals to me.

I also really want to become one of these people who can get into the water and swim for a couple of hours straight. That would be cool.

What do you do outside of running? Can you tell us a little about your work, hobbies, life other than training?

I work for the Wildlife Conservation Society supporting field conservation activities across Asia (my office is in the Bronx Zoo). Currently, I’m enjoying poems by people like William Carlos Williams and Raymond Carver. Please give me recommendations! I live with two of my favorite beings, Hilary and Rosie. One of them is a cat.

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