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


19 – 39: 2hrs 50min 3hrs 20min
40 and over: 3hrs 10min


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


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


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.

PPTC Presidents

Our Presidency began with Bob Muller. Bob was President for eight years and things were much simpler back then. Meetings were as simple as they come; you would meet at Park Circle on a Sunday morning, and Bob asked if you had any questions? Business, if any, was settled and you proceeded with your long run. The first roster was published in 1977 and PPTC had 57 members. This was a very competitive running group and no one under 21 was admitted as a member (the theory was anyone under 21 came with a parent!). This rule was changed over the years as all are welcome. By 1978 PPTC had 110 members.

Jack Stetch followed Bob and was President for about two years with a membership of approximately 325 members. Jack remembers the great Sunday long runs with friends with fondness. He felt Harry was a gentleman and he has encountered a lot of fine people through the club.

Henry Murphy Jr. (no relation to Harry but everyone called him Jr. Murphy) succeeded Jack. He had met Bob Muller and Harry Sr. (& Jack Stetch and Brian Sullivan) in the early 70’s while he was in high school. After he graduated from HS (in 1973) he wanted to join the club, but was told that members had to be 21 years old, so they didn’t have to deal with parents. Jr. Murphy has one of the original PPTC T-shirts with the stick figures on the front and Harry’s artwork of the Brooklyn Bridge on the back.

During the year that he was president, the Club entered races as a team and took 2nd place team at a 10K sponsored by “Olympic Village” in Long Island (Oceanside) in November 1980. Lenny “The Kid” Nemerovsky and Scott Pere (?) were on the team that day with Junior. We also had our first racing singlets printed up (red and white) to replace the old T-Shirts.

Regina Cahill served as President for four years, picking up where Jr. left off. In the spring of 1978, Bob Muller convinced her to come on a Sunday morning and run with the club. Two months later she was training for the NYC Marathon. Under Regina’s presidency the club was incorporated as a Tax Exempt organization.

John Roselli joined in the summer of 1982 and became President after Regina and held this position for four years. During John’s term, the post marathon gathering and marathon bus was initiated. John recalls the Sunday a.m. Yonkers long runs – leaving from Van Cortland Park subway station.

The Club was boasting a membership of 300 at that time. John remembers training harder back then, with a solid and deep group of 3 hour marathoners / 37 minute 10Kers – including women such as Regina Cahill and not forgetting Debbie (Baren) Hill! who John says worked full time, was a good artist and a mom, held her liquor and her tongue and ran 3:21 in Yonkers (which was considered by many a tougher course than NYC) and 3:20 in Boston in the humidity.

John recalls going over to Harry’s place to talk about the “old days” – which was the 30s and 40s. Once coming off an injury, he decided to run a XC race at Van Cortland Park (apparently the course was not as smooth as we know it today). He decided to ask Harry how to run the race. This was apparently an uncharacteristic question for John and the results proved great – Harry said, ” just go out easy on the flats and take off on the cow path and into the hills – no one will pass ya!”

As time passes, not all our friends are with us today. The late Lori Lopez served as president for two years after John. She passed away too young in December 2001. Lori will be remembered as a talented athlete, a friend to many and a good sport.

For a period the club did not have a full time President. However, during this time Mike Rieman served for about one year as President. Mike worked on the Newsletter committee and is currently locating some old newsletter material.

Al Goldstein became the President in the Fall of 1990 and held his position for six years. The club had approximately 75 members and grew to approximately 150 during this era. Cecil Burgin was the only other officer at this time. It was just as well that Al waited until he retired to take the position: he had a lot to do to keep the Club going. Al moved the marathon reception to a school close to the marathon finish and is the maestro of the event. During his term in office he began bringing his vegetable soup to the New Year’s Day Handicap race, a tradition that continues.

Al remembers 15 to 20 years ago nearly all members raced frequently and were medal winners in Central Park. He feels PPTC has been like a second family to him. During some difficult years, without the camaraderie of the Club and the running support of its members, he may not have stood up to some difficult times as well as he did. Al has quite the collection of trophies himself not to mention a nice line of Pr’s. Al is a member of the City College Hall of Fame, honored for his exploits on the school’s basketball court.

Robert Fisher held the Presidential position from 1996 to 1999. and Bobby remembers how encouraging Harry was to train with, whether you were fast or not. Harry had passed away in 1993, a great loss to the club and running community. During Bobby’s term we instituted the Board as a governing body. The Club took over the old Road Runners Cherry Tree Race as a Club race only. Today, it is our winter race for the hard-core runner, attracting runners from the metropolitan area and beyond. The Terrace Bagel run was spearheaded, which has reinvented itself into the Prospect Park 10K and moved from the fall to the summer. The Relay was born in 1997 as the centerpiece of the Club picnic and is a Club only event. Around August of the 1998, PPTC went live on the Web. Our original webmaster Nelson Broat was succeeded by Louis Bueno in February 2003.

Anne Perzeszty, after serving as Vice President, became President in 1999. The Club expanded its horizons by adding a menu of social activities. PPTC lobbied for Harry’s plaque to be moved to a better space near the wall named in his honor and its success was capped with an official Parks sign installed for “Harry’s Wall”. The Harry Murphy Road Running Series Patch was initiated. The Patch was developed to encourage participation in Brooklyn races and to honor the memory of the legendary Harry Murphy. Chris Boutross offered swim clinics to PPTC members. Speed workouts coached by Will Abrams became a reality, helping members post PR’s. New warm-ups and singlets were seen on the roads. An eyecatching tent helped publicize a Club on the move. The newsletter was redesigned and updated under the editorship of Crystal Bueno. And PPTC actually became a track club at the Armory on Thursday nights when members took their running to the boards on the fastest track in the world.

Tom Meany, our current Club President, has this to say about his presidency: I am finishing up my third term as President starting in April 2007. During this period Club membership has grown from 250 members to 500. This has never been my intention. My focus of leadership has always been to improve the quality of each member’s membership, not the quantity of members. This will be our third year in the Armory for Fall/Winter training. We now have online clothing sales. Our greater visibility has contributed to our popularity and growth, our new banners have also contributed to this effort.

All our races have grown exponentially. The Summer Speed Series went from highs of 60 to averages of 200. It was not always revenue earning, now it is. The Cherry Tree has grown in popularity

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from 300 to a cap of 1,500 runners. The Turkey Trot enters it’s 10th anniversary year. It has grown form 500 to a cap of 2,500. Bishop Ford & PPTC each shared a profit of $7,400. each last year. All our races have evolved from manual scoring to electronic scoring. The Club Team Championship was the largest ever this year (2012) with 70+ Club participants.

We’re more in touch as a Club. We have a communications committee, tech committee contributing to our Open Forum, evolved Newsletter. And working on upgrading our website,etc.

We continue to be the most actively involved members in the Prospect Park Alliance of any other members. We represented the running users of the Park in the recent Park Roadway Safety Task Force, which resulted in safer roadway lanes for all roadway users and we will continue to actively contribute to safety in the Park.

We have grown to become financially stable, which has afforded us opportunities to support subsidizing Club members participating in unique events such as Reach The Beach, as well as Tony Watson’s coached trainings. We have also been able to support the Prospect Park youth running group and we continue to. We also have been able to provide refreshments at our general membership meetings. We hope to have our 501C3 in hand shortly.

The Club has become more gregarious and social in many aspects. Engaging in theatre events, fishing trips, baseball games, brunches after races and recently Friday night fireworks at Coney Island.