“Meet the Members”-type feature.

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.

The Usual Prospects: Jessica Bari

Jessica_BKHalfMarathon (2)As runners, we all have different reasons behind our miles.  For some, it’s to qualify for Boston.  For others, it’s to raise money for a cause.  And for others still, including Jessica Bari, it’s about fitness and sanity.

Originally from Minnesota, Jessica dabbled with running a bit in high school when a swimming injury forced her to switch her athletic pursuits and try out cross country.  But, it wasn’t until after college that Jessica decided to give running another shot.  Jessica was living in the Twin Cities, working long hours and desperately in need of an activity that would allow her to gain some mental perspective (and wasn’t based around eating and drinking).  With those dual goals in mind, Jessica found running.  Jessica ran a local Twin Cities turkey trot as her first race.

Jessica didn’t have a “love at first sight” moment with running.  Rather, she grew to enjoy and respect the sport of running and really relish the fitness gains she was experiencing as she continued to pound the pavement.  In fact, Jessica is quick to point out – with a laugh – that she still doesn’t “naturally love running [and she doesn’t naturally] bounce out of bed to get an early run in before work.”  For Jessica, running is the activity that leads to real fitness results and has helped her in other areas of her life.  As a producer, Jessica often works long hours and, like most New Yorkers, feels that the chaos of the City can be draining.  Running has helped Jessica maintain perspective which has helped her personally and professionally.

Jessica left her native Minnesota in 2008 to pursue producing opportunities in a big market.  She’s very proud to have moved directly from the Twin Cities to Brooklyn and bypassing Manhattan altogether!  Jessica had heard wonderful things about Prospect Park Track Club from her childhood friends, General and Shontay Butler.  Jessica knew General from middle school and Shontay from high school.  She loved the idea of being a part of a supportive community and making more running buddies.

Thus far, Jessica’s running highlights include running her first half marathon, the Brooklyn Half Marathon, in 2010, and training for her first full marathon, this year’s New York City Marathon.  Jessica can’t wait to see the five boroughs a whole different way on marathon Sunday.  Most of her family will be travelling from Minnesota to see her conquer her first full!  We have it on good authority that Mr. Bari, Jessica’s father, will be one of the best cheerleaders at the PPTC cheer spot on 4th Avenue!

Jessica is a huge champion for new runners and middle and back of the packers.  “A lot of us aren’t going to win anything from being in races, I know that I’m not, so being out there is purely about reaching my goals.  And I think it’s incredibly humbling and amazing to see people who [may] not consider themselves athletes out there jogging, training, working on their fitness or running races.  I think runners [of] all paces and all distances are inspiring!  And for me, the PPTC community is something I wanted to be a part of because it’s based on something positive that I do in my life.”

The Usual Prospects – Tyrone Sklaren

Tyrone Sklaren PPTCWhen he was asked to come up with some highlights of his running experiences, Tyrone Sklaren had no difficulty at all. He has had some experiences which would be considered memorable by any standards, including one that brought him to the hospital, and one that resulted in marriage.

Sklaren, a 66-year-old Brooklyn native, initially ran for “fun” and general fitness. He even completed the marathon distance (in Atlantic City) without any strategic training. Then, when he placed third in his age group (55-59) at the 2004 Cherry Tree Ten Miler, he realized that he could indeed be age-group competitive, and running took on a new dimenstion. He bought Bob Glover’s book on running and trained more seriously for the Jersey Waterfront Marathon.

His time in that race, about 3:50 as he recalls, did not qualify Tyrone for Boston, but did indicate to him that the 3:45 qualifying time might be within his reach. His sprint to the finish at the Ocean Drive Marathon in Cape May, New Jersey brought him in at 3:44:57, and a Boston qualification. It also brought him an even larger triumph: read on to find out what!

The Usual Prospects: Mike Goettig

PPTC - Mike Goettig

Mike Goettig and his wife took the F-train to Brooklyn in 2007, were pleased with the Park Slope community they found, and are now raising their fifteen month old daughter, Cordelia, here. The move to Brooklyn has been accompanied by some great training and racing opportunities for the forty-year old Goettig, who was awarded PPTC’s fastest male runner prize in 2011, and whose 1:28:17 in the Brooklyn Half this year placed him in our top ten finishers.

Though a Minnesota native, Mike has lived in –and run in—places as far afield as Mississippi, where he lived for a year, and China, where he did Peace Corps service from 1996-99, and remained until 2003. (Mike’s Peace Corps stint explains why Mandarin is listed as one of his languages on his Facebook page.) Perhaps Mike’s 10K loop in China proved an inspiration to local residents. It certainly helped Mike to pick a “transitional goal” for re-entry to the States. Peace Corps volunteers are actually advised to choose such a goal to help them through “reverse culture shock” after spending years outside the country; in Mike’s case that goal became the 2003 Portland Oregon Marathon, Mike’s first.

The marathon distance has proved to be something of a favorite for Mike. He ran his best marathon (so far) in New York in 2011 (a 2:55:50), but also managed to do three marathons in five weeks, one of which was the inaugural Brooklyn Marathon. Mike hopes to run the Berlin Marathon one day.

Mike works full time —and some long hours—as an attorney, but he has managed to incorporate training into his day by frequently running to or from work. Mike gets to have more company on the Saturday morning runs he enjoys doing in the company of other PPTC members. For Mike, that training is “a great way to spend a Saturday morning.”

Mike speaks very happily about his association with PPTC. He first heard about the Club through Pieter van Hattem and other PPTC members who participated in the group runs from Slope Sports. Mike was involved in the interesting—and out-of-town—Reach the Beach race in 2010, and found PPTC to be a good organization for meeting running partners and forming good relationships. One vivid running memory for Mike is of a long run around Sheepshead Bay which included a gale-force headwind with a group that included PPTC teammates Karen Ziga and Tom Greene. His PPTC friends have helped him to celebrate important moments in his life as well. In anticipation of the birth of his daughter, he and his wife Kathryn were presented with a running stroller which has already helped prepare his daughter for life with a running dad.

The Usual Prospects: Oren Efrati

oren1On October 28, 2012, Oren Efrati crossed the Marine Corps Marathon finish line in 3:37:37.  He was thrilled to complete his first marathon, but with the impending arrival of Hurricane Sandy due to make landfall within the next 24 hours, Oren’s thoughts shifted from elation to anxiety.  The New York-area bridges and tunnels were rumored to be closing at 7PM, so Oren had to get on the road after the race to ensure that he could actually make it home (rather than risk getting stranded somewhere along I-95).  Due to the weather forecast, Oren’s family had stayed in New York, so Oren drove back to the city himself (thankful for cruise control, so he didn’t have to further exhaust his already tired legs).  Oren made it back to Brooklyn in the nick of time – literally outrunning (and out-driving) the storm!

Oren, originally from Tel Aviv, Israel, moved to Brooklyn after college.  Oren is a Brooklyn-neighborhood expert having lived in many locations throughout the borough.  He now calls Windsor Terrace home.  Perhaps Oren intuitively knew that he would always become a runner, as something told him to settle near Prospect Park when he was searching out his current home over seven years ago.

While Oren casually dabbled in running about 10 years ago, he rediscovered running about three or four years ago, running races such as the JPMorgan Corporate Challenge and PPTC’s own Turkey Trot.  Oren donned the red singlet and joined PPTC about a year ago making his club participation official after last year’s Brooklyn Half Marathon.  Oren joined PPTC to add a social component to his running.  He has enjoyed running with a wide variety of runners and learning from his teammates.

On weekday mornings, you can often find Oren taking full advantage of his proximity to the park, running loops before work.  Being an early morning runner permits Oren to eat dinner with his family in the evenings and help his two children with their homework.  Currently, Oren is the only runner in his family but he thinks it would be exciting to run with his children one day.  Oren has been a regular presence at Saturday group runs, where he regularly ran long runs with many of our Boston-bound runners during winter training.  Oren particularly enjoys running up the West Side Highway for many of his long runs.

Oren recently ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon and the NYCRUNS Verrazano Half Marathon.  Oren was feeling a bit under the weather the night before Brooklyn but put forth a gutsy effort to complete the race in 1:45:30 – and have a good time out on the course!  He enjoyed the PPTC picnic and all of the PPTC cheerleaders along the course.  Oren plans to run the Philadelphia Marathon in the fall and hopefully run the New York City Marathon in 2014.

Oren offers some advice for those new runners who may be contemplating joining a running club: “if you’re a casual runner, it’s a good way to take your running to the next level.”  Oren also offers that PPTC provides a great means to meet new people and learn from runners of all ability levels.

The Usual Prospects: Karen Ziga

Karen near the finish of her sub-3:00 marathon (Philadelphia, 2012).
Karen near the finish of her sub-3:00 marathon (Philadelphia, 2012).

Editor’s Note: this is the first installment of a new series called “The Usual Prospects” – a revival of Paul Soskind’s “Meet the Members” feature. Thanks to Matt Strawn for the catchy name.

A serious commitment to running wasn’t something new for Karen Ziga when she joined the PPTC in 2012. Karen had already run both track and cross-country at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, earning a gold medal in the 10K and a bronze in the 5K at the final Centennial Conference track meet in May 2007. Her family includes runners as well; both her father and brother have run in cross-country events.

Karen, whose five years as a New York City resident have included three years in Brooklyn, finds Brooklyn a great place to train, whether alone or with a group. In fact, her first encounters with PPTC members occurred in 2010 when she heard about group runs meeting at Grand Army Plaza. The PPTC members she met there opened up the opportunity to join with a local track club. She actually qualified for Boston that year, and ran it in 2012 and again this year, coming in with a time of 3:01:35, well before the bombing that marred the 2013 event.

Read more about Karen >>