A Day at Harry’s Handicap

Story courtesy of President Tom Meany

In the 80’s, registration was at the Caton Inn on Coney Island Ave. or in the lobby of the Parks Dept. building in the Parade Grounds, next to the police precinct.

Harry had a notebook where he wrote down the race times of every club member’s race times during the year. He used this as his handicapping guideline.

We would all walk together to the start, which would be at the bottom of the Lake Hill, just past the traffic light.

Harry would have a piece of poster board with lines drawn across to represent each start time and write in the names and bib #’s across.

He would then line up each group across the road. There were no cars and few bikes to speak of. He would go through each group and then do it again. It could be 35 degrees with horizontal rain. Harry didn’t care. This was before tights; many wore sweats or nylon running suits. Each time slot waited until their group was called.

Kurt Steiner was Harry’s sidekick. Kurt would be dressed in a tux, with tails and a high hat from the midnight run the night before in Central Park. Kurt fought with the French Foreign Legion during WWII and was a German POW. He spoke with a thick Austrian accent. He was famous for having the loud speaker at the finish line of the NYC marathon and saying things like.” If you can hear my voice you can break three hours.” (Even though three hours had just passed.)

There would be as many as 40 or more of us. Harry was Ming The Merciless in giving out your start time. If you acted injured he gave you an even faster start time. One year, Bob Muller showed up on crutches and Harry gave him a really fast time. You were always better off keeping your mouth shut and hoping for the best.

Harry always had a secret favorite he wished to win and would give them an unusually good early start. After the race we would back to the building and Harry would give out 25 or so medals, not everyone got a medal, but it was a chance of the year to beat the better runners and everyone looked forward to that. It was a prestigious honor.

There were no refreshments after, only the indoor water fountain. The race started at 8 or 9 and it was Harry’s way of deterring his runners from staying out late and drinking New Year’s Eve.