Getting To Know Al Goldstein
By Stuart Kaplan
If you are interested in making a donation towards Al Goldstein’s commemorative bench, please visit our membership page and log in to make a donation in any amount that you feel comfortable.
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]
Men’s Qualifying Times
Women’s Qualifying Times
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.”
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.