Meet The Members: Michael Ring By: Amy Duquette
For a person who joined his high school track team as a way to get out of attending gym class, but later went on to run 15 consecutive NYC marathons, Michael Ring definitely was not a born-runner. However, he grew to love the sport. Brooklyn born and raised, Michael is now dedicated to running and to the Prospect Park Track Club as a board and committee member. His 15 marathons provide him automatic entry into the race every year, and “I plan on running it every year” he says. However, Michael had a rough start with marathoning, failing his first attempt as a teen, which led to a complete hiatus from running for ten years.
Michael considered himself a “…spaz in high school. I was not an athlete at all…no one in my family runs. But, if you got on a varsity team you could skip gym and get a 95 in the class. Track was the only sport that did not require a try-out.” That narrowed it down; he joined the Sheepshead Bay High track team. He never scored a point for the team, but “there is no bench warming in track and no matter when you finished the entire team is waiting and cheering for you, just like at the NYRR’s Team Championship race.” Somewhere in his sophomore or junior year his coach encouraged him to try a 5K race outside of high school competition. He finished this race in the middle of the pack rather than at the tail end where he came in among the very competitive high school competition. This new placement felt very satisfying.
High from his success and maybe biting off more than he could chew, at age 17 Michael attempted his first NYC marathon in 1979 “…without having heard of hydration or pacing. In Bed-Sty I got thirsty and drank water. Lots of water. Then I threw it all up in Queens.” While being taken care of by the medics, he passed out and remained laying on the cement for some time. This ‘DNF’ kept him away from running for the next decade. Currently, runners have to be over 18 to run the NYC marathon. “I like to think it was because of me” Michael jokes.
He went on to college and then graduate school at Stony Brook for his Master’s Degree in social work. While driving back home to NYC from school one November he got stuck in the marathon traffic. “I exploded with rage..hitting things and crying. It was a massive sense of incompletion and I decided that I needed to finish it.” He gave himself time to train, properly this time, for his next marathon. In 1993 he decided to “..run as long as I was conscious” and finished the task in 4:11. He has run every year since, as well as a few marathons outside of NYC. In 2000 he ran one on Randall’s Island consisting of 26 one mile loops. Only 9 competitors entered this race. Michael finished under 4 hours, a goal he had set for himself, finishing in 3:58. “I was not looking at the scenery, but just focusing on the race.” When asked how he got through 26 of the same loop, Michael attributed it to listening in on his wife’s birthing classes, which taught distinguishing between pain that is permanent versus pain that is not as a helpful factor. His twins Sabrina and Nicholas, were born that same year.
With the arrival of twins came a lack of sleep. He began to believe, “sleep is irrelevant. When I heard that alarm clock I’d say ‘just shake it off and run’.” As a new father he let go of his training goals and ran as often and as much as possible, but never two days in a row. “I never got injured training like this.”
He sees reasons for staying active through running on a broad scale. His twins are now 9 years old and his intensions are to keep up with the children, whom he stays out of work to care for. They run together now and he’d like to continue this as they get older. His son came to him at age 6 asking to run and his daughter has already stated that she wants to run the marathon with him one day. “I have a lot to lose by not being a fit parent.”
Michael continues to be “marathon ready with about two weeks notice.” He sees the marathon as a bit scary, “it’s like rolling the dice. You don’t really know what will happen. And other people are counting on me and planning their day around me. It’s the only time I feel pressure.” However, he likes the marathon distance and appreciates that “it’s the only race where everyone gets an award for perseverance.” Michael persevered in an ultra-marathon in 1998 completing 31 miles, 19 loops of Prospect
Park lake. “The faster guys hung out afterward waiting for us all to finish.” Being able to interact with the elites of the sport is something that Michael finds unique to running.
This social aspect of running is one of Michael’s favorite parts. It’s his feeling that the sport is getting better as it welcomes more interaction and less “sizing up the competition” at the start lines. “If I were single and 25 again I think this would be a great place to find a date. Look, we’re all in our underwear, well, close, so we get that part out of the way. And we know we both like something of deep value; running.”
Being a part of a local track club encourages the social aspect of the sport as well. He will not forgot the call from then PPTC president Bobby Fischer, whom he did not even know at the time, after his first race back in 1993. “I did a 10 mile race in Central Park and he called me just to ask how it was. My family did not even call me!”
Michael currently cares for his children full time after having worked as a Dean of Students for over 18 years, but he does not see that as a job he’d go back to. He’d like to be a NYC tour guide, perhaps even a running tour guide, and actually has his license to do so. Running fills up much of the extra time he’s gained. His future running goals include breaking a four hour marathon again after the age of 60. This time would qualify him for Boston. “I don’t know if I’d run it. That’s irrelevant, I might, but I just want to qualify.”
Along with his odd beginnings as a runner and his long time love affair with the sport, Michael’s family thinks he’s “crazy because I choose not to work. I think if there is a scale of normalcy, I’m right outside that edge. I do say whatever I’m thinking…Hey, I’m a New Yorka.”