Run Brooklyn with Bed-Stuy Restoration 10K & Inaugural Imagine Academy 5K
by Linus Ly I love my "job" with the Prospect Park Track Club. The club has a program where members are encouraged to run with local races. The program, Run Brooklyn, dictates that participants must run a minimum of six Brooklyn races that are professionally-timed in exchange for a chance to win money prizes at PPTC's annual award dinner. "Brooklyn races" means the run course must start and end in Brooklyn, such that events like the Tunnel To Tower, which starts on the Brooklyn side of the Battery Park Tunnel but ends in the old World Trade Center site, do not count. The "professionally-timed" condition eliminates fun runs like the Color Run series, where participants' times aren't recorded.
Years ago, many eligible races for the Run Brooklyn program were missed because the club was reliant upon members suggesting Brooklyn races for the program. As a result, only a handful of Brooklyn races were ever listed fo the Run Brooklyn Program. Some years ago, I volunteered to maintain a comprehensive spreadsheet containing the race names, dates, URL for registration purposes, and additional information, such as whether the race coincides with a popular event. Now I also maintain a calendar that is embedded into the club's website. Although the information from the spreadsheet and calendar largely overlap, the advantage of the calendar is that the information of competing events, such as NYRR races, are presented visually so it is easier for our members to make an informed decision on which race to register for.
I made such an informed decision last week when I forwent the NYRR Staten Island Half and ran in the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration 10K instead. Staten Island used to be a mysterious place that I drive through along I-278 from the Verrazano Bridge to the Goethal Bridge, or some other bridge, but after spending a large amount time working there, along with running in a few races there as well, the novelty is not there anymore for me. I like to run in different locations and this year the Bed-Stuy 10K fit the bill.
The Bed-Stuy 10K had its staging area in Restoration Plaza, which is near the corner of Fulton Street and New York Avenue. All under one big white tent on the Plaza were a stage, DJ stand, registration table, refreshment tables, and some vendor tables. Refreshment included coffee, bananas, half-cut bagels, small apples, and orange juices, which I believe was all donated from the nearby Super Foodtown supermarket. In a nearby building, runners were treated to indoor plumbing for their sanitary needs, as well as a bag check area. Maybe I was not too aware of my surrounding but I found out about the bag check purely by accident. I think there should be more signs to point out the restroom and bag-check service.
The first event this year was the Kiddie Run. Some five little kids, two as young as four years of age, ran a few yards to the Finish Line on Herkimer Street behind the Restoration Plaza. Next we had a workout session led by an instructor on the floor of the big tent and three leaders on the stage. It was a good workout, plenty enough to loosen muscles for the upcoming race.
There was no music along the race course but if there were, "Turn! Turn! Turn!" by The Byrds should be played. I was afraid that I would run the wrong way because there were so many turns. At the start, I asked a few runners near me if they were familiar with the course but they either were running the untimed 5K or did not know the course. Luckily the corners were well-staffed, either by event personnel or by NYPD. A safety cone with the proper directional arrow also helped in case you missed the instruction from the staff. Something else I could use along the course was more water. There was a station at Mile 2 and again at Mile 4, but by the time slowpoke me got to Mile 4 there were no more cups. I think there was some water left in the water cooler, yes, the sort used in your typical cubicle office, but I didn't want to stop completely to drink from the faucet. Luckily, it was rainy for most of the race and I cooled down enough to not need water that much. I don't know the history of the race course so it might be that way all these years, with the many turns, so maybe not much can be done about it. During the last two miles, I so looked forward to seeing the finish arch from a distance to get me going stronger. It never came as the arch was just down the road after the final turn.
Bed-Stuy 10K, now in its 36th year, was well-organized despite the water mishap.
In contrast to the Bed-Stuy 10K, a few weeks back I ran an inaugural race, Imagine Academy for Autism 5K in Marine Park, that had some growing pains. The race course was 3.5 times around the outer loop of the park. I was highly familiar with the outer loop because I ran many times already with NYRR Open Run.
The race was supposed to start at 10 AM, but there was a speech or two and the race didn't really begin until 10:30. It was a hot day so the extra half-hour made a little difference. Although the course was just a few loops of the park, there was no water station anywhere. After I did my 3.5 loops, the finish line was totally blocked by finishers. People were just milling about in front of the finish mat, chatting, taking photos, and snacking. Perhaps because it was the first time for these people to participate in a race but the situation could be helped by having the refreshment table a few yards AFTER the finish line, not mere feet in front of it. Lastly, there was no trash container anywhere to collect all the wrappers, fruit peels, and other garbage. Responsible runners had to go a few yards away to squeeze the trash into already-packed receptacles. Hopefully next year these issues won't be present and runners can have a more pleasant racing experience at this new Brooklyn race.