INTO THE STREETS: THE MAKING OF THE BROOKLYN HALF
The following article appeared in Vol. 1 Number Two edition of the Prospect Park Track Club Newsletter, dated April 1, 1981 and written by Michael Rieman. Enjoy! For nearly all of the more than 1800 finishers of the first Brooklyn Half Marathon, this event was a winner. Everything – including the weather – seemed to be on the side of the runners. Among the many triumphs of this day were the very special victories for those in our club who helped make this event a terrific success.
The inspiration for the race appeared to be a true meeting of the minds. For some time, Lennie Nemerovsky had been interested in a long Brooklyn race, especially one held on a relatively flat course. He had actually mapped out several tentative courses, one using Downtown Brooklyn and another heading out toward Fort Hamilton in addition to the Ocean Parkway course which was ultimately chosen. At the same time, Kenny Savoy, who had worked hard on last year’s Seventh Avenue “Seventh Heaven” race, became interested in a borough-wide race, convinced that it was viable. Once Lennie and Kenny were able to interest both the Road Runners Club and the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office in the idea, the race was off to a good start.
Good starts were luckily backed by a good deal of determination. Lennie’s estimate of a forty-hour week spent on organizing could very likely be seconded by Kenny and Hank Klein. Many arrangements (such as one with the Board of Education for keeping the school open for registration) had to be made months in advance. Community organizations had to agree on the course before the application could be drawn up – and that was no simple matter. Until a month and a half before race day, in fact, the course had not been confirmed.
Creativity and resourcefulness went a long way in this race. Kenny (the “Mover”) found that he needed the service of his business’ moving truck for carting around supplies. (He also learned to climb poles to hang banners.) Hank learned to coax work from volunteers by promising everything from food to a ride home. “On race day,” Lennie noted, “you’re only as good as the help you have.” Even the Brooklyn high schools were put to use. A suggestion to the coaches provided the kids who kept thrusting water at us (Remember: it might have been a much hotter day) and cleaned up afterward. Those mile markers and directional signs came from our own Harry Murphy. All in all, it was a Brooklyn race all down the line.
What of the future? If the event is run again, its success will probably depend not only on a larger number of volunteers, but on more publicity and media coverage as well. “I thought I was dreaming,” one young woman, a resident of E. 17th Street, told this reporter. It should not have been a surprise to the residents, and certainly not to the media.
As this race becomes part of the racing season, we can take special pride in it as part of the group that really made it all happen.