Last weekend I was at a bar in Denver, and uncharacteristically wound up chatting with a stranger. He was a born-and-raised New Yorker, who has called his Northern Queens neighborhood home for his entire life. As somebody who’s spent six years living in the city and who hopes to spend more there in the future, I was just stoked to hear somebody with a thick outer-borough accent confirming my own biases about how great of a place New York City is, for infinite reasons.
Not least among those contributing factors is the city’s bizarre, somewhat under the radar, but extremely dedicated running community. (Shameless plug: I’m co-producing a documentary series on this very topic and you can learn more at werunnewyorkshow.com.) You have this looming, seemingly inhospitable mess of concrete and asphalt that smells like piss all summer long, but you also have thousands of people who wake up every morning or duck out of work early to pound out some mileage wherever they can.
So as I continue to jog vicariously through various city-based runners’ Instagram feeds, I sometimes see something that renders my FOMO so great I nearly vomit with envy. This story, told by Tim Rossi of the Lost Boys Track Club, is one of those types of stories, and is the type of tale we hope to help amplify more of in the future. This sport is great not just because of the super elite, mind-bending performances, but because of awesome stuff like this. — Paul S., Citius Mag Dumbass
“It’s not about the legs, its about the heart and mind.” – Eliud Kipchoge
Well, after our attempt I would argue that the legs have at least a little something to do with it.
Rewind to Saturday, May 6th, around 5:00 am, where a tired 25 year old self-proclaimed run-nerd shakes himself awake in Italy. Ironically, I was traveling for a family wedding and was roughly four hours from where three of the world’s most talented distance runners were about to attempt the impossible. Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa, and Zersenay Tadese were going to try to break the two hour marathon barrier.
Like everyone who watched the attempt, I was transfixed by how much of a God Kipchoge is, but something else also struck me. The ease with which he clicked off those 4:36 miles made it look, well, so easy. The fact that Desisa and Tadese fell off so early gave some perspective to Kipchoge’s sheer speed, but it didn’t drive the point home hard enough. The idea of running 4:36 pace for 26.2 miles was just so abstract. I couldn’t wrap my head around it, and I knew I wasn’t the only one who wanted to comprehend such a massive feat in a tangible way. Thus, an idea was born.
Sitting there, still basking in Kipchoge’s accomplishment and feeling insanely motivated (the Monster I downed to wake myself up may have had something to do with this), I drew up plans for how a co-ed relay team could try and break 2 hours for the marathon on the track. Utilizing some strong 6th grade math skills, I realized that it would take 105.5 laps at an average of 68.2 seconds per lap. So, I started texting friends back home … and I heard nothing at first. (Granted it was 2 am in NYC). But soon the eagerness and willingness to participate started to roll in. The idea started coming together.
One month later, on June 10th, 16 of us gathered on the East 6th Street Track (potentially the worst track you will ever see) to stage our own attempt. Instead of Eliud Kipchoge there were 16 so-called mediocre runners; including a 2:46 marathoner, a former Oregon Track Club steeple chaser, 3 local elite women, a few former d3 runners, etc. Instead of one leg consisting of 26.2 miles, each person would run 4-8 400 meter legs each (400 meters at a time, no more no less). Instead of the pristine conditions of the track in Monza, we had that one-of-a-kind NYC heat and humidity and ubiquitous potholes of the East River Track. But we were excited! We were anxious and hyped and nervous and giddy.
We had promoted the race as much as we could on social media (IG or it didn’t happen) and I wanted the NYC running community to be involved, or at least know it was happening. I wanted people to come watch, but mostly I wanted people to come be inspired, like I had been watching Kipchoge (or just to come laugh at us, either or). We enlisted another local club, Goldfinger Track Club, to lead a workout on the track and pace some of the runners through their laps. And then the game changer: another 10 person team- who came to be known as the “Other Guys” – came to compete against us. So we had ourselves a race. Lostboys Track Club + Brooklyn Track Club against the clock but also against the Other Guys. It was on.
After a bit under 2 hours of dry-heaving, cursing, and wondering “why did I let Tim talk me into this,” both teams crushed the barrier. The Lostboys + Brooklyn Track Club ran 1:54:07, while the Other Guys ran 1:54:29. Though it was a race, it was awesome to see both teams break the barrier (though our team won, so suck it Other Guys). But more important was the bond created running in circles (ovals) with a group of people for 2 hours. When this idea came to me- I just wanted to get people together to see if we could do it. But, and I am beyond pleased to say this, it became so much more than that. It became about teamwork, and communication, and support. It became about hard work paying off, and about celebrating a broken barrier. It really put Breaking2 into perspective. I think the most important thing that came out of our Breaking2NYC was it gave us a starting place to set our own barriers to break; our personal Breaking2s. And while it (probably) isn’t a sub-2 hour marathon, the barrier we each strive to break is equally as important. So- what is your Breaking2?
For more, check out @lostboystrackclub, #Breaking2NYC, or just watch the video linked below. Or just DM me @timrossi, I’ll probably ignore it.
Photos courtesy of John Benitez (@yungfueg) + Brandon Komoda (@bkomoda)