The Staten Island Runner

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April 10, 2000 

NYRROArs   by Glenn Ribotsky

An ongoing commentary on issues in the Staten Island and metropolitan road racing community, complied through the auspices of the New York Road Race OmbudsAssociation.


We finally received the year 2000 version of the New York Road Runners Club (NYRRC) Event Calendar at our house about a week or so ago—you know, the little booklet that lists, month by month, the NYRRC’s races and other events, as well as a host of other national and international races, and which describes the Club’s programs, lists merchants who provide discounts to Club members, and the like. (As usual, it came a few months into the new year so that the listings for January and February were already moot, but it actually came a bit earlier this year than last, so I suppose we should be thankful.) In perusing its pages, I noticed something rather startling. In the listings provided of non-NYRRC races in the local metropolitan area, there was no mention of any Staten Island race at all—for any month. This is so shocking that I feel it bears repeating. In the entire NYRRC year 2000 race calendar, there was not one Staten Island race listed, the only exceptions being the NYRRC’s own Staten Island races—the October Half-Marathon and bi-weekly Summer Speed Series.

I looked through the entire calendar, and my incredulity grew, especially when the lack of listings for this borough contrasted with the copious listings for the others. Brooklyn had no fewer than nineteen listed events (which to my knowledge constitute most of the races that actually take place there during the year). There were more than a dozen races listed for Queens, about ten for the Bronx, and, surprisingly, several non-NYRRC events in Manhattan, where the NYRRC greatly dominates the racing scene. The races listed for Long Island, New Jersey, and Westchester/Rockland counties were even more numerous, making up the lion’s share of the total calendar. One could get the impression, if one was not from this borough, that the road race scene is thriving all over the metropolitan New York area—every place except Staten Island.

This borough, of course, does have a thriving road race scene, with a goodly number of races taking place throughout the year, but if you were looking at this year’s NYRRC event calendar, you’d be excused for being ignorant of it. I went back to last year’s NYRRC calendar and, sure enough, no Island races were listed in 1999, either. I further examined the event calendars dating back to 1992 (that we still have them around here is probably a good indication of the pack rat mentality of a columnist/researcher), and the only Island races that consistently were listed were the Stapleton Steeplechase, the Staten Island Hospital Run, and the Tortoise Track and Road Runners races—the Mother’s Day 5k Run, the School’s Out for Summer Race, and the Merry Miler before Christmas—which are now all defunct. Among other races that have a history of more than a few years, the Advance Memorial Day Race made it in twice, Pepper Martin once (both were in the year those races were part of the Metropolitan Athletics Congress’ Grand Prix Series), the Ronaldson Run not at all. The Semper Fi race, the Marty Celic Run, and the Muche-Struck Veterans’ Day events each made it in a few times, but the Gunn Run, the Alzheimer’s Run, the Marli Thanksgiving Day races, the Forest Avenue Mile, and the Halloween run never have.  None of the newer races—and in designating them, I didn’t include any events in their first year, when the decision to put on the race would possibly have been made after the calendar went to press—has been listed, either.

So what’s going on here? Surely an event wants to attract as many people as possible, and would be willing to be listed in as many calendars and databases as it could? It was suggested that perhaps the directors of these races were unaware of how to get a listing posted, but that seems unlikely; most of them have input from one or more of the local clubs, or from NYRRC members, all of whom are aware of the listings. (NYRRC members receive the New York Runner, and the NYRRC’s in-house magazine gives specific directions for getting an event listed; and the local clubs also send representatives to the NYRRC’s Club Council on a regular basis. The Tortoise Track and Road Runners and Staten Island Road Runners obviously knew about the procedure—those clubs’ past races were listed.) It was also suggested that this is a new era, and races don’t often bother with a small, local publication like the NYRRC calendar, preferring to be listed by national magazines or on web sites. But most races out here do seem to make sure that they are written up in the local paper, which sort of belies that premise. Moreover, I did a little more checking, and the only local races I saw listed in any of the “new” media were Scott’s Run, listed in Metro Sports and Runner’s World, and the Scrimenti Scholarship Run on the Cool Running web site—and that race hasn’t even had its inaugural yet. (Can’t figure out why Scott’s Run, in its second year, was not put on the NYRRC calendar.) Something else seems to be at work here. I’m not sure, but as a long-time (though not native) Island resident, I have a speculation.

I postulate that, in keeping with an attitude I’ve long noticed among many Staten Island residents, particularly natives—an attitude of suspicion of outsiders, an attitude of feeling separate from the rest of New York City and liking it that way, an attitude of feeling looked down upon by many more liberal, more well-educated communities in the metro area, and attempting to turn those feelings of resentment around into feelings of superiority, into a belief that “we’re better than those hoity-toits anyway”--many Island races are not interested in being overly well-publicized off-Island. There seems to be a pervasive feeling (more at some events than at others, but generally lurking somewhere), that Islanders should keep these races to themselves, and celebrate local athletes and causes, and God forbid some outsider (!) comes and wins one of them. Some exceptions can be made for off-Islanders that are perceived to be “like us”, a part of the extended family—those races that memorialize fallen police officers or firefighters have no problems with individuals in those fraternities coming to the events—but these exceptions are limited. This is chauvinism in the original sense of the word (Chauvin was a French statesman of the 19th century who believed that which was French was obviously superior). For example, I distinctly remember some of the grumbling heard when the Marty Celic Run raised the prize money enough to attract competitive runners from outside the borough, and the suggestions that there should be separate cash awards for top Islanders, or maybe only for Islanders (the race committee, to its credit, has ignored this). This type of attitude, which numerous non-natives have remarked upon, doesn’t win the borough or its people much respect, and contributes to the perception, as I once remarked in a Staten Island Advance editorial letter, that the people in this borough are provincial and xenophobic—and can’t spell or define either word.

Perhaps the directors and committees of the newer races here will be less affected by that line of thought, or perhaps money will out, as it often does, and they and their more established counterparts will want to maximize turnout and therefore have their events listed and publicized in as many ways and venues as possible. One thing is for sure—this borough not having a single race listed in the NYRRC event calendar been noticed by plenty of others besides me. Only last week I fielded a call from one of the Metropolitan Athletics Congress Grand Prix Series officials asking if there were any races on the Island, or would all the Grand Prix races have to be in the other four boroughs, and I was embarrassed that I didn’t know quite what to tell him. If only to avoid that embarrassment, I’m going to work on getting any races on the Island that I am involved with listed in the calendar in the future, and for this year, at least, in the New York Runner’s regional listings (these are updated with each bi-monthly issue). I would suggest that, no matter their feelings about off-Island competitors, or outsiders in general, that other race directors or committees should make the same effort. It doesn’t cost anything, it might increase the fund intake, and we wouldn’t all look so chauvinistic—and maybe get some more respect in the larger community. (And that, of course, might translate into areas far removed from running.)

Glenn Ribotsky
Chair, New York Road Race OmbudsAssociation
84 Vogel Loop
Staten Island, NY 10314