BKLYN MILE: 2021 Recap
By Kara Dudley
With each passing year, as it takes over that famed one-mile stretch of real estate on Kent Avenue, the Brooklyn Mile further cements itself as key a race for the New York City running community. This past August 8th, on what was it’s 5th in-person running, that feeling was stronger than ever.
It was an overcast morning as I rolled out of bed and made my way towards the ferry from Southstreet Seaport to South Williamsburg. Rain was in the forecast and I began to fear the cloud that it may cast over the day as I showed my ticket, made my way to the top deck, and did my best to avoid the puddles collecting water from the night before. I put my headphones in and began to focus when I noticed two other men on the boat that were wearing running shoes. I glanced further up to notice the BKLYN MILE bibs emblazoned across their stomachs and realized we were headed to the same place. We made eye contact and smiled knowing that we were among a group of people on the ferry this early in the morning going to do the same wild thing. At that moment it struck me that this was going to be a memorable day of togetherness, comradery, and inspiration from others who all had the same goal: to run a mile on the streets -something many of us hadn’t done for more than a year- and share that experience with the New York City running community.
The Masters Heat
As I walked off the ferry, the scene was set: Kent Ave was blocked off from South 10th street all the way to North 9th, NYPD lined the course, the start and finish lines were decorated with the event’s signature red, and the “BKLYN MILE” logo was seen all along the course, on signage, on the shirts of runners, and metaphorically in the faces of those waiting to trial their mile time. The women’s masters division -honored with the first wave of the day- started to line up while the clouds began to give way to the sun simultaneously. The weather had taken a twist and decided to match the mood of the occasion as if celebrating the two years of waiting it took to relaunch the in-person event.
In a nod to a race field consisting of 50% women, Chinatown Runners founder Victoria Lo was on the mic announcing the race alongside Jessie Zapo, founder of Girls Run NYC. As the gun went off on the first heat of the day, the energy was palpable. It was evident that the women’s masters event was composed of runners diverse in every way, ranging from age 40 all the way to 72. As the front of the pack zoomed ahead, there was magic in those that floated towards the end of the point-to-point course. I jogged alongside the outskirts of the route as I witnessed two strangers on the course introduce themselves to one another as they were making their way down the line. I watched in wonder as they continued to make conversation and ran side by side all the way through the finish line.
On the speedy side of things, Jennifer St. Jean took the win by 33 seconds with a masters course record time of 5:15 before the men’s masters division went out and the W was snatched up by New Jersey’s Chuck Schneekloth clocking in at 4:44, trailed closely by Sean Quealy and former Great Britain 10K Olympian, John Henwood.
Men & Women’s Open
Next up came the women’s open mile. Corinne Fitzgerald broke the tape (that was held by a young girl from event beneficiary, Girls on the Run NYC, who likely now have dreams about breaking it themselves one day) for the Women’s Open heat with a time of 5:03. The Men’s Open was won by Gerard Connelly in 4:27, just one second quicker over the line than John Butler. After four heats had gone by, and with all of those participants now assembled near the finish, it was time for the much-talked-about runners that came here to battle it out in the Fast Movers invitational races.
Quiz: Why are the invitational waves called “Fast Movers”? Because the race producer can’t stand the word “elite”!
In the Trials of Miles Women’s Fast Movers wave, the gun went off and this field of incredibly talented women blazed down the thoroughfare that so many had already stomped down. Two athletes broke the tape in a photo finish, Dani Aragon and Eleanor Fulton, with Dani ultimately taking the win and setting a new course record for the women in 4:34. Then it was time for the Men’s Fast Movers to give it their best shot. The excitement was building to see what Craig Engels would do, who took 4th place at the US Olympic Trials in the 1500 meter this year, just barely missing his ticket to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The BKLYN MILE was one stop on his tour of the country taking on a slew of one-mile races and charming crowds along the way. With 300 meters to go, Engels was boxed in by the pack when he took a risky swing around the left-hand side to come into the lead and drive it all the way through to the finish line coming in first with a time of 4:02 and also setting a new course record for the men. The crowd went wild and Engels stuck around to crack a cold one and meet fans in the aftermath.
Quita Francique Friends & Family
As the crowd was coming down off a huge high from Craig’s win, the Quita Francique Friends & Family Mile was the perfect heartwarming finale to end the day. This is a mile for runners of all ages to compete side by side. It is an annual sight to behold as there were super fast kids running, a man who carried his baby on his shoulders all the way through, parents running next to their children, parents sprinting with strollers, fast dogs, and a woman wearing a shirt that read “I Run Cuz I Kicked Cancer’s Ass!!!” The crowd was astounded by the winner of the heat that was snagged by the small by mighty 11-year-old Melvin Jarnit-Bjergsoe with a time of 5:30. The final finishers of the day came in with a time of 22:17. The juxtaposition of these two runners is the perfect way to summarize the BKLYN MILE: a place for the speedy to set records and equally for families who are coming out to take part in a true NYC community event. The BKLYN Mile will forever hold a special place in the hearts of those who attended in 2021. The magnitude of the event was not lost on all of those who endured the year that was 2020+ and was finally able to come together and experience the beauty of this race once again.