NYC Marathon Champions, Indoor Record-Seekers, Tackle 211 Laps in Armory Indoor Marathon, by Sabrina Yohanes


nb armory.jpgThe NB Armory Track, photo by NBIndoorNationals

The NB Indoor Track, after a winter of indoor track meets with the longest distance perhaps 25 laps, is now hosting a race of 211 laps on the morning of April 9.

Here is the story on the Armory Indoor Marathon...

NYC Marathon Champions, Indoor Record-Seekers Tackle 211 Laps in Armory Indoor Marathon

By Sabrina Yohannes

Norbert Sander won the New York City Marathon in 1974 and he'll be taking part in a New York City marathon this weekend, albeit a significantly different one. The president and CEO of the Armory Foundation in upper Manhattan will be running in a relay team that will collectively cover the 26.2-mile distance indoors at the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory, as part of a three-day inaugural event.

"I'm doing a relay, it is a bit different, but I feel a connection to the distance," Sander told RunBlogRun on Thursday evening. Relay teams will race over the distance in several heats on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 8-10. Individual marathoners running the whole 42.195km - just shy of 211 laps on the 200m track -- will attack the men's and women's indoor marathon world records on Saturday afternoon.

"You know, I'm 30 years too late," joked Sander with a chuckle. "Thirty years ago, I would have tried for the record - or 40 years ago." The men's record is 2:27:21, set in 2010 by Michael Wardian in Arlington, Virginia, and the women's is 2:53:53, clocked in 2014 by Monika Kalicinska in Toronto. Sander finished the 1974 NYC Marathon in 2:26.30.

"I would surely have taken a shot at this record," said Sander, the founder of the Armory Foundation, whose academic college prep programs will benefit from this weekend's events. "But at the same time, I'm happy to be just running, being a part of the team, representing the Armory and contributing to the kids."

The world record attempt in the inaugural edition is set for 1:30pm Saturday. It features Manhattanite and 2015 Miami Marathon champion (2:55:31) Allie Kieffer attacking the women's mark; and seven runners chasing the men's, including Calum Neff of Texas who set a Guinness World Record when he ran the 2016 Katy Half Marathon in 1:11:27 while pushing a stroller, and world 50K champion Tony Migliozzi of Ohio.

"Their chances are pretty good," said the Armory's director of college track and field Jack Pfeifer of the record chasers. None of the athletes has run an indoor marathon before.

In a phone interview Thursday while he was still researching the competition, Neff singled out Migliozzi, whom he is familiar with, as the major threat.

"He'll be my top pick, honestly," Neff, 31, told RunBlogRun. "If he's healthy and in good shape and he's been training for this, on paper, he is the clear winner." Neff ran a road marathon personal best of 2:22:59 at the 2015 Houston marathon and Migliozzi finished the same race in 2:17:27.

"I really look forward to that: When you have someone like that in the race, it makes it more enjoyable, having company," added Neff, who will be facing an additional challenge Saturday in that he will be traveling from Texas that morning, but he said he hoped that wouldn't have much impact. "I do travel enough that I have myself pretty well-organized. I usually get up on the plane as much as I can; keep moving. I'll stay hydrated and wear some compression gear."

Asked which he thought would be tougher between an indoor marathon and racing with a stroller, the oilfield technology company employee Neff, who set the half-marathon record in January while pushing his little girl Holland in a stroller, was unequivocal.

"The indoor marathon, by far, is going to be a lot more painful," he said. "The stroller running is enjoyable to me because I'm with my daughter. It really is just normal running. ... It's not a lot of resistance, but the indoor marathon, I feel, would be constant cornering."

The entire Armory NYC Indoor Marathon event kicked off early Friday morning when investment firm Scopia Capital's eight-man relay team tackled the constant turns and clocked 2:48:59, with anchor Eric Fischer running the last 15 laps in addition to his two earlier legs of 17 laps each.

The nearly 40 relay teams are made up of two to eight members, with each member running no more than three legs in the race. Each leg and each member's total share of the race can be any number of laps.

"They all do it any way they want," said Pfeifer. "Everyone has to run at least once and if you run, you have to run at least one full lap, because the only exchanges are going to be at the same 200m mark." There are no batons, and the races are electronically-timed.

The setting and atmosphere differs significantly from a road marathon's often varying scenery, but busier heats should have plenty of viewer support including from trackside teammates. "The Armory's a great place to watch an event," said Sander. "It's very crowd-friendly. ... People are there, the track is fast and it's got banked turns, so there'll be some variety."

"We're going to have a lot of music, we're going to have inspirational videos, little snippets of movies to pump them up - Chariots of Fire, Rocky, those sorts of things," said meet director and Armory Foundation executive vice president Jonathan Schindel.

Indoor marathons were popular in the early decades of the last century, with NYC's Madison Square Garden providing a couple of world records, and the event has been making a comeback in recent years, with races held in Virginia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Toronto, among other locations.

"The last world record in New York was March 1st, 1910," said Sander. "It was a fellow from Sweden, Thure Johannson, and he ran 2:36.55." Madison Square Garden regular Joie Ray set a world best of 2:34:54 in Boston in 1928 that stood until 2010.

The idea for the 2016 Armory event emerged in talks between Sander and race-walking Olympian Elliott Denman. "We were talking about having some indoor walking - this is about two or three years ago - and we started to broach the subject of a marathon," said Sander, adding that when Schindel joined the Armory staff recently and heard the idea, he built on it. Schindel suggested "relays that add up to a marathon surrounding the world record attempt," and the whole event functioning as a fundraiser and festival, said Sander.

The resulting meet is being streamed live on the Armory's website, Prizes will be awarded to the fastest men's team, women's team and mixed gender team (with an equal number of men and women). In the individual race, a world record bonus is on offer as are prizes for the top three men and women (though this year's race can only award one women's prize, to sole entrant Kieffer).

Relay teams selected their race start times, and one Saturday morning heat has proven to be the most popular, with some 20 teams racing then, said Schindel. He also said there are two or three teams with just two members - which means one runner on each team will be covering a half marathon or more.

Sander will be joined on his team by the first NYC Marathon champion Gary Muhrke. The team, named the Hastings Striders for Sander's Westchester County, NY village, Hastings-on-Hudson, also includes Sander's wife Bridget and a friend - both women have qualified to run the April Boston marathon - as well as another friend and her college-student daughter.

The six-member team will likely evenly divide the 26.2 miles into three roughly equal legs per runner. "So each of us will do a total of about four miles and we'll do a mile and a half or so each time," said Sander, who currently runs about four miles daily on a regular basis, but hasn't raced much at the Armory since heading it.

"I'm not a big competitor anymore," said Sander, who remains the only male New Yorker to have won the NYC Marathon, and whose non-athletic life accomplishments include a medical career as an internist. "I've been racing competitively since I was nine years old, so I did plenty of races and that's kept me happy!"

His wife ran 4:10 and her friend about 3:50 for a Boston marathon qualifier, he said, adding, "My wife's run 3:07 in the past, in her heyday."

Muhrke, who won the 1970 NYC Marathon in 2:31:38, still competes. "Gary's in pretty good shape," said Sander, pointing to recent 1500m clockings of Muhrke's but keeping the distance of Saturday's relay in perspective when envisioning goals for the team. "At the end of the day, if we average 9 minutes a mile, that's pretty good; if we go lower than that, that'd be good."

"Two past winners of the NYC Marathon are running together on the same team, and also, the two co-presidents of the New York Road Runners are going to be running on the Road Runners' team, and they're running at the same time," noted Pfeifer, of NYRR head executives Michael Capiraso and Peter Ciaccia, who compete in the same Saturday morning heat as the Hastings team.

"There's one team of adolescents, 12- and 14-year-olds, and there's a family team where their two kids, ages five and seven, are going to run as part of the team," said Pfeifer, mentioning some other teams running over the weekend. "I imagine the kids are very excited about it."

They won't be the only ones enjoying themselves this weekend. "I'm delighted to even participate in the whole thing," said Sander.

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