The 2012 Summer Olympics are here.

Track and Field is one of my favorite events; I hated running as a kid.

Actually, let me correct that; I hated jogging.

I prefer speed walking or riding my mountain bike for daily exercise.

As a kid, the type of running I enjoyed was playing baseball in the lot on 16th street.  You started in the batters box and hit the ball, then you ran the bases. (No black hitting tee for us)

You sprinted down the first baseline like Mickey Rivers. Going from second to home on a single, you felt like Lou Brock. Or, if you possessed blinding speed like Seeley street resident John Cain, you hit the ball in the gap and stretched it into a triple.

While playing basketball in the boys schoolyard at Holy Name. Pushing the ball on the fastbreak like Brian Keating and scoring a layup or hitting a teammate with a pass. Transition basketball was fun. You sprinted up and down the court.

Running around in the streets playing coco-leavo was fun; as was playing tag, red light-green light, and stickball. Do kids still play those games? (Hopping the turnstile took a little bit of running too)

Circling Prospect Park or the diamonds inside the park sucked! The will to run just wasn’t there for me.

I marveled at guys like Mickey McNally, Jimmy Rauthier and the late Vinnie Brunton working hard, going all out around the park. I looked at them and wondered, “how do they do it?”

Discipline, that’s how. Those cats were determined and committed. They were machines!

To be honest though, have you ever seen the mugs on people who jog? They look miserable! I’m sure they feel wonderful deep down inside though.

The New York City Marathon looks like a lot of fun…that is when you are standing on the sidewalk down on 4th avenue watching the runners pass you.

Cross-Country practice for Holy Name was not my cup of tea. Running for Mr. Gruschow was a burden but it’s what you did in the Fall. You had no choice. It would have been so much more enjoyable being in the boys schoolyard playing basketball. My running teammates, Mickey Reilly and Edmund Gallahue, those guys could book!

In the Spring, you ran track. Who can forget those Saturday morning track meets down at Midwood Field? In the sixth grade I came in first place in the 100 yard dash.

When I was sixteen I went jogging around Prospect Park with one of my favorite people of all-time; Mary Kawas. The night before, while hanging out on the parkside we talked about meeting up at 7:30.

“7:30 in the morning or tomorrow night?” I asked.

Mary was one of the greatest athletes from the neighborhood; that includes both male and female. She could outrun most guys. Running was in her DNA. Her brothers Ricky and Charlie where speed demons.

Growing up I had the pleasure of spending a ton of time with “Mary K”…she was the best.

It was a humid, sunny, July morning when we met up at the Circle; Laura Cox joined us. I really didn’t feel like being there.

I get there and both girls are already stretching out.

I’m like, “damn it, am I late?”

As they finished getting loose, I did some bullshit toe-touch and swung my arms around a few times; I was ready!


I ran in basketball sneakers, Mary and Laura had running shoes. That was me, always unprepared.

Together as a threesome we made our way down Prospect Park Southwest. I was rolling; that is until we got to the Parade Grounds. Mary went out ahead of Laura and I.

Mary was like Secretariat at Belmont Park.

On the other side of the park by the zoo, we lost sight of Mary; she was like a Gazelle, clearly leaving us in the dust.

We passed the Botanic Garden and the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway; an ideal time to do some sight-seeing.

Laura was starting to inch ahead of him so I had to catch up.

As you hit Grand Army Plaza, it felt like the run was almost over, you were coming down the stretch. Thoughts of visiting the library came over me. No not really, I wasn’t much of a reader.

“DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME!” (Belmont Racetrack announcer voice)

As we made the left turn and hit Prospect Park West, Mary was nowhere in sight. I had thoughts of crossing the street and asking for a nurse at the Madonna residence.

I was clearly running out of gas, my tank was on “E”.  I might have actually stopped at Garfield Place to rest.

Up ahead at the bronze sculpture on ninth street I stopped and sat down.  Sensing  someone staring at me I peeked over my left shoulder,  glancing  up at Marquis de Lafayette, the French-born general. I could have sworn he said:


I was hearing things, right? He didn’t just say that did he?

Statues don’t talk.

Regardless, I got back up on my back on my aching feet.

Running past the 11th street playground on my left I saw a few young children and their parents entering the park. I felt a hint of motivation come over me.

I passed the bench by 12th street and saw Slick sitting down; he looked at me and gave me the “thumbs up”.

Ahead of me I saw Mary and Laura; they had finished. Mary was sitting on the monument (totem pole).

“Good job Fin!” Mary cried out to me.

I looked at her and shook my head. She was being kind. Mary was always inspirational and encouraging.

I was awful.

She on the other hand was a machine.

Her discipline was Olympic-like; mine sucked. I had none.

It takes a ton of discipline to get your ass up and running.

Kudos to all the athletes in London that are shooting for a Gold medal. And of course, to all the people who run. They find the motivation to get up, tie their running shoes and hit the pavement. I envy you all.

By the way, do people still jog around Prospect Park?


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  1. Willy Wickham says:

    Running is great for the body and the mind. It can really clear the head of all problems while you are just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other.
    But it is not for everybody. I worked at the NY Road Runners Club back in the late ’80’s and took up jogging in the morning. Just a couple of miles was a great way to start the day. I never ran on concrete, only grass or the boardwalk, yet one day my lower back seized up and I could barely get out of bed. I decided that I was not an athlete and stopped running. The back returned in about a week and has been OK since.
    Once met the late, great Greta Waitz at the NYRRC the day after she had won yet another NYC Marathon. I just said hello but a co-worker said to her that she looked tired. She replied that he would be tired too if he did what she did for a living.

  2. Jack Kelly says:

    It’s important to stay in shape that’s why I do my walks as often as possible from the house to the bar and back again. Of course there’s a break in between to catch my breath.

  3. Gene Green says:

    Jack don’t forget the elbow bends you do once you get to the Bar and then you also have all the walking to and from the head.

  4. Jack Kelly says:

    I yet they still ask how we stay in such fine shape.

  5. jimmyvac says:

    Yes Jack, round is a shape.LOL.. Red, Christine Kawas was fast also.. I just run sprints and walk fast .. after tearing ligaments and spraining ankles, my left ankle is arthritic.. you can now measure my vertical leap with sheets of looseleaf..

  6. Kenny Whelan says:

    I enjoy running. Don’t have to wait on anybody. Just get up and go.
    My wife and I ran the NYC Marathon back in 2007. One of the best experiences of my life. Crossing the Verrazano and running all the way down 4th avenue was like running down memory lane.
    Living in Austin, you have to get out there before the sun to avoid the Texas summer heat. I enjoy the quiet.
    Also gets me in shape for Mexican food and margaritas !,


  7. Kenny Whelan says:

    Steve. Wasn’t really serious about it until I turned 40. Decided it was time to drop a few pounds. Since then, have run 7 marathons and lots of half marathons. At this point, I think I will stick with the half. I can usually do them I less than. 2 hours.

  8. Glenn Thomas says:

    Until I get this left knee replaced (which will happen next spring) I have two speeds…slow and stop and I don’t think too much running will be going on afterwards! Low impact!!!!!

  9. Jerry Cole says:


    Back in the day on nany given time you’d find a ton of folks running in the park. I’d see some of my Power teammates as well as many others that I comepeted against from the various CHSAA schools like; Ford, Regis, LaSalle, Nazareth, Xaverian, Loughlin, etc. Often many of us would use the NY RRC or Sri Chimoy races to supplement the down time between seasons.

    If you were running alone, doing the inside loop was the smart thing to do. I’ll tell you this, many times during my training sessions prepping for X-Country season or soccer season that I found out firsthand that things were not always so good on the other side of the park. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s I’d frequently hear bottles or even rocks hittng the ground behind me as I cruised through that tough stretch. Thankfully, I was never hit by anything. Now, I can’t say whether that was just was poor aim on their part or that it was more of an attempt to scare me. Either way, I learned never to look back and always hold something in reserve just in case another gear was needed to get out of Dodge quickly.

    Despite the craziness, training in Prospect Park was something I enjoyed. I won’t say that I really miss it though as now they’d probably be timing me with a calendar rather than a stopwatch. LOL!!


  10. Louie P says:

    Ricky Kawas won Brooklyn champs for Bishop Ford in Prospect Park

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