Brooklyn is toeing the line. The inaugural Brooklyn Marathon kicks off on Sunday, Nov. 20 at 8 a.m. in Prospect Park. In the tradition of New York City marathons, this one has humble roots. The race is capped at 350 runners and the course is contained entirely in Prospect Park, the crown jewel of the borough’s park system. But founder Steve Lastoe hopes it’s just the beginning for this fledgling race.
“I want a race that’s organically part of Brooklyn,” Lastoe said on The New York Running Show, a podcast where I’m, at times, a panelist. “I want this race to be loved by Brooklyn.”
New York City could certainly use another marathon. The ING New York City marathon, the largest in the world, had more than 148,000 applicants for its 45,000 spots in the 2011 race. The demand amongst runners is plentiful, but the supply isn’t.
Hosting a marathon in the city’s most populated borough makes sense. In addition to Prospect Park—a 585-acre green oasis designed by world-renowned landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux who also designed Central Park—Brooklyn has landmarks like the boardwalk at Coney Island, a thriving downtown, a collection of diverse neighborhoods, and one of the most famous bridges in the world. After all, 11 of the New York City Marathon’s 26.2 miles run through Brooklyn.
The first Brooklyn Marathon is not yet underway, but Lastoe, an IT consultant and race organizer, already envisions a borough-wide race that fills the gap for the surplus of runners who want to race a marathon in New York City. He plans to move the race to the spring in the next two years, so that the city has a tent pole marathon in each of the main two marathon seasons. And he hopes to take the race out of the park alone and into the borough streets, perhaps as early as next year.
“Why didn’t you do a course outside of the park?” Lastoe said critics have asked. “Obviously, I would have loved to.”
After hatching the initial plans for the marathon, Lastoe said it became apparent the easiest way to get the race off the ground was to start grass roots like the New York City Marathon itself, which began in 1970 entirely in Central Park. It wasn’t until 1976 that the course was redrawn to travel through all five boroughs.
“I thought this was the way to go,” Lastoe said. “Do it in the park. Get the credibility. Get the experience.”
I came to know Lastoe back in spring of 2010, when I became a contributor to his website NYCRUNS.com, a resource for New York area runners that includes a metro-area racing calendar, tools for local clubs, and race registration. I’ve since partnered with Lastoe at a few events including panel discussions at Social Media Week and the JackRabbit NYC Running Show. For my part, I’ll be at the start to sing the national anthem.
The race starts at 8 a.m. on Center Drive in Prospect Park. Runners will complete six full loops of the park drive plus three smaller loops, staying inside of the recreation lane. With a few sharp hills, it’s a tough course for any marathoner. But those 350 runners who brave the race will be able to one-day say, “I ran the first Brooklyn Marathon.”
Here’s hoping, New York City.
Karla Bruning is an award-winning journalist and running nerd. She has completed four marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.