19 September 2012


A big chunk of the 2012 NYRR Bronx 10-Mile took place on the Grand Concourse.  Having lived in Brooklyn for the past 15 years, I think of the Grand Concourse as the Bronx's Ocean Parkway, without the nice tree shades.  I actually lived in the Bronx for a few months in early 1980, in the Kingsbridge part, not too far from where Fordham Road meets the Concourse.  Alexander's department store used to be there, then it got replaced by Caldor's, who knows what's at the corner now.  I, perhaps along with other Vietnamese, think of Grand Concourse as "răng con cọp", or "tiger's teeth", purely because the consonants in the phrase sound similar, i.e. R.C.C.

A few people complained that the Grand Concourse was boring.  I think it is fine.  You need a wide boulevard so people can run in both directions, while the cars still can use the service roads.  NYRR is an NYC-based group so its races have to be urban runs, along city streets, in the canyons overshadowed by tall buildings.

The race started off near Joyce Kilmer Park, up the Grand Concourse then at Moshulu Parkway made a left toward that school complex consisting of Lehman College and Bronx Science High School.  The 2012 race was my second visit to the area and I still don't know where Bronx Science is.  I've heard so much about it, I would like to at least take a photo of its front door.  However, during both visits I was there to run a race and there was no time to stop and take photos.  Actually, with the Bronx Half in 2010 I did not care too much about my finish time and did stop to take photos, but not of Bronx Science.  Anyway, a turn here and there and the runners were back on Moshulu heading east, then turn around at some point to head west then back on Grand Concourse for the long stretch to the finish line.

I recalled that the start was around 161st Street and Moshulu was around 200th Street, so there should be only 40 or so blocks to go, no?  If 20 blocks equal one mile, then there would be just 2 miles to go once we were back on Grand Concourse.  I looked forward to each intersection but they seemed so far apart yet the street numbers went up by only one.  As I learned later on, these Bronx streets don't follow the 20-block rule.  They are much further apart.  Indeed, the return trip on Grand Concourse was 3.5 miles, not 2.

Something nice with the return trip on the Grand Concourse was that I bumped into Mr. James Lu, the 74-year-old runner featured in this video, http://vimeo.com/42746005 .  I saw him before after many other NYRR races but did not know his history or his name.  He certainly was a unique character.  At the Bronx 10M, I greeted him by name as I ran by him.  At the water station we both stopped but afterward I took off before him.  It is nothing to brag about to beat someone 30 years older but it had to be done, as the alternative would be worse.  I'm sure other older runners beat me to the finish line, but I did what I could.

As I walked to the garage, the sight of people queuing up to pay at the ticket machine was discouraging.  I was not too tired from the 10-mile run but standing on line for a long time was not something I wanted to do.  Out of the 3 machines near the entrances I entered through, one was out-of-order.  I walked over to the other entrance, where another 3 machines stood and the line was not too long.  It turned out one of the machines was also broken.  The one on the left supposedly would only take credit card only.  I was on a queue that supposedly could use either cash or credit card.  One runner did not have a credit card so he asked me to switch with him and I did.  Then it turned out he did not have enough small bills to pay the $8 fee.  I could have changed it for him but just to be safe I told him let me finish my transaction first.  It was a good, lucky move, as I discovered shortly afterward the credit card reader was not working and people before me had to pay cash.  Adding injury to insult, the machine did not give change either.  I think one or two people inserted $20 or $10 bills and got nothing in return.  Later on I saw one of the 2 parking staff walking around with wads of bills, maybe they were going to refill the the machine.

When I got to the machine, I had enough small bills to cover my $8 and had some bills left.  A woman behind me only had $5 so I gave her $3 in singles.  She wanted to know how she would pay me back but I told her to give it to charity when she gets around to it.  Pay it forward, that's how I like to do things sometimes.  Random act of kindness, too, I'd like to think that was.  Automation is great to some extent but when it does not work and there are no humans around it's a total pain in the ass.  I never drove to Yankee Stadium so I never park there.  I wonder how bad it would be when there was a game and these dang machines don't work properly.  Hopefully next time, if there will be one, the parking company can do a better job at serving the runners community.

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