Szczesiul. Sahishnu. “Howie and Beckjord Breeze in Last Ultra at Flushing Meadow.” Ultrarunning. July-August 1992.
Flushing Meadow Corona Park in Flushing, Queens, New York, has been the home of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Tea for the last ten years. At least eight courses have been used within the confines of the former World’s Fair during this time. Two-mile races, sprints, mile relays, marathons, 10-km, and ultras have been conducted within the stretches of asphalt that make up New York City’s third largest parkland. Many, many age group, national, and world records have been set on the various courses. So it was with a touch of sadness that we ran our last race in this venerable park, this year’s Seven Day Race.
Fittingly enough, two of the more prolific winners in multidays the last few years won again. Al Howie, the amazing Scotsman living in Canada, prevailed for the men with 531 miles, an Suprabha Beckjord (formerly Schecter) won for the fifth straight time with 488 miles for the ladies, finishing third overall.
Howie placed himself apart from the competition with a first day total of 120 miles. Race record holder Charlie Eidel kept close with 108, but something seemed wrong. Charlie later said his head wasn’t in it, although he was free of injury. After 50 more miles, he called it quits. Trishul Cherns, always a factor in the multidays, tried hard to close the gap on the second day, but Al was too strong.
Surprisingly, Al’s second day total of 83 miles was eclipsed by Suprabha, who in doing so snared the American women’s 48-hour best with 191 miles, breaking Donna Hudson’s 189+ record. She is America’s best multiday specialist still running the long ones. Antana Locs, coming off an impressive showing in last year’s 1,300-mile race, was expected to challenge Beckjord for the seven-day title but felt flat coming into the race. She stayed close and looked good for 48 hours but then fell victim to fatigue.
The women were the real story of the race. With the weather cool and pleasant, the women seemed to have the better time in the race, excepting Howie and Cherns. Dipali Cunningham, the speedster of the group, began to challenge Antana for second place. By the end of the fourth day she was within striking distance of the experienced Locs and did overtake her at the end of five days. Meanwhile, Lahory Brummel and Mary Ann Trusz showed consistency and steadiness as they fought for fourth place. The women would eventually place six in the top ten overall. Sarita Earp of Canada and Subarata Cunningham of New Zealand were doing their best to stay on the track despite injuries. Ruth Greher, the novice in the group, was exploring life beyond 24 hours and finding it a whole new experience. Her six-day total of 341 miles, although not a record, was a fine effort, and she showed a lot of class in the face of injury and fatigue.
Back in the men’s race, a 65-year old pedestrian was shaking up the field after four days. Walker Method Istvanik was holding court with his colorful barbs every lap and relentless walking style. By the end of three days, Method had a firm grip on fourth place and was challenging all and sundry. Then, as he has in the past, Method just snuck away into his old vintage station wagon and mysteriously vanished on the fifth day. Too bad, if he could have lasted a couple more days, he might have walked into age-group history. Such is the story of the long ones. Things may be bad one day, but rosy the nest (or vice-versa). Just ask Noivedya Brower. He couldn’t hold any solid food down for days yet persevered until the end of the race. He likened himself to a snail, but his effort yielded a workmanlike third place for the men with 427 miles. Satyajit Saha ran a good novice race with 367 miles for seven days, earning fourth place. Andy Lovy took over-50 age group honors with 333 miles.
Antana finally rounded into form on the last day, cranking out 72 miles and taking second place for the women with 57 miles. Dipali succumbed to fatigue and finished with 450 miles, a PB by 83 miles!
Al Howie, although not pressed and certainly thinking about the upcoming 64-stage Trans-Am race starting in June, still showed good staying power and finished with 531 miles. Al said he experimented with sleep schedules in the middle of the race; witch threw him off his usual high totals. Plus the week before the race he ran 131 miles in the Vancouver 24-hour race, so his 24-hour total here was a good indication of his fitness for the Trans Am and beyond. Al seemed to miss Charlie and Tomas Rusec, the swift Czech who became ill a few days before the race.
In retrospect, the Seven-Day was filled with oneness and camaraderie among not only runners but helpers as well. As the chapter of Flushing Meadow Park closes for the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, a nw location waits for the return of ultras and multidays to New York. New road courses have been found on Randall’s Island and Ward Island, only a few miles from the old race site. We hope the next ten years will be as fruitful as the last ten. Thanks to all the runners who make our races feel so good to put on. See you in the fall.