The Other Island
As we approach the 2018 NYRR Staten Island Half, Peter Ciaccia, president of events for NYRR and race director of the TCS New York City Marathon, teamed up with Michael Schnall, vice president of government relations and community investment for NYRR and a Staten Island resident, to take a look at the history of New York Road Runners’ presence on Staten Island.
A Hidden Gem
Only a ferry ride away from Manhattan, the borough of Staten Island is a runner’s dream, with wide open spaces that offer a reason for everyone to #GetOutToRun. Check out our recent post on ways to get active in Staten Island.
In addition to Silver Lake Park and Conference House Park, where NYRR holds our weekly free NYRR Open Runs, Staten Island has 35 miles of trails in the Greenbelt, beautiful walking and running paths in Bloomingdale Park on the South Shore, a new three-mile greenway path along the perimeter of Freshkills Park called the New Springville Greenway, and 2.5 miles of oceanfront promenade on the FDR Boardwalk at South Beach and Midland Beach, along Staten Island’s eastern shore.
The SI Running Community
Founded in 1871, the Staten Island Athletic Club is the oldest and largest of the running clubs on Staten Island. Also competing in the local running scene are the Richmond Rockets, Oakwood Soldiers, Club Atletico Hispano Correcaminos, and youth clubs Ocean Breeze WaveRunners and Island Express Track Club. During any given week, you may find runners from one or more of the Staten Island running clubs taking part in NYRR races.
The city’s support of the running community was bolstered with the opening of the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in 2015. This 135,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art, IAAF-certified indoor track and field facility in Staten Island is an elite-level hydraulically-banked competition track that can convert from eight to six lanes and incline up to 4.5 feet. Ocean Breeze will host the 2019 and 2020 USATF Indoor Championships.
Deep Roots and Semper Gumby
NYRR’s love affair with Staten Island started in 1976 when the New York City Marathon moved to a five-borough race with the start line on Staten Island’s Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and Fort Wadsworth becoming the mustering point where the runners wait before their 26.2-mile journey.
The man who coordinated the magic at the start on race day for the first quarter century was Staten Island resident and retired firefighter Vic Navarra. Following the credo of Semper Gumby—always flexible—he was able to handle many of the logistical challenges that came with moving thousands of runners on and off Staten Island. In 1985, Vic co-founded the Staten Island Half.
Sadly, Vic passed away in December 2007 after a battle with cancer. To honor him, the NYRR Staten Island Half awards the Fire Lieutenant Victor J. Navarra FDNY Family of Champions Trophy, presented annually to the fastest New York City Fire Department (FDNY) members at the NYRR Staten Island Half.
On the Move
Using the Staten Island ferry to transport our Manhattan runners to the Staten Island Half, the start line was positioned near the St. George Ferry Terminal. The course ran down Bay Street toward Fort Wadsworth, then out to Father Capodanno Boulevard and back to the terminal’s parking area. The race had a little over 1,000 finishers in the early days and saw moderate growth over the years. Roadwork required some tweaks to be made, and in the 1990s the finish was moved inside Fort Wadsworth. This change proved to complicate the runner flow, as well as transportation to the Island, so eventually we moved the finish back to the St. George Ferry Terminal.
As demand for the race grew and construction began on Staten Island’s 630-foot New York Wheel and the Empire Outlets, another reconfiguration was necessary, and in 2014 we moved the NYRR Staten Island Half finish line inside Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the Staten Island Yankees. We saw 9,552 runners finish that year. But as construction continues, so do the tweaks. Last year we moved the start and finish to Bay Street, which required mileage to be made up by adding the boardwalk and the back hill of Fort Wadsworth, a climb that is rewarded by the beautiful views of Manhattan.
In the near future we will see the completion of the Empire Outlets, and the NYRR Staten Island Half will take on a whole new look.
This year on Sunday, October 14, we’re looking forward to welcoming everyone to Staten Island and cannot wait to celebrate your accomplishments at the NYRR Staten Island Half finish line.