Kim Clark Returns to Central Park to Celebrate Her 20th Anniversary of Winning the Mini 10K
At age 36, Kim Griffin Clark won the 1998 NYRR New York Mini 10K in 35:26. “My goal was to run as fast as possible, so I focused on my technique, rhythm, and pace,” she recalls. “It was exciting to race as a local elite and win a race so rich in tradition, one that symbolizes the development and promotion of women as athletes.”
Twenty years later, Clark will return to Central Park to race this year’s Mini on June 9. The event has been a staple in Clark’s 41-year running career.
The California native started running in high school at age 15. “It provided a way for me to feel more confident,” she recalls. Then in college, when Clark was Kim Schnurpfeil at Stanford University, things really took off. In 1982, she won the NCAA title in the 10,000 meters. Ten days later, her final exams behind her, she won the national title at the same distance.
That fall, Clark traveled to Japan to compete in an international track meet. “There were so many famous athletes on that trip,” recalls Clark, who placed third in the 10,000 meters. “It was my 21st birthday that night and members of the team bought me a cake to celebrate!”
After Stanford came medical school at Tulane University and the start of a career in cardiac critical care. Clark moved to the New York City area in 1988 for her residency at Mount Sinai, drawn to the area after having run the NYRR New York Mini 10K in 1984.
Though Clark had to dial back competing while she was working 80- to 100-hour weeks during her residency, running continued to be a passion and she enjoyed many races from the mile to the marathon while living in NYC. She became the mother of two healthy girls, Katherine and Caroline, when she was in her early 30s, and raising her daughters became her primary focus. Clark got a second wind and began competing again once her girls were past toddlerhood. She’d log miles in Central Park on the way to and from work, showering at the hospital before her shifts.
The training paid off, as Clark compiled lengthy list of second-career running accomplishments: At 38, she was the first American woman at the 1999 New York City Marathon, finishing in 2:48:29; in 2000, she ran the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon after qualifying with a time of 2:44; in 2001, at age 40, she clocked a 4:48 at the Fifth Avenue Mile; and in 2002 she broke the American masters record for the indoor mile, running 4:59:17.
Today, 56-year-old Clark runs to maintain fitness, keep her energy levels high at work, and achieve balance in her super-busy life. At North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Clark works 16-hour overnight shifts caring for patients recovering from heart surgery and those with end-stage heart failure. “It’s definitely a stressful job where people are dying and we’re trying to keep them alive,” she says. “Running is mandatory for my mental health. I appreciate the focus that it requires—the mind-body connection and the practice of channeling energy while relaxing the body. It’s a type of meditation in motion.”
Divorced and remarried, Clark has a large family that includes five adult children, ages 19 to 24. Still, she’s found time for a new hobby: “I’m living my childhood dream of riding and competing in horse jumping. My daughters did it in high school and when they went off to college I inherited their two horses. Now I’m honing my riding skills.”
Clark’s other passion outside of running is travel. She and her husband have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and hiked the Inca Trail. This year, they’ll go scuba diving in Malaysia. “I’m trying to travel far and wide while I’m in good physical shape,” she says.
While her two daughters—now 23 and 24 and both working in finance—didn’t latch onto running like their mom, Clark instilled in them the importance of pursuing a passion in life. “It’s important for everyone to have something they love to do and feel inspired to devote their time and energy to, and then grow and develop a skill within that passion,” she says.
Clark will be bringing her passion to the 2018 NYRR New York Mini 10K. “I’m happy to participate in a celebration of women of all ages and abilities who are running for many reasons and in doing so, maintaining their physical and mental well-being,” she says. “As a physician, I recognize that regular participation in a sport such as running can do more for health than many medicines.”