The NBR profiles grew out of a desire to chronicle team members’ ever-changing perspectives on running. The overall aim of the profiles is to integrate stories about how non-running life structures inform and define the very discourse of running. They also strive to capture how NBR members are actually transformed by the rigors and pleasures of running itself. Ultimately, the profiles are snapshots of the club in time.
NBR Profile No. 12
Rodrigo Toscano talks with SAYO YAMAGATA
Sayo Yamagata’s very first NBR group run was a Tuesday Night Tempo Run deep in the winter of 2010. Her regular running buddy had opted out that particular night (buddies—take heed). She had figured that there just had to be an organized group somewhere in the area, folks who could relate to her the safest running routes, folks who would pull her along like a sled attached to well-trained and even better groomed huskies. As it turned out, she DNF’d (“did not finish”) that fateful run. Howling huskies faded as they traipsed over some bridge or intersection. The “core” NBR runners she met that night have since been superimposed into a single composite image (the NBR runner will be unveiled in the next profile, stay tuned).
Scroll ahead two years: Sayo takes 1st place in the Valentines 5k in Prospect Part, 2nd place in women’s overall at the Greenpoint 5k (with a time of 18:19), 3rd in her age group at the Queens Half Marathon, and places top ten in two 5k’s and the 5th Avenue Mile. She mainly competes in “club points” races (“heart points” / non-team scoring NBR runners are toootally cool with that!)
Sayo is originally from West LA/Malibu/Pasadena/Santa Monica. She’s been a swimmer, an equestrian, and an ice skater. She now does Yoga (regular and hot), cycling, plyometrics, and apple or pear fig or peach bourbon or classic pumpkin—“a variety of other wintery potpies—what have you.”
What we have here is a musicologist runner who lives in Bushwick that can run you a 3:14:50 marathon after only a month of crash training. Perhaps not “professionally” recommended, but über gutsy, vintage NBR.
NBR Profile No. 11
Rodrigo Toscano talks with BRIAN CALAVAN
Brian Calavan grew up in the middle and south of Riverside County, California—stretching from Orange County to the Colorado River—in Moreno Valley (Brown Valley) and Temecula (Pechangan for “sun shining through the mist in the morning”).
As a young boy, he did his share of “dirt trekking,” running on horse trails, weaving through tumbleweeds, shooting through vineyards, trespassing ranches and gliding up steep mountain slopes for mile after mile. His first spin with NBR was on a “Morning After Run” at 6:15 a.m. on the 1st of August 2011. He had been on the hunt for a running team for some time, so when his peeled eyes (powered by a freshly-healed peroneal brevis tendon) spied a genuine live North Brooklyn Runner in the ancestral homeland of NBR (McCarren Park), his days of “hobbling through subway stations in winter’s gloom”—came to a sudden halt. Soon, Brian was organizing non-official NBR group runs for the “Just Southers” (in Northside dialect, “Southies”) based in Prospect Park.
A decent High School runner (several times reaching California Interscholastic Federation – Southern Section’s prelims and finals in track and cross country), he continued to run right after graduation. That summer, he steadied into a “base phase” regimen of 70+ miles/week. Two weeks before moving to Berkeley, he e-mailed the UCB track coach and asked if there were a tryout in the works. The coach said he had recruited several “stud freshmen” and that there wouldn’t be any walk-ons. Still, he inquired about Brian’s times (which Brian withheld because he knew they weren’t blue-chip) and welcomed him to try out.
Not sure of where he was, physically and mentally, Brian went out and measured a 6-mile course one afternoon with his car. He decided to run a time trial the very next morning, on his own. He ran a steady-and-easy 5:40/mi. pace the whole way to 34:00, remembering when 17:00 for a 3-mile race was hard. The college tryout that followed was a 5-mile out and back on the Fire Trail in the Berkeley Hills, and though he outdid all of the freshman favorites and would have, with 27:45, been 19th on the Top 20 All-Time UCB Freshman for the course, he disappointedly did not make the team. Out of a developed sense of self-preservation and a need for escape from the intensities of school life, he continued running every day. That very next spring, out of sheer moxie, he ran a 12-mile long run in the Berkeley hills on a Saturday morning. He felt light and energetic, and noticed his time was hovering at around sub-6:00/mi. pace; he then dug deep into the dusty, dirt trail. When he was done, stretching in front of the dorms, he did the math from the time on his watch: 5:20/mi. for 12 miles.
NBR Profile No. 10
Rodrigo Toscano talks with KATE MAXWELL
Kate Maxwell technically joined NBR just before the Marathon in late October 2010 after seeing a flyer at the Turkey’s Nest. Lurking the NBR googlegroups for eight months (fascinated by posts from the likes of “The Boisterous One,” “The Smartalec,” “The Sarcastic One,” “The Wise One,” “The Arguer,” and “The Encourager”) she finally pulled the trigger and was soon sporting a crisp, new white NBR singlet. She discovered she had been missing the thrill of occasional competition (“it’s a fire inside me that I can’t suppress for too long”). As a winning 400 meter hurdler for Central Michigan University (running a 62 second 400 meter hurdles!) she was just beginning to explore longer distances.
After an initial setback (ITB / knife-to-the-knee jobber), she went out on her first run—the Bridge and Coffee run. That’s where she met Linda Daniels, Allison Malecki, Misha Bittleston and Mike Finelli, later mixing up at El Beit. In the summer, she was a regular at the “HellKats” Thursday morning track run; since then, she’s shifted towards the Thursday evening track workout. Her favorite regular run, however, is the monthly “Salmon Run” (led by Charlie Radin). Kate has also been toying around with the idea of starting either a Monday 8 a.m. run or a Friday pre-happy hour run (someone lend her a hand!)
It’s hard to believe but, before starting to race this past summer (2011), the only distance she had ever competed in longer than 800 meters was the 5k, which she did in high school cross country. Since then she’s run nearly the whole spectrum of NYRR races: Fifth Avenue Mile – 10th in age group, 5:25; Join the Voices 5M – 9th in age group, 32:35; Joe Kleinerman 10k – 3rd in age group, 41:00; NYC Triathlon – 6th in age group, 2:41:52; Coogan’s 5k, 18:54; NYC Half Marathon, 1:26:10. Her first marathon will be in Berlin in September. Into this mix she adds weight circuits twice a week, bikram yoga once a week, plus cycling, as well as hiking or rock climbing whenever possible. Gymnastics was her first love / sport obsession (“vaulting—I can’t think of anything much more fun than sprinting up to a giant platform and flipping around in the air before landing back on your feet”).
Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, raised in a suburb between Detroit and Ann Arbor, Kate now lives in Williamsburg, some four blocks from the track. If at some point she takes a Polaroid of you it’s because at some point she’s just taken a Polaroid of you.
NBR Profile No. 9
Rodrigo Toscano talks with IMAN WILKERSON
Iman Wilkerson had an NBR encounter of the close kind sometime in June 2010 (at around the time of the going away party for Matt Decker and Owen Kendall), but she didn’t actually morph into the alien blob until December of that year. The running club she belonged to at the time was Urban Feet (“a club that used the excuse of running to get together and drink”). Todd Zino, it turns out, had blobbed into the goo some months before, a joyous liquefaction that would soon juice both Kurt Cavanaugh and Iman into the sacred soup.
Iman hails from a small town in North Carolina. She went to college in Raleigh, transferring to NYC about nine years ago. From her elementary school until her sophomore year in High School, she played basketball. She placed 1st in several high school 400-meter meets. Since running with NBR, she’s PR’d no less than five times (in the 4 mile, 10k, 10 mile, half marathon, and full marathon). She placed 1st in the PPTC 5k (earning her not a Van Cortland Park 5k tasty carrot cake, but a PPTC brushed aluminum medal) and got a 2nd place (6th overall female) in the Queens Half Marathon. She also had it seriously out for the 5th Avenue Mile – and dropped a 5:21 PR!
Iman usually tries to attend the Thursday night speed workouts (“hurdling over tots, dodging soccer balls falling from the sky”), but, for the moment, she’s chosen to forego other North Brooklyn runs that require gliding over underground oil spill plumes while inhaling polyurethane off-gassing breezes; instead, she runs with the JSONB (“Just South of North Brooklyn”) crew in Prospect Park, delectating in the oxygen-rich fog of the last remaining primeval forest on Long Island.
NBR Profile No. 8
Rodrigo Toscano talks with JAMES CHU
After 9 years completely off from running and a 17% weight gain (going from 145 lbs to 170 lbs), James Chu (a former Princeton University track runner—1:58 min / 800 meter brawler), decided he “was sick of being a meatball” and resolved to give running another shot (not of Jameson Whiskey—though Linda Daniels is dedicated to overseeing that part of his training regimen). After seeing the NBR men’s squad run a very respectable top 5 in the Scotland 10k, he contacted NBR founding member, Matt Decker, and joined in May of 2010. Since then, James has competed in all middle distances, up to the half marathon.
He placed 2nd in the Greenpoint 5k, reeling in a dozen or so rabbits in the last kilometer. Since joining the team, his mile PR is 4:39 (4:27 is his lifetime PR). He was 5th overall in the Norway 1.7 mile—at 5:05 pace. In the Ted Corbitt 15k, his splits averaged 5:46, earning him 2nd in his age group. For the Manhattan Half Marathon, James dialed his 15k pace back by only 9 seconds, ending up at 1:17:43 (average sub 6 min. pace). In the Coogan’s 5k in 2011 (a northeast regional PR-blocking race, featuring pyramid-like hills), he ran a 16:40 (5:22 pace), 7th in his age group.
James’s favorite group run is the Saturday morning coffee Bridge Run. Anyone can easily approach him there to talk about his favorite sport. Whether it’s NCAA track & field, or global elite standings, or the local sub-elite scene, James is your hard-info + throw-down opinion central! He is also (and this from someone who’s been known to “dead dog” (going on all fours dry heaving after a race effort)) legendary for his cautionary approach to training, advising team members against the perils of hyper-training.
Born in Arlington, Texas, but re-routed to Midland, Michigan at age two (to nine), James suddenly found himself in central Connecticut. You can spot him now on “controlled” runs along Kent Avenue.
NBR Profile No. 7
Rodrigo Toscano talks with RANDY LOCKLAIR
Randy Locklair joined NBR in February of 2009. On his way home from a run on a particularly warm February day (60 degrees!), he stumbled on an NBR sign on his block. He e-mailed Aja Marsh that very day offering to help out. When they met for the first time, he suggested starting a beginner’s run, which he’s been leading to this day. He also organized the very first NBR social at the Gibson. He’s completed three New York ING Marathons, and has won his age group in a few out of town races back in the day (“but never in this crazy town!”).
As a kid, Randy played in the “deck hockey” league, meaning he’d play on foot – running his tail off. (He still plays to this day, for almost all of NYC’s Black Top Street Hockey League’s 10-year existence!) After busting up his ankles a bunch of times (and “growing up”), he decided to take up running – to avoid injury He’s been living in “North Brooklyn” for about five years. He’s originally from New Rochelle, and lives right on the Greenpoint / Williamsburg border near Graham Ave. In his spare time, Randy snowboards and flies airplanes.
NBR Profile No. 6
Rodrigo Toscano talks with MISHKA VERTIN
Mishka Vertin did her first NBR Saturday bridge run in January of 2010, but didn’t become an official runner for the team until the Healthy Kidney 10k in May. Prior to NBR, she had been a member of the NY Harriers for six years. A year prior to that 10k, she moved to Brooklyn – Clinton Hill. By that point, she wasn’t working out with her old team anymore in Central Park, so she started checking out the NBR website, captivated by the overall feel of the team. Somewhat unnerved by her former team’s excessive run time ledgers and trophy counts, she finally made the switch. Mishka originally hails from rural Minnesota (near Fargo, ND, where “near” means within 100 miles.) She has run three marathons, but ardently prefers half marathons and 10 milers. She is currently the social activities co-director for the team. Known for her love of running in costume (“nun” “cheerleader” “German beer girl” “Hawaiian (in coconut bra)” “reindeer in front of Santa” “sperm – chasing an egg”) NBR 2011 is sure to get really interesting. She also co-leads a (semi-renegade) NBR running group called “The Monday Morning After,” which runs in Prospect Park. In college, she competed in long, triple and high jumping events. She enjoys FBD (full-body dancing), and recently scooped up some roller skates in hopes of joining a roller derby team. Given that she used to be a competitive figure skater, she figured the skills would translate. That is to say, Mishka aims to transpose her former lives onto the present – come what may. Very NBR.
NBR Profile No. 5
Rodrigo Toscano talks with OWEN KENDALL
Owen Kendall joined NBR in July of 2009 and trained with the team for nearly a year. He’s run 10 NYRR races for the team and has placed in the top fifty in all but the 2010 NYC Marathon. He runs everything from the 800 to the marathon, though he prefers the 100 meter dash up to 8 km. To most people’s surprise, Owen never ran competitively in college. He is largely self-taught in the sport. In 2008, placed 2nd overall and 1st in age group in 5th Ave Mile, running a 4:23 in that race. And in 2010 he was knocking out 5:15’s in the Salsa, Blues & Shamrocks 5K, arguably one of most difficult 5k’s on the eastern sea board. Before relocating to Jamaica Plain, MA, Owen was a fixture at the Tuesday night and Thursday night runs (as well as at the Turkey’s Nest, where he could be seen toting runners under his arms like bread loaves). He continues to race for NBR.
NBR Profile No. 4
Rodrigo Toscano talks with ANNA McCUSKER
Anna McCusker joined NBR in March of 2009 after making a resolution (over a pint Guinness while smoking a Marlboro) on St. Patrick’s Day that she would start running again (in college, she was a division 2 track runner). In the past 1.5 years she has run more than 45 races under NBR. Her big race this year is the NYC Marathon. Her favorite races are the 4 miler and half-marathon. She leads the Monday night Advanced Beginners run. She won the Sands Point 5k, the Babylon Dirty Sock Run 10k, and the Pulaski 10k. She’s also been busy collecting NYRR age group awards: Staten Island Half Marathon: 1st, ING NYC Marathon Tune-Up – 2nd, Fitness 4 miler- 1st, Queens Half Marathon – 3rd, Run for Central Park – 3rd, Dash & Splash – 2nd, Fathers Day 5M – 1st, and Japan Day 4-miler – 1st. She lived in Greenpoint for the past year after living in Williamsburg for three years. Anna grew up in what is officially the most culturally diverse county in the entire U.S. – Queens.
NBR Profile No. 3
Rodrigo Toscano talks with MICHAEL ESSIG
Michael Essig first saw flyers posted by NBR in the icy winter of 2009, but he didn’t feel like running outside just yet. He first met up with the Thursday night speed work group that April, and started running with the group in June. To this day, you can catch up with Mike at the Turkey’s Nest (NBR’s go-to dive bar) on Thursday nights. His first NBR affiliated race was the NYYR Team Championships that August. For Mike, the shorter (faster) run, the better. His best Age Graded performances are in the 400 to Mile range. This year, he’s run 1 1M (4.52!), 2 5Ks, 5 4M, 1 5M, and 1 10K. He’s been placing between 5th and 15th in his age group this year for 8 of the 9 NYRR runs he’s done. He’s also placed 1st in his age group in the Greenpoint 5K. Mike has lived in North Williamsburg (right next to the McCarren Park track) for the last 3 years.
NBR Profile No. 2
Rodrigo Toscano talks with JENNIFER DANIELS
Jennifer Daniels first received an NBR email on January 19th, 2009. She has since co-lead the Thursday night speed work with Linda Daniels (her twin sister). Jen competitively runs anything from the one miler to marathons. She prefers to run in the deep cold of winter. She lived in North Williamsburg for a couple years, and has now caught a tailwind and softly and deftly landed in East Williamsburg. Jen has placed 8 times in the top ten of her age group, three of those races in the top three. She was also the 2010 Greenpoint 5k women’s 1st place runner.
NBR Profile No. 1
Rodrigo Toscano talks with AJA MARSH
Aja Tahari Marsh is the founder of the North Brooklyn Runners. Aja also conceptualized and co-founded Work It Brooklyn. She has actively worked with Open Space Alliance, Williamsburg Walks, Neighbors for Allied Growth, North Brooklyn Compost Project, and the Greenpoint Food Market (as Sandwich Friend). Aja has placed twice in the top three in her age group in the Greenpoint 5k. She has lived both in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
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