Runner of the Month

September Runner of the Month: Louise O'Neill

The first time Louise O’Neill tried to join a running group, it wasn't very enjoyable. “I wasn’t fast enough,” she says. “I left before the run even started.” She mentioned the experience to a couple of friends who happened to be NBR members. They told her things would be different if she tried NBR. “I wasn’t sure,” she admits. “I stalked the Google Group emails for a few months.” But when she finally turned up, she really enjoyed it—and kept coming back week after week.

That was early 2017, and she’s been running with the club ever since. She’s trained for two NYC marathons with the group runs, and for most of this year, she’s helped lead the Wednesday Form Run in Prospect Park.

She’s proud to be an NBR member. One of her most notable memories was when she raced in Narragansett last year: “I overheard the local people talk about the people from Brooklyn. They wanted us to come back.”

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What she does when not running: “I’m a structural engineer and I specialize in existing and historic buildings. It allows me to see a lot of New York and use math, which are my two favorite things. I like to hike, travel, read and make lists. My current list is to see all 50 states, so far I’m on 33.”

How she initially got into running: “I have a FOMO problem. All my friends at work ran, so I convinced myself I could, too.”

Favorite race distance: “10 miles. It’s the best part of a half marathon but long enough to be fun.”

Best running memories: “Team Russell Simmons. TNT. Thursday morning track with Bev involving coffee or animals. Prospect park loops with Caitlin, or many long runs with the Caboose Crew.”

Smiling with an NBR crew before the NYC Marathon

Smiling with an NBR crew before the NYC Marathon

Favorite running route in NYC: “West Side Highway, Red Hook track or Prospect Park”

Her race day superstition: “I need a McDonald’s coffee before a race —it’s normally the only place open. Anytime I don’t have it, the race goes really badly.”

What running has taught her: ”Just because you didn’t like something at school doesn’t mean you will never like it. Supportive people make a real difference.”

Favorite post-race food: “Pizza.”

The song that makes her want to run: “I’m not a music person when I run, but ‘New York, New York’ at the start of the NYC Marathon is the best run song.”

Favorite running social media accounts: “Shalane Flanagan, NBR and nycrunningmama—she runs, has children and has a job and is really inspiring.”

Worst part about being a runner: ”Sweat and the time commitment. And people telling you it will ruin your knees/joints/soul—I just reply that I’ll take my chances.”

Best advice to running newbies: “Run with other people, but you only need to compete with yourself.”

Current running goal: “To PR in Chicago—sub-4 is my stretch goal.”

July Runner of the Month: Beverly Walley

Running the Fifth Avenue Mile

Running the Fifth Avenue Mile

Beverly Walley is one of NBR’s OG members, having joined shortly after the club was formed in 2009.

“I was training for the Brooklyn Half and getting bored running by myself over the bridge and back,” she says. “One day, I tried the track for a workout and I saw a flyer to recruit people from the neighborhood into a run club. I thought, ‘Why not give it a shot?’ ” 

A decade later, she’s still running with NBR. “Because I love all you crazy, fun people. What a wonderful community grew out of these weekly runs!” A former Just South Trivia run leader, she currently leads the Sunday Funday Run while also helping out with NBR’s social plans. The NBR board chose her as July’s Runner of the Month.

Running history: Bev’s been a runner ever since high school. “But shockingly, I was not the local track star.” (She has a faster mile time now at age 40 than she did at 16.) When she ran the Brooklyn Half in 2009, she found her sweet spot. “It turns out running further is a much better feeling for me than attempting to run fast.” Since then, she’s run one or two marathons a year. “Also, I ran a 60K in Central Park and survived it, but the post-run Shake Shack splurge almost took me out.”

What she does when not running: “Walk dogs. Play with dogs. Basically, encourage people to adopt a dog or dogs.”

Favorite race distance: 15K. “We need more of those!”

Best running memory: “It’s a tie—Team Russell Slimmons, Team Pool Party, Team Never Nudes!” 

Team Russell Slimmons

Team Russell Slimmons

Favorite running route in NYC: Anything involving the Brooklyn waterfront. “I’m particularly fond of the Statue of Liberty views at Red Hook’s Valentino Pier and the view of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park. Or the lead poisoned Red Hook track with Louise.” 

Favorite post-race food: Beer. 

Favorite song to run to: “I am not restarting the great Google group headphone debate.” 

How running has changed her: “I used to joke at work that you didn’t want to deal with me if I skipped my run. Running has made me a better human being. Over the years, it’s served different functions—a stress reliever, a therapist, a true friend and a feeling of freedom.” 

Worst part about being a runner: “Chafing. The chafe is real.”

Best advice to running newbies: “Keep going! You have to push past the initial suck and then it is the most rewarding feeling. A lot of running is mental. It’s pain and bliss.”

Current running goal: To qualify for the Boston Marathon. “I really, really, really want to get a time that gets me into Boston.” 

Bev, far left, running the Brooklyn Mile

Bev, far left, running the Brooklyn Mile

May Runner of the Month: James Gray King

When he crossed the finish line of the London Marathon on April 28, NBR team captain James Gray King completed an incredible challenge: He earned the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Medal for running all six of the world major marathons in the past 18 months (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City). Less than 5,000 people in the world have ever achieved this.

His new goal? “I’d like to run fewer marathons so close together, and see what I could do by training all out for one to really go for a great time. And maybe have a week off?”

NBR’s board chose James as one of May’s Runners of the Month to recognize his achievement.

James joined NBR in 2015. “I was pretty new to running and wanted to run with a group. Plus the singlets looked cool!”

James joined NBR in 2015. “I was pretty new to running and wanted to run with a group. Plus the singlets looked cool!”

What he loves about NBR: Mostly it’s the people, I have met some incredible friends (and my girlfriend Natalie) through NBR and been through good times and bad with them. It has also pushed me to be a better runner than I ever thought I could be. Overall though, having run races far and wide now, it’s pretty incredible to be able to hang out with teammates all over the world!

What he does when not running: I work in an Apple Store, and listen to all the same Hardcore and Indie bands I listened to 10 years ago. I am pretty sure I’ve become that old man that doesn’t think new bands are any good, although I’m trying to be better at that (sort of!).

How he got into running: We had a wellness challenge at work in February of 2015. I decided I would run a mile a day, pretty much my first miles ever. I hated it! That said, around the same time a friend was putting together a team for the charity Yamba Malawi, to run the Rock N Roll Brooklyn Half in the October. I am somewhat stubborn, an optimist and rather like doing things for charities. I decided to give it a shot and said to myself if I broke 2 hours I would run more... Low and behold, I beat it by the narrowest of margins and the rest is history!

Favorite race distance: I am 100% smitten with the marathon. At their absolute hardest is when you see the absolute best in people. It is also such a universal event for a city to get behind and you discover such a unique sense of character at each race that I feel it’s making my travel much richer. Conversely, I hate 5Ks and am pretty terrible at them!

Favorite NBR run: Thursday Night Track—because it's the best, but also I'm a run leader and it would be weird if I said something else.

“I am 100% smitten with the marathon.”

“I am 100% smitten with the marathon.”

Favorite NBR memory: I’m torn between seeing the NBR cheer squad out in force at mile 20 of the Berlin Marathon, and when six of us went on a group run in Amsterdam with all our singlets on. We likely looked like a very strange and non-threatening gang!

Best running moment: My first NYC Marathon finish in 2016. I think that’s when I really caught the bug!

Favorite running route in NYC: The 10-mile loop starting in Williamsburg, going over the bridge and looping back over Queensborough bridge is old faithful for me on mid-week longish runs. And running to the beach (any beach!)

How running has changed him: It has made change the bar for what I believe I could achieve. When I ran my first mile, I honestly could not understand how people could run 26 of them, let alone try to get quicker. It has also made me a more diligent person and (slightly) more organized. It also taught me I still have a problem with liking merch, I’ve just traded band T-Shirts for race shirts!

“You might the regret the run on you’re on, but you’ll never regret the run you did.”

“You might the regret the run on you’re on, but you’ll never regret the run you did.”

Favorite post-race food: Beer?! And chocolate milk. Like a proper grown up.

Favorite running gear: Nike 4%s!!!

Favorite pro runners: Kipchoge and Mo—by the time this is out I assume one of them will have just won London (again). They have such different mental approaches but are both incredibly down to earth considering the scale of their achievements.

The worst part about being a runner: The chafe! And being flaky with weekend plans!

Best advice to running newbies: Keep at it! You might the regret the run on you’re on, but you’ll never regret the run you did. Also, slow down as you learn and try to go a little further instead.

Fun facts: I once played in a hardcore band called Xmas Lights. And I lived in Kenya for a while, before I became a runner, what a missed opportunity to learn from the best!

March Runner of the Month: Kaitlyn DiBello

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Kaitlyn DiBello started running 17 years ago, first as a mid-distance runner/long jumper, then a steeplechaser in high school and a 5k/10k and cross country runner in college. Before moving to Brooklyn she was a head cross country and track coach.

So when she arrived in the neighborhood in July 2017, she was looking for a team to run with, and fell right in with NBR. “Most of my best running memories have come from being a part of this team,” she says. “Even though we’re competitive, at the end of the day we celebrate each other’s successes no matter how big or little they are.”

Today, as the coordinator for NBR’s women’s local competitive team, Kaitlyn is currently aiming to break 3 hours in the NYC marathon. But she’s not the kind of person who feels like one goal is enough: “I’d also love to break 19 minutes in the 5K, break 40 minutes in the 10k and run a sub 1:25 in the half.” Oh, and she dreams of one day qualifying for the Olympic trials in either the marathon or 10k. Her strategy for getting there? Training crazy hard with NBR. “I honestly I wouldn’t be half the runner I am without this team.”

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Favorite race distance: Marathons and half marathons! I love the feel of pushing myself and doing something I love for miles upon miles. But I’ll always have a special place in my heart for a good 5k or 10k, especially on the track.

Favorite race: The NYC Marathon and the NYC Half. The fact that the whole city is out there cheering you on is such a surreal feeling. It is always an honor to represent both NBR and Brooklyn in those races on the streets we train on every day.

Favorite NBR run: Either Tuesday Night Tempo or Thursday night track. I love pushing myself with the team and the promise of pizza afterwards is always great. But in summer Narwhals and local competitive definitely become favorites, especially when we get to hit summer streets.

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Best running memory: Finishing the 2018 NYC marathon. It was my second marathon and I set out to qualify for Boston. I had trained on and knew the course. As I passed my co-workers and teammates on Bedford Ave, I knew I was in a good position. With my parents cheering me on when I hit 1st Ave I knew I had to keep pushing. Having teammates throughout the whole city, especially on 5th Ave, helped me overcome the tougher pieces. I really knew I had a chance when I passed mile 24 and saw my mom jumping up and down and my dad yelling at me to keep going. As I rounded to the finish I could feel the excitement build, and had tears in my eyes when I crossed the finish line in 3:06. I immediately thought of my grandfather. He was one of my biggest supporters and had cheered me on at every single race. Once that medal was placed around my neck I dedicated it and my race to him knowing how happy he would have been for me. The best part of the race was checking my phone and seeing how many teammates, friends and family members had texted me either during the race or after with congratulations. Knowing that they had been with me the whole time made the accomplishment that much sweeter.

What running’s taught her: That anything is possible. If you told my 10-year-old self that I’d be a marathoner, I would have thought you were crazy. But now I know that no dream is to big. Knowing that every ounce of work I put in allows me to get better pushes me to work hard. It has also reminded me to stay humble, to keep dreaming and setting new goals.

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Favorite post-race food: Anything with chocolate, and a good cup of Irish breakfast tea! I have a big sweet tooth. I also love having a superhero muffin from Shalane Flanagan’s cookbook on hand.

Favorite piece of running gear: My garmin. It feels weird to not have it there. I’m also a huge Asics fan and can’t go wrong with either my GT-2000s or DS trainers which have seen their fair share of blood, sweat and tears. Those who really know me know that I’m never seen without a pair of shorts and a tank top on—regardless of the weather.

Favorite songs to run to: I have a whole playlist that I will gladly share with anyone who wants it! I always have to start with either “The Champion” or “Good Girl,” both by Carrie Underwood, “Miami 2017” by Billy Joel, “Heartland” by Celtic Thunder or “Land of Hope and Dreams,” “Hard to Be a Saint in the City” by Bruce Springsteen or “I Want It All” by Queen.

Favorite pro runners: Shalane Flanagan, Deena Kastor and Paula Radcliffe. Having watched these ladies over the years I have learned how to not only be a better runner but also how to train smarter and how to pick myself up after I fall. Seeing how they have collected themselves after a downfall and remained true to who they are and celebrated their successes just proves to me that if you dream it and work hard, you can achieve it.

Favorite running social media account: Brooklyn Running Company. Though I may be biased since I work there part-time.

Best advice to running newbies: Don’t quit! Running is all about being patient and sticking with it. Continue to work hard, and find a running partner. Also sign up for a race or set a goal. I have found that when I have a targeted goal in mind, I train smarter. One thing I was always told is that if you’re not enjoying it, then you need to fix something. Make sure you find the fun of it.

Want to nominate an NBR member as Runner of the Month? Send the board nominees along with a brief description. The dimensions looked for are: performance, improvement, participation, volunteering and support. A runner does not need to fulfill all of those categories, but it’s a good starting point. We will feature runners from any pace, showcasing the breadth of our team—from our inspiring top scorers with incredible performances to brand new runners hitting significant running milestones.