Midnight Run Marked by Costumes and Champagne Toast

"If you have binged excessively when younger, follow it up with some regular exercise. Get those brain cells regenerated."    You can thank Paul Steinberg and The New York Times for that little gem as we celebrate the start of 2008. If New Year's Eve is the day of the year with the most binge drinking, what else is there to do?

Well, I decided to try something else this year — take part in a 4-mile run in the middle of New York's Central Park as the clock strikes midnight. OK, in the interest of full disclosure, there is a champagne toast at mile 2!   

Nuts Run


For the last 29 years, approximately 4,700 very committed people have shown up for the annual New York Road Runner's Emerald Nuts run. Yes, in addition to the many fitness freaks and those with a New Year's resolution they can't wait to start, this is Central Park, and at midnight the pickpockets may be a thing of the past but the eccentrics are not.

The night began with a DJ and a costume contest before the run. About 15,000 people showed up for the preshow to dance and check out the runners.

The costumes were rather predictable, with the exception of a man in a large Siberian tiger costume, which I thought was adorable until I noticed he was carrying around a bloody human leg in his left paw.

Jason, from San Francisco no less, purred and preened for the crowd as his Tatiani the killer Siberian tiger costume came in sixth place. I doubt the San Francisco Zoo has any interest in the 2008 nature calendar he won for his effort.

Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Claus were there, a man with a large steroid syringe, a couple of pumpkins, someone named Naked Mike. The top prize this year, which comes with $500, went to Reindeers in Training. Yes, they had antlers on their heads and put a rope around one another so they could keep that imaginary sleigh stable as they ran.

I would need a hot toddy to stand in Central Park in a costume on New Year's Eve. Of course, the temperature drops just as the clock hits 11:30, and I wonder what in the world I am doing here.

Word comes from the stage that Matt Dillon is sporting bib 4949 and is in the park and ready to run. Good luck finding him in this zoo. I hope he doesn't get stuck running next to Tiatiana, because he can't see out of his cat head.    

Hit 2008 Running

When the clock strikes midnight and the fireworks hit the sky, the runners are off. The 4-mile run started with a nice big hill as we worked our way up the west side of the park. There were people of all ages and sizes there, and most had come out to do something different or to fulfill their resolution of getting fit in 2008.

I almost gave up at mile 2, but as I turned the corner to the east side of the park there were more fireworks and a blast of Bon Jovi that made me want to speed up and run out of the park.

So I kept going, slower and slower but made it to 3.5 miles. I started in the nine-minute mile pack, but I think I ended in the 45-minute group. Some at the end of the pack with me fortified themselves with a little Jack Daniels. Who could blame them.

At some point along the route I realized I probably wasn't going to win. But the drunk New Yorkers who come out to cheer you on still pull for you. Rowdy cries of "You can't give up!" and "What are you doing, walking to the bathroom?" became background noise as we pushed ourselves to the finish line.

The Winners

Andrew Carlson of Minneapolis, and Carmen Douma-Hussar of Ardmore, Canada, both shattered the course records to win the male and female divisions. Carlson, 25, completed the 4-mile race in 18:12. Douma-Hussar, 30, lopped 28 seconds off Amy Rudolph's 2004 record of 21:16 to win in a time of 20:54.

Macharia Yuot of Philadelphia came in second in the men's division, while Demesse Tefera of the Bronx, N.Y., crossed the line in third place.

On the women's side, the race came down to the final step as Douma-Hussar narrowly edged women's defending champion Aziza Aliyu of the Bronx. Sara Slattery of Boulder, Colo., finished third.

Carlson and Douma-Hussar each took home $800 in prize money, with the second-place finishers each winning $400 and the third place winner, $300.