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Friday, 11 July 2014 10:33

A Runner’s Eye View of The Firecracker4

By Megan Irene Kretz

For Saratoga TODAY 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – It takes a special (some might even say crazy…) person to wake up early on a holiday morning and voluntarily slog through four miles in the mid-Summer humidity. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only person who thought this might be a good idea. As I sidled up to the start line on the morning of July 4th, several thousand other runners joined me. As a recent transplant to the Saratoga Springs area, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when it came to the running community. I knew the high school teams were of national caliber, but I wasn’t sure if that talent translated into interest for the rest of the population. 


Fortunately, as race day drew closer, it became clear that Saratoga Springs is a city for runners of all ages. I found myself pleasantly surprised and impressed with the Firecracker4 race organizers. From the streamlined bib pick-up to the dozens of vendor tents on race morning, it was obvious that this was not your usual small town race. The race featured electronic bib timing, goodie bags chock full of freebies and samples and frequent email communication. My only complaint was that the race did not have a starting mat or net chip timing. This means that your race time began when the gun went off, not when you actually crossed the starting line. Despite this minor gripe, I thought the race was otherwise executed superbly.


In February when I signed up for the Firecracker4, I barely gave it much thought. I ran competitively in college and I’m no stranger to the marathon distance, so four miles should be a piece of cake, right? I should know better. Unfortunately, a shorter race distance doesn’t guarantee a lack of nervousness or an easy effort. As the national anthem was sung and opening remarks were made, the crowd began anxiously pressing toward the start line. I looked around at my fellow competitors, many of them whippet thin and decked out in the latest running gear, and found myself second-questioning my training. Did I run enough miles? Have I done enough hill work? Did I really need that second glass of sangria last night? Despite being a runner for nearly fifteen years, that starting line nervousness never seems to ebb. Fortunately, the gun went off just a few minutes after 9 o’clock and my nerves vanished as adrenaline carried me across the starting line.


The beginning mile took us south on Broadway, familiar territory even for a new resident like myself. The terrain was flat and the crowd’s energy was contagious. Before I knew it, I was cruising past the first mile marker in 7:15. Shortly after the turn on to Caroline Street, I began noticing the spectators lining the streets. Some sprayed us with hoses (heaven on a warm July morning), some sipped mimosas (this seemed both cruel and wonderful at the same time) and others held signs and yelled encouraging words. If you ever want to feel like you’re part of a community, sign up for a local race. Perfect strangers will wake up early, hand you water, and tell you you’re awesome.  If that’s not worth the twenty-five dollar entry fee, I don’t know what is. 


Alas, despite the strong crowd support, I started to feel the hurt around mile two. I wasn’t running particularly fast, but a few months of low mileage and the morning’s humidity were catching up with me. Just past mile three, we faced a steep incline. I knew the last mile included a hill, but what seemed to be a small bump in my car, felt like Mount Everest to my burning legs. 


As I approached the crest of the hill, I spotted Saratoga TODAY’s photographer Francesco and did my best to look like I was having fun. From there, it was less than a half-mile and downhill to the finish. I bypassed the volunteers handing out popsicles (but, oh, how I wanted one….) and sprinted toward the finish line. My final time was 29:27, a few minutes slower than my PR (personal record), but an effort I’m content with. I wobbled through the finish area and meandered through the crowd of runners and for the first time in months, I felt like I belonged. To the city of Saratoga Springs, of course, but also to the thriving running community that calls these streets and trails home.  As I drove back to my apartment, I was already scheming and thinking about the next race or group run that I could add to my calendar. 


This year marked the eight annual running of the Firecracker4, for results and information on next year’s race, visit firecracker4.com

Published in News

Saratoga Springs’ New Destination for Running Gear

By Megan Irene Kretz

For Saratoga TODAY 


SARATOGA SPRINGS – When husband and wife duo Jamie and Anthony Mastroianni were training for their first marathon together, they ran the bulk of their miles in Saratoga Springs. 


From the wooded trails of Saratoga Spa State Park to the historic mansions on North Broadway, the couple explored all that the area has to offer. Saratoga has a rich running history, a strong community of harriers, and miles of training routes, but it was missing something vital: a place for runners to gather and purchase supplies. Whenever the Mastroianni’s needed to pick up fuel or gear for their training, they had to either drive on the Northway to reach the closest running shop or resign themselves to the paltry selection in nearby big box stores.


The couple soon realized the community’s need for a specialty running store and decided to move forward with their dream of becoming small business owners. The Mastroianni’s worked with the local Chamber of Commerce and SCORE, a mentoring resource for small business owners, to put together a business plan for a store they named iRun LOCAL. 


Once they had a plan in place, Jamie began attending running clinics such as the Newton School of Running to further her knowledge of the sport. Before opening iRun LOCAL, Jamie and Anthony focused on crafting a mission statement that would mirror their goals. 


“The store is a reflection of us, we want to make sure that we keep our core values in place,” says Jamie. Inspiring runners and providing expert advice is at the core of iRun LOCAL’s mission, but the Mastroianni’s also place an emphasis on serving and helping the local community. In the three months since they opened their doors, iRun LOCAL has developed relationships with the running club Saratoga Stryders, area high school teams, the Wilton Food Pantry, and the Franklin Community Center.


When iRun Local opened back in March, the Mastroianni’s wanted to ensure the store felt very warm and welcoming, with a boutique feel. “When you go to a big box store for running shoes, you’re not necessarily going to get one-on-one attention or a salesperson who knows anything about running,” says Jamie. In contrast, iRun LOCAL gives a personal touch to each customer that comes through the door. The store offers a custom fit process and video analysis to determine which shoes will work best for an individual. And when it comes to product, iRun LOCAL offers brands that are geared specifically toward runners, including Pearl Izumi, Newton, and Oiselle. The store also currently stocks track and field spikes for area high school runners and plans to offer cross-country spikes later in the summer.


In addition to a keeping their product inventory fresh, iRun LOCAL has been hosting a variety of events to engage the running community. Recently, the store hosted bi-weekly happy hour runs, a ladies night, an injury prevention clinic, and a scavenger run that took runners to various downtown businesses. 


The Mastroianni’s are continually brainstorming new ways to get involved and their next big partnership will be with the Strong to Serve Half-Marathon scheduled for July 13. iRun LOCAL will serve as the packet pick-up location for the race, which will take place in the nearby State Park. As for the future, the couple hopes to increase awareness of their store and become a top resource for local runners. “Our main focus is to continue growing as a business in Saratoga Springs,” Jamie says.


From beginning walkers to competitive marathoners, iRun LOCAL strives to provide a welcoming atmosphere for everyone. For those new to the sport, Jamie advises, “Just put your shoes on and go at your own pace. Taking the first step is always the hardest part.” If you feel inspired to hit the pavement, visit iRun Local at 18 Congress Street or check out the store’s Facebook page: facebook.com/iRunLOCAL.

Published in News
Friday, 04 April 2014 09:42

Breaking Boundaries in a New Running Season


Local Fleet Feet Sports Opens Registration for Training


 By Colette Linton


 SARATOGA SPRINGS— For some people who never thought they could run before or needed an extra push to get out the have found that facing the challenge with a team and skilled coaching staff, they can go much further than they had ever thought they could.


 Six years after the Fleet Feet Sports Store of Albany, and at their Malta location as of November, started its “No Boundaries” walk/run 5K training program, dozens have crossed the finish line of their first event, and more to come.


Nancy Radigan was among that first group to do so. She and her husband, Kevin Radigan, have been with the program since its inception. Nancy was a swimmer in high school and college but didn’t think about getting into running until having watched her husband and son complete races together.


“I was just like ‘wow’ that’s so cool, and I wanted to do it, but I needed a lot of help,” Nancy said.


She admits it wasn’t easy to cover the distance at each practice, but the motivation and encouragement from the coaches and the running group, which is both diverse in age and running experience – if not complete beginners, kept her moving toward her goal and eventually finishing races with her husband and son.   


“For me, even though I've run these six years, it's still very hard for me,” she said. “It truly makes a difference, them (coaches and fellow runners) being there. The motivation and the encouragement is just… I cannot say enough.”


 “It brings tears to my eyes to look at people we've seen,” she added. “They've (Fleet Feet) had people who have not run a step and for them to finish a 5K,” she shakes her head recalling the experience that she said was inspiring. “And it doesn't matter what group they're in: at the race, everybody is at the finish line cheering.” 


No Boundaries is now one of four programs - Walk Fit, No Boundaries, No Boundaries II, Faster Farther 5K (3.1 miles)/10K (6.2 miles)/15K (9.3 miles) and Half (13 miles) & Full Marathon (26.2 miles), in which training lasts 10-12 weeks ahead of  area races.


 Lessons that focus on the basics of posture, reach, cadence, breathing and team support, Fleet Feet Sports Owner Charlie Woodruff said that during the first year of the No Boundaries program, 23 of 37 completed the program. However, since 2009, the number of individuals who start and finish the programs has been over 90 percent, exclusive of injuries.


“People come back, time after time after time,” Woodruff said.  “People pick up a program, they ramp up a program, and they do more than they ever dreamed they would be doing.” 


Woodruff said that when he had opened the stores in the area, one thing that he didn't anticipate, which has now become enormous, is the culture of the community that is created in the running programs. 


“I routinely hear at our wrap up meetings: ‘I went to a meeting, and I didn't know anybody. I went to a couple of workouts, and these people became my running buddies and now they're my friends.’ So the community part of this is unbelievable,” he said.


Individuals submit a medical waiver in order to participate in any of Fleet Feet Sport’s tiered programs for walkers, beginning runners, intermediate and advanced runners and a 12-week program cost $125, which includes educational clinics, training plan, entry fee into the designated goal race and continued education.


For dates and times of information sessions prior to registration about training options, can contact Fleet Feet Adirondack at 518-400-1213.








Published in News


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