The New York Times Article
On a memorable night in 1908, New York was the center of the running universe as Dorando Pietri faced off against Johnny Hayes in front of a capacity crowd at the old Madison Square Garden, an indoor rematch of their epic marathon race at the London Olympics that year.
The New York Times called it “the most spectacular foot race that New York ever has witnessed,” with supporters waving Irish and Italian flags as Pietri won by 43 seconds, in 2 hours 44 minutes 20 seconds.
On Saturday afternoon, some of that old magic — minus the marching bands, the tobacco smoke and a large crowd — was recreated at the Armory in Upper Manhattan as six men and one woman aimed to shatter the world indoor marathon records. Three succeeded.
To the uninitiated, the Armory NYC Indoor Marathon may have looked like a gimmick. The race officials seemed to outnumber the spectators, the runners set up their own water bottles on a table on the backstretch, and, to avoid injury, the racers switched directions after running for one hour on the 200-meter track.
But the race was no gimmick to the runners or the organizers. Among long-distance aficionados, the men’s and women’s indoor marathon records were considered among the easiest to break. Indoor marathons are infrequent, with annual races held in Wisconsin, Indiana, Canada and Germany. Many elite runners prefer to train for other events, like the Boston Marathon in late April.
Besides, running 211 laps on a banked track is not everyone’s idea of ideal conditions.
Still, Malcolm Richards, Anthony Migliozzi and Calum Neff exchanged leads early on. Richards and Migliozzi then broke free and battled for dozens of laps. Richards finally pulled away about two-thirds of the way into the race. He finished in 2:21:55, more than five minutes faster than Michael Wardian’s record of 2:27:21, set in Arlington, Va., in 2010.
Richards, a 33-year-old elementary school teacher from San Francisco, savored the victory and the world record, which earned him $6,000 — $1,000 for the win and $5,000 for setting the record. But he also chuckled at the absurdity of running such a long race indoors.
“It’s one of those stupid, ridiculous things you see, so I threw my hat in the ring and thought, ‘There aren’t too many other guys dumb enough to do this,’ so I thought I have a shot,” he said.
Richards, who finished 18th in the United States Olympic trials in February, has a personal best of 2:15 in the marathon. Because there are so few indoor marathons, there is not a long history of trying to convert the winning time at the Armory to an outdoor time.
Jack Pfeifer, one of the organizers, said running indoors offered a few advantages. Conditions were constant, with no wind, uneven roads or crowds jostling for cups of water. On the other hand, runners had to navigate more than 400 turns on a banked track.
“If I had to guess, I would say it’s worth about five minutes faster outside,” he said, referring to time the runners lost on the indoor curves.
Staying focused was another intangible. Other than the rock anthems booming off the rafters and the enthusiastic public-address announcer, there were few spectators to provide support.
“Once you get to about 150 laps in and realize you have, like, 60 to go, it’s a challenge,” said Migliozzi, 26, who also broke the old world record by finishing in 2:24:02.
Richards said: “You have to have some mental games you play. Just even having the music going, that helped.”
Allie Kieffer, the only woman in the race, battled the same conditions as the men, but her finish was more remarkable in some ways. Running in only her second marathon, she had signed up less than a week before the race. Yet she finished in 2:44:44, more than nine minutes faster than Monika Kalicinska’s record of 2:53:53, set in 2014 in Toronto.
Kieffer, who lives in New York, ran most of the race on her own but gathered steam as the laps ticked by.
“There’s only one woman signed up, so it attests to how crazy it is,” said Kieffer, 28, who plans to use her $6,000 prize to travel. “It’s insane. I never, ever, ever thought I’d be a world-record holder.”
The world-record attempts were a small part of a slate of races. About 40 teams with two to eight runners are competing in relay races over the three-day event, which began Friday. One team included Gary Muhrcke and Norbert Sander, the winners of the New York City Marathon in 1970 and 1974.
The $100 entrance fee supports the nonprofit Armory Foundation, which operates the track and educational programs. Jonathan Schindel, the executive vice president of the foundation, said the entrance fees and sponsorships helped raise tens of thousands of dollars. And because of the popularity of the relay races and the two world records, he envisioned expanding the event next year.
“I have to pinch myself,” he said.