by Jon Lindenauer
After now nearly two decades of running and racing, 2022 was possibly the most I ever raced in a single calendar year, and it (more importantly) also managed to be my favorite year of racing. I did run personal bests, however, but I believe it largely had to do with the company and the administration / organization / execution of the races themselves. In no particular order, these were my five favorite races of 2022.
The Chicago Marathon:
This had to have been my all-time favorite experience of running a race. From a personal standpoint, it had haunted me for years and years that I had been unable to crack the code of racing a marathon all the way through - I had crumbled at 18, or 19 or 20 all the way as far in as the 25 miles. I have often heard the expression "there is no such thing as a dumb question" but in that race in which I hit the wall around the 25-mile mark, in my suffering and delirium I distinctly recall my father pulling up alongside me on a bike, peering earnestly over at me and saying, "why are you breathing so hard?" which was certainly NOT an intellectually informed question. At this marathon however, I found myself for the first-time playing spectator that scenario. I saw top athletes slow to a crawl or walk. I kept waiting for my turn to implode as they had, but that turn never came. Instead, I was able to bask in all the sights and sounds and excitement and splendor the city streets of Chicago have to offer - and they had so, so much to offer. It seemed that ever few miles there was a new culturally distinct district, with new music blasting and new crowds cheering. For the first time ever, I was able to enjoy not just the accomplishment of a marathon but also the race itself. The course was flat and fast and for me it never had a dull moment. And after the race I received two complimentary post-marathon beers. Never in my running career up to this point have I run a marathon (or ultramarathon) in which I considered myself too beat up and depleted to enjoy a complimentary post-race beer and that was especially the case after Chicago. A band was playing classics old and new like "Dancing in the Moonlight" and Pharrell's "Happy" and the sun was shining - and I found myself in a rare moment after having run hundreds of previous races of not being able to think of a single solitary criticism.
It is my firm opinion that races and festivals are a match made in heaven. I previously experienced this back in my days as a New Paltz resident in which the Cupcake Classic 5k would coincide with the Gardiner Cupcake Festival, in which the winner would receive "cupcake cash" to spend at the festival and a trophy shaped like a tri-flavored cupcake. The Albany Wolff's Biergarten location hosts and annual race and festival with a theme I am even more fond of - German Octoberfest. Apart from the 5k race, the festivities include wiener dog racing, a boot chug competition, and pours of authentic style German lager. The racecourse has varied a bit over the years but it remains a phenomenal racing event for downtown Albany, and one that I would go out of my way to run despite my typical aversion for 5k races.
The Utica Boilermaker:
This was my first year running the Utica Boilermaker and if I have my way it will certainly not be the last. There are big races in other cities but Utica IS The Boilermaker. Never have I seen a whole town whose entire identity is so thoroughly aligned with a road race. There is a meme of Buddy the Elf from the movie "Elf" which tends to circulate the day after Christmas in which Buddy is giddy-face with knees bent and fists clenched in cartoonish over-exuberance, the caption reading "only 364 more days until Christmas!" I imagine this is how some residents of the city of Utica feel about The Boilermaker. It is a challenging and competitive course followed by a rager of an after-party, bolstered by Saranac / FX Matt Brewing - which is one of four outstanding Utica breweries (one of which is also a seltzery).
Rock & Snow Bridge to Bridge Run:
Before I lived in the Greater Capital Region by home for many years was the mid-Hudson Valley, specifically New Paltz, NY. When I lived there was when I first experienced the Mohonk Preserve - which is approximately a 7–8-mile drive from the heart of downtown New Paltz depending on which trailhead entrance is being used. During this time, I would find any excuse I could to go up there. They were my favorite trails and favorite views, and to this day - thousands and thousands of miles of running later - it remains one of my all-time favorite places to run. However, unless there is a race occurring the preserve requires a membership for entrance; and living over 100 miles now from the trail does not lend itself to maintaining an annual membership. I went out of my way though this year to return to my old stomping grounds to race while the Capital Region was focused on the Freihofer's Run for Women. Racing there again on the very well-kept crushed gravel carriageways it was every bit as fantastic for running as I remembered. And my award as the champion was - of course - an annual membership for myself and my family.
ADK Half Marathon:
This race has some fairly lonely stretches, but it has one of the coolest top finisher prizes I have ever encountered for any race - a painted hand carved wood bear - and also has one of the coolest cheering sections. At approximately the four mile mark the race goes onto the campus of the Word of Life Bible Institute (located in Pottersville, NY). I can say definitively that regardless of a person's spiritual inclinations the cheering and support of this mile-long stretch is genuinely moving. In many, many ways I felt richly rewarded running this one: the after-party, the prizes, the views, and general location of the race. The one thing I would have done differently is bring a hand-truck for transporting my bear.
Rounding out my Top 10 of 2022: (also in no particular order)
Miles on the Mohawk 10 Mile - Schenectady, NY
Erie Canal Half - Utica, NY
Run 4 Downtown - Middletown, NY
Firecracker 4 - Saratoga Springs, NY
Syracuse Half – Syracuse, NY
Jon is one of our elite runners and a prolific writer of articles for The Pace Setter. Jon loves to travel to new sites to run races and can happily tell you about the races’ highlights and the craft beers they serve.
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