Everyone knows one thing about Jerry Faulkner, he is fast. One of the fastest around, especially in the context of NYC urban running. His personal best in the marathon is a 2:24:12, in the half-marathon he has hammered out a 1:07:16. He is the kind of runner that doesn’t register for major marathons – he gets invited by the organizers to run. And when he does, he starts with the elites and he finishes with the elites. He is on a different level. Featured image of Jerry on the Manhattan Bridge in the 2015 Midnight Half by Allen Carr.
2 years ago Jerry registered for the 2013 Midnight Half, Dave and I were pretty excited to have his name on the roster..but on race day he was a no show. If I am not mistaken he went to compete in a pretty substantial track event. I wasn’t disappointed, but it made me curious to find out how a runner like Jerry would do in the Midnight Half. Speed is a major factor, but the knowledge of the downtown streets, the bridge crossings, the traffic..how would these variables effect the course of a runner that was highly fit and extremely competitive but did not have the direction of course markings or closed roads.
In 2014 Jerry registered again. Dave and I didn’t get too excited because we knew there was a chance another race could take priority over the Midnight Half. Being a club guy (NYAC) Jerry has different goals than the casual runner. This is what he does, this is his job..and he has a boss, his coach. If a race serves no purpose in the overall goal, the risk of injury in running it isn’t worth it. The Midnight Half has zero value to anyone that is looking for a USATF certified anything. However Jerry did make it to the Midnight Half in 2014 and his performance shocked the entire community that follows this race. He lost. Not only did he lose, he came in 16th place. In my opinion, the Midnight Half had beaten Jerry. He let me know that he was not happy about it when the race was over, giving me an earful at the finish line about how his losing was my fault because we didn’t direct him through the course. He later apologized, of course in the heat of the moment things are said..but there was no harm done. Honestly, I’m glad Jerry cared enough about winning to get that mad about losing. Jerry rectified this mistake in his second attempt at the race this year..but still came up a bit short, coming in second to Pat Casterline(1:11:57) with a time of 1:12:46.
I have to say, I love that our race didn’t roll over and die when a more elite runner came into the picture. Everything for a reason..had Jerry come into the race in 2014, stomped through and crushed the field no one would have been surprised. I wouldn’t have been, he was clearly the strongest runner. Jerry competing, and even more so Jerry losing, has given this race more credibility and reach than any other single competitors performance over the last 3 years.
Image of Jerry Faulkner at the start house by David Trimble.
Lets talk about 2015. This year I was hoping Jerry was planning on running. Knowing his competitive nature, I was also anticipating that he would do his best to learn from his mistakes and evolve into more of what this race format demands. Days prior to the event he was posting about reviewing the course, being ready and putting up 1hr and 20min 13 milers with little effort. He was training for this race specifically, and it was exciting for me as one of the organizers to reach someone at his level and motivate them to take this event seriously.
Image of Jerry at the start line by David Trimble.
Without his spirit, without his intensity, without him chasing people down on the course and taunting them verbally with “I am coming for you” shout outs..this race would be just a little less exciting for all of us.
Image of Jerry on the Manhattan Bridge by David Trimble.
The following is a brief conversation with Jerry Faulkner. A few questions and a few answers that give us a bit of insight into the mind of the fastest runner to ever lose the Midnight Half.
Third time is the charm my friend, see you in 2016.
1. How did you first find out about the Midnight Half? What was your initial reaction to the format, start time, course etc?
I found out from doing the Red Hook Crit 5k about 2 years ago. The race enticed me to run it because I am more of a long distance runner, so I thought I had a good shot of winning the race.
2. When you ran your first Midnight Half (2014), how was your confidence leading up to race day?
When I ran in 2014 I thought I wound have a bike escort guiding me to the finish, but I was wrong and got lost. At the start I was the fastest runner but I didn’t know the course.
3. What had you done, if anything, to prepare for your first Midnight Half in 2014, any course preparation or strategizing?
I think I should have run the course with some local people that live in Brooklyn.
4. In 2014, you got lost while running to Valentino Pier in Red Hook. Given you were in the lead, this was a huge setback and cost you a great deal of time. What happened?
I took off from the lead guy and pushed the pace at 5:10/mi to put a gap in the field, but I thought I wound have a escort guiding me through the race…I ran all the way to IKEA. I knew when I got lost the race was over.
5. Can you tell me what it felt like to realize you had gone so far off course? How did you try to recover?
When I got lost I was pissed off at myself for just giving $ 300 dollars away.
6. Your second Midnight Half was a much stronger performance in terms of finishing time. What was your confidence like going into the race this year?
Confidence was great, I just came back from running a great marathon in Boston. Starting to build my trainning back. I knew that I had a great shot of winning because I ran the course three times, but I did not know where to cut distance..I only knew the main streets.
7. Compared to the first year, what did you do differently to prepare for the 2015 race?
I ran the course three times, also (this year) I knew that I wound not have a bike escort showing me where to go. This is sad to say, everybody told me to just sit on the leader because I was faster than the whole field..but they were wrong. When the field cut on to the Brooklyn Bridge I went around to the front of the bridge…already made a mistake. When that happened I was catching up the back half of the race. So I was thinking about the mistake that already happened, I was not happy so I pushed the pace.
9. One of my favorite things about you is your competitive nature, I heard you yelling to Pat that you were “coming for him”..can you explain what its like to be in that moment when you were only a few seconds behind Pat pushing to catch up but running out of race in which to do it..whats it feel like to get closer to the end and be so close to the leader?
When I yelled at Pat I wanted to get in his head because I was a way faster runner and I was coming for him, but I made a lot off mistakes in the race. Like going the wrong way at the Brooklyn Bridge at the start, getting lost on Clinton Street and having to run the Manhattan Bridge twice. When I was gaining ground on him at the third check point I was already pissed off at myself for making dumb mistakes in the race. I was about 400 meters alway from him when he got off the Manhattan Bridge and I yelled at him with hopes to scare him and make him feel like he has not won the race yet. He knew all the little short cuts at the end but I was using my speed to hope he wound make a little mistake..but he did not.
10. When you turned the corner of Ludlow St and were in the final stretch leading up to the finishing mats, what was going through your head?
When I got to the finish I was pushing hoping to catch him in case he made a wrong turn. Also I pushed that last mile to let off some frustration (Jerry ran a 5:18/mi his last mile of the race).
11. I heard you say “third time will be a charm”, are you planning on running next year? If so, are you going to win? If so, why?
I am definitely coming back next year and trying to win it, also I will go for the record shooting for bib number 68 or 69. Next year I will run in that area more before the 2016 MidNight Half.
12.What does this race mean to you? Why do you run it? Why do you want to win?
This race means a lot to me. It is the only race that truly represents New york as a city. Why do I run it, because it is exciting to run fast and have some great beers with friends! If I win the Midnight Half it just builds good street cred.
13. Compared to all the other races you run, how does the Midnight Half rank in terms of difficulty, gratification, importance?
The Midnight half is all about strategy and knowing the course, a local road race is about speed and strength. The fastest runner does not alway win at the Midnight Half, the person who wins knows the course and is a crazy runner that will push it in the streets for one night.
Image of Jerry Faulkner on Allen Street by Parker Feierbach.