2019 OSR30: Race Report by Matthew Roberts

In a world where local turkey trots have hundreds of registrants, the OSR30 stands alone as a race where the internal challenge and struggle is magnified through the unique lense of solitude in the busiest city on earth.

For many like myself, the appeal isn’t winning the race. Nor is it a race that offers a chance at a new, shiny PR. So why would someone sign up to run 30 miles in traffic and throw themselves full-speed through the chaos that is New York City? It is for the challenge that no other race offers. A challenge that is more about your knowledge and internal fortitude, than it is about the clock.

The OSR30 keeps you literally and figuratively on your toes for hours. This is owed both to the expansiveness of the route, and the scarcity of those willing to take on the challenge. The first few miles pass and the field of dozens begins to thin. Paces separate and routes diverge. You quickly find yourself alone, yet still pushing to the limits. The check points are often the only sign that a race is taking place at all. Racer’s eyes widen as you approach them. First, looking for the monuments and intersections noted. Then, looking for something even more important. They scan the streets and avenues, searching for any sign of other racers and a glance at your standing in the field. The lucky few who spot another racer get a jolt of excitement and adrenaline. Those who don’t put their heads back down and chase the unknown towards their next check point.

This is where the OSR30 diverges from even other unsanctioned races. However, the feelings and spirit of the race can only be accomplished through that unsanctioned format. The, not to sound cliché, grittiness and anonymity can’t be had any other way. Solitude, the great intangible of the race, is accomplished through its unsanctioned nature. Spectators for any unsanctioned race are rare to begin with, and even more so along the 30-mile route that the race offers. Differences in pace widen the gap over the course, making the camaraderie of running in a pack nearly non-existent. The course that circumnavigates the island of Manhattan and stretches across into Brooklyn increases the chances to be thrown off course along the way. The OSR 30 takes all of the characteristics which make unsanctioned racing unique and magnifies them by ten.

This leaves racers in a position few have operated in before. You are at once alone and a part of something bigger. It is a constant mental battle against the route, themselves and the unknown. The mind is a never-ending stream of questions. Where’s my next turn? Where’s the rest of the field? How hard can I sustain this pace? Should I save energy now to try for a push at the end? Where will that leave me in the field? All of these questions for 30 miles, and none will be answered, if at all, until the last bridge. It takes the old adage that the marathon becomes a race in the last 10k to the extreme. The first 25-27 miles (depending on route) set you up for the only part of the race where you know the competition is on. This is where the routes come back together and the answers you had to those questions manifest themselves.

The last bridge and descent into the Lower East Side externalizes the competition that has been ravaging the mind and body for hours. The OSR30 peaks miles past where the marathon ends. Runners gain a second (or third) wind to will themselves to faster paces. Arms pumping and faces contorting as racers hurl themselves back down into Manhattan. The whole of the race comes down to a handful of traffic lights and blocks, sprinting towards other racers and the soon-deafening cheers on Ludlow Street. Racers make the final moves that had been decided when answering those questions many miles before. Revealing not just how fast you can run, but who the unknown can push you to be.