YOU BETTER RUN – Karen Bertasso-Hughes has taught Nipper the Dog a new trick.
The iconic Albany landmark has been sitting on the roof of the RCA building on Broadway since 1958, a statue doing what statues do: zilch.
Now a cute little white dog who resembles Nipper can be seen in the logo of a new running team that Bertasso-Hughes spearheaded this year, and unlike the 28-foot statue, he’s depicted in full stride running through the air.
Bertasso-Hughes just turned 39 on Monday, but is coming off a personal-record 2:41:27 at the California International Marathon in December and is looking forward to competing in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at that distance next year.
A Scotia-Glenville High School and Union College graduate who lives in Selkirk, Bertasso-Hughes has benefitted for years from leaning on the experience and knowledge of runners like Emily Bryans as a member of the Willow Street Athletic Club. This year, Bertasso-Hughes created a new running team of her own, Capital Region Elite Women (CREW) so that she can serve in that role for some of the younger post-college distance runners in the area.
It’s turned into a reciprocal relationship, as Bertasso-Hughes has found herself drawing inspiration from the younger runners, as well. (Team mascot Wilson, Longo’s dog, does his part, too)
“We were trying to create more of a group that wanted to train and race competitively, but also I wanted to provide support for the young kids that are just getting out of college,” Bertasso-Hughes said on Saturday, after finishing 24th overall at the Freihofer’s Run for Women 5k in 18:14.
“There’s not a lot of that in this area. I do a coaching business on the side, and use that to sponsor a small group of runners. That’s what motivated me, and I had a lot of opportunities when I was 10 years younger, and I wanted that to be available to other people, too. So we have a good little group.”
The group is registered with USA Track & Field and placed two three-woman teams in the top three at Freihofer’s, behind the Albany Running Exchange team of Emily Tafy, Olivia Beltrani and Emily Burns (average time 18:01).
Cara Udvadia (nee Sherman), a former Mohonasen and UAlbany star, ran a 17:30 and teamed with Bertasso-Hughes and Lizzie Predmore to average 18:06, followed by Abbi Raghubar, Tricia Longo and Meg Champagne with an average finish time of 18:18.
Udvadia was 15th overall in 17:30.
She made her marathon career debut in the fall, a 2:47:08 at the Marine Corps Marathon, and wasn’t expecting to run as well as she did at Freihofer’s.
“I’m pretty happy with it,” she said. “I’m going to do some shorter races just to give myself a break. The training sessions are so long for the marathon. I think I’m more of the one-a-year kind of person.”
In the meantime, she said joining CREW has added a new dimension to her training and racing.
“It’s awesome. It’s a complete game-changer,” Udvadia said. “We meet to do long runs, more often than I expected, joining the team. So it’s super-fun, and it makes a big difference.
“Like race day, it takes the pressure off, having people to warm up with and chat with. It’s so much motivation to have other people to meet with. They’re holding you accountable.”
Among the races the team is targeting are Shelter Island on June 17, the Firecracker 4 in Saratoga Springs on July 4th and the Stockade-athon in the fall.
Bertasso-Hughes is looking forward to turning 40 next year, when she should immediately become a force in the masters ranks.
In the meantime, through the CREW, she has a head start on becoming a mentor to the next generation.
“It’s been a lot of fun. You know how much I hate 5k’s,” she said with a laugh. “They’re [teammates] probably the reason I came today. I’m going to be 39 in two days, and it’s like I’m at the end of the age group.”
“She’s awesome,” Udvadia said. “And she’s a good leader, too. She’s so knowledgeable about the sport. I always feel like I can ask her a question, and she knows the answer to everything. So it’s awesome to have someone on the team to look up to.”
Bertasso-Hughes was fortunate to have been picked in the exclusive lottery to run in the Tokyo Marathon, which leaves just the New York City Marathon box to check for her to complete the Six Star Medal of the major marathons.
They also include Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin.
She plans to run New York for the first time next year after she turns 40.
“Tokyo was rough,” Bertasso-Hughes said. “I got really sick and was vomiting on the course.
“The race had a lot of restrictions, being in Japan. So you couldn’t have water at the start, and you’re in there for two hours and can’t bring in anything. I think it was the flight, travel, dehydration, all of that.
“But I loved Tokyo. It was a great experience. The country was awesome, and everyone was super-nice, so we would love to go back.”
Contact Mike MacAdam at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.