SCHENECTADY – Most of the runners huddled around large blazing fireplaces at Central Park’s main pavilion Thursday morning weren't expecting to break personal records at the annual Ellis Medicine Foundation Cardiac Classic 5K.
It was too cold for that.
Anton Conto, a Niskayuna graduate who was in his fifth Cardiac Classic, said he had clocked 5K runs in around 17 minutes. Before Thursday’s race, he said he was hoping to run the race in “the 19s.”
“Just because it’s cold,” he said.
Matt Sinnenberg, a senior at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School, said he couldn’t remember a colder Thanksgiving morning for a run.
“This is as cold as it’s ever been,” said Sinnenberg, who was running the annual race for his sixth or seventh year. “It’s freezing.”
“Last year you could do this race in shorts,” Conto said. “I was the guy wearing shorts and a singlet.”
The runners were well aware that cold temperatures can complicate even the best laid race-day plans.
“There’s a certain coldness, if it was 25 (degrees) out, I would be ok,” said Holden Maynard, who gathered around the roaring fireplace with his dad, Conto and Sinnenberg. “At this temperature, if you push it too hard you can get hurt.”
While just the act of running has the effect of warming up your body and quickly mitigating against frigid temperatures, the 3.1-mile-course through and around Central Park may not have given everyone a chance to get fully warm on what turned out to be a record cold Thanksgiving Day.
“By the time you warm up, you’ll be at the finish,” said Steve Maynard. “I was hoping to go under 20 (minutes) today, but that’s not gonna happen because of the cold.”
Fortunately it wasn’t windy, said Denise Mormino, who said she has come from Slingerlands to join family at the race for at least 10 years.
“I believe it’s colder but there’s no wind, so that’s favorable,” Mormino said, adding that she runs throughout the year and has dealt with even colder temperatures. “I don’t love it, but I would rather be outside than on a treadmill.”
Denise’s 12-year-old son Anthony Mormino may have been one of the few runners on Thursday who set out to beat a personal best.
“For me, my goal is 24 minutes,” he said. His best time so far: around 27 minutes. But Anthony was prepared with a hat, gloves, handwarmers, fleece running pants and other layers of protection.
“He’s gonna ditch me, he’s ready to run seven-minute miles,” Denise Mormino said. “His mom’s gonna take it easy.”
Minutes before the race started, Niskayuna High School seniors Sarah Zakrzewski and Megan Delehanty stood together near the start line trying to stay warm. The friends said they have been running 5K road races recently and were running in their first Cardiac Classic.
“We thought we were prepared,” Delehanty said of their cold-weather running gear. “I don’t know if we are prepared.”
“Very cold,” Zakrzewski said when asked how the pair was fairing. “But excited.”
They said they have been running road races in recent months in an effort to stay active. Even if Thursday’s race was their coldest so far, they managed to muster a runner’s optimism that the finish is never too far off.
“It’s worth it at the end,” Delehanty said.
Other runners shrugged off the cold as they bundled up in multiple layers, running tights and all manner of hats and gloves.
“It’s a little cold,” said John Willman as he walked toward the start line. “I’ll survive. I go into these things just to finish.”
Bob Cooley, a retired orthopedist at Ellis Hospital, said he has missed only a handful Cardiac Classics over the last 37 years. He said ideal running temperatures are in the 40s and 50s and that when it dips well below freezing it becomes harder to maintain a consistent temperature as you bundle up to stay warm, then shed layers as you warm up running and then cool down again after you finish.
“It’s hard to stay at an equilibrium that’s good,” Cooley said of running in the cold.
But Cooley pointed to his years of cross-country skiing and other winter recreation as a foundation that came in handy Thursday morning.
“This is what we do,” he said.