In 2016, Brooklyn Running Company set out to organize a one-mile road race on the streets of Brooklyn, with “a handful of individuals killing themselves in their spare time” to put together a memorable racing experience, according to Matthew Rosetti, a cofounder of the independent running shop. They named their race the BKLYN MILE.
The course begins in South Williamsburg and goes along Kent Avenue with runners charging past the Williamsburg Bridge at the quarter-mile mark. The street widens a bit as racers go by Domino Park on their left. With less than half-mile to go, the crowd thickens on both sides with cheer squads, drumlines, and onlookers who are standing so close they could reach out and high-five anyone racing by with their palms out.
“Participating in the BKLYN MILE is like getting shot out of a cannon and falling into a mosh pit—but in a fun way,” Rosetti says. “We particularly favor the Quita Francique Friends & Family wave because you get a lot of beginners, particularly youth who've never run a race in their lives. This experience will get them hooked on running for the rest of their lives.”
Bandit talked to three runners who will toe the line on August 7 and asked them what they hope to achieve on race day.
Kevin Neil grew up in a West Indian family and moved to New York City from Saint Lucia 16 years ago. The 34-year-old had to get used to the city’s inherently fast-paced nature, which was the opposite of the relaxed island life he was living before. So, he began to run.
“Whenever I leave and come back to the city, I want to move fast,” says Neil. “You just want to move faster than other people—you know what I’m saying?”
A friend convinced him to join the Bronx run crew Mile Style and he’s been running with them for years even though he lives in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. The Stylers have become his support system and he knows that when he looks over his shoulder, he’ll have familiar faces to cheer him on.
This includes racing the BKLYN MILE in 2018, which was just the third race Neil had ever run in his life. He ran a 5:09 and was exhilarated by how quickly it began and finished.
“The long races, I think a lot about, ‘why am I doing this again?’” he says. “But these shorter races, it’s like, let’s get it through, let’s get it done, don’t throw up, and let’s go!”
On race day, Neil is hoping to run a sub-5-minute mile, which he knows he has the capability to do. He prepping for the race by maintaining a healthy pescatarian diet and crushing 200s and 400s on the track. He also making sure he runs inclines to strengthen his muscles.
“When you’re running that fast and trying to push that hard, you want to make sure your muscles are able to take in all that pounding,” he says.
If you were to ask Zobel Belisario what their favorite race distance is, they’d tell you they favor marathons or ultras and definitely not the mile. For Belisario, running was a journey they went on in their early-20s as part of getting sober and maintaining their sobriety.
They’re running the Philadelphia Marathon in November and a 12-hour race in Chicago at the end of August, but has the BKLYN MILE on deck next.
The race beckoned to Belisario the first year it was organized in large part because there aren’t a ton of races in Brooklyn that exist outside of Prospect Park and they’re a regular at Brooklyn Running Company and wanted to support the shop.
“It’s so close and the vibes are always there,” says Belisario. “It’s high-energy and super supportive. I see a lot of my friends there. I’ve continued to show up because it’s just such a well-put together race.”
Last year, Belisario finished the race in 8:03—not their best, they admit—but thinks they can get a sub-8-minute mile time this year.
“The shorter the distance, the more nervous I am about it,” they say. “It’s funny, whenever I’ve traveled to run a 100k or something longer, I’m just like, ‘this is fine, I’m doing great!’ In the mile, everybody’s so fast and there are so many great runners in the New York City running scene. Going really fast feels intimidating to me.”
But they also know that the grass is always greener—that many of these milers would feel equally intimidated at the thought of running an ultra. But that’s all part of the beauty of the New York City running community.
“It’s so big and I feel like we can all find our little niche,” Belisario says. “So whether you’re competitive or you’re just doing it for fun, the cool part of running here is you can just find your people.”
Last summer, Gerard Connelly was living in Flagstaff, Arizona and saving up money while working at a running store when he decided to move to New York City and see if he could make it. It was two days before the BKLYN MILE and his roommate, Michael O’Leary, who trains for the mile, had been invited to race in the elite men’s heat, the Fast Movers Men’s Mile. Connelly decided he’d try running in the men’s open race.
He was exhausted: He had just spent a week driving more than 1,500 miles across the country and now he was running from his East Village apartment across the Williamsburg Bridge to compete in a road race.
Connelly’s a competitive runner who used to race motocross—an endurance sport, he points out—before switching to running because colleges aren’t as interested in recruiting motocross competitors. At SUNY Brockport, he raced the 5k, running it in 15 flat. Connelly figured he use the BKLYN MILE as a fast, fun workout. But when the gun went off, he found himself up front.
“I stayed relaxed as possible the first half, and then at the half-mile I stayed calm and tried not to panic when it started hurting,” Connelly recalls. “And then with a quarter-mile to go, I added a little surge and was in the lead alongside John [Butler].”
Butler surged past Connelly with 150 meters to go and Connell resigned himself to getting second—until he hit the 100-meter mark. You can still win this, Connelly told himself. Try.
He opened up his arms and beat Butler to the finish line by less than a second. His time: 4:27. It was the first race he had won in years.
“That was a good introduction to the New York City running community,” Connelly says. “The pictures that were taken of me at the finish line were like the coolest pictures ever taken of me running. It was just me and [Butler], totally going all out.”
Connelly’s returning to defend his title, but he’s in the middle of training for the Twin Cities Marathon taking place on October 2, with the dream of achieving an Olympic qualifying time. He also has designs to become a coach to help people accomplish their running goals.
Asked about what kind of advice he’d give to someone hoping to PR in the BKLYN MILE, Connelly takes a beat and says: “A big thing I would say to anybody training for any races is to take each day with a grain of salt. Running eight miles in the park and feeling absolutely terrible and not being able to run a step faster doesn’t mean anything. That’s not proving what you can do two months from now on race day. That’s just part of the process.”
Bandit is an official sponsor of The BKLYN MILE. Registration for the August 7th race is still open at their website here.