Last Thursday, the Parks Department and New York Road Runners unveiled new mile markers at the green space, the first of 10 parks across the city that will have the signs, including Cunningham Park and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said the markers will formalize running trails, allowing runners, walkers and everyday park visitors to track their mileage.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than having to constantly look at your phone or smartwatch during a run to check your distance,” he said. “With these mile markers, you can now run without any electronics and totally unplug. To me, that’s what running is all about, being able to put away your screens and de-stress in beautiful public spaces.”
Silver said he hopes the markers will encourage New Yorkers to get active and run more.
New York Road Runners hosts open run groups in Astoria Park every Saturday morning. It’s one of 16 open runs in the city.
“I can tell you, it’s a great way to get out and connect,” Silver said. “These open runs are not just for advanced runners. They’re for everyone, even walkers.”
He added that Parks will begin construction on a brand new track at the far end of Astoria Park this fall.
Michael Capiraso, president and CEO of New York Road Runners, said the group has been working on the mile markers for years. To finally get to the finish line was “very rewarding,” he said.
“If you build it, they will come,” he said. “We have mile markers now, people are going to come.”
Capiraso said in every park he ran while growing up he always looked for some indication of where he was. He said he was never a “digital” person and never wore a watch.
He also echoed Silver’s call for unplugging when running.
“Running is so much about being healthy, not just physically, but being healthy in our minds and giving ourselves a chance to just think,” Capiraso said. “I find I am most creative when I am running.”
The mile markers unveiling also came with two separate running-related announcements. First, Capiraso announced that Peter Ciaccia, the longtime race director of the TCS New York City Marathon, will retire after this November’s marathon.
Capiraso, who called the moment “bittersweet,” said Ciaccia was a champion of mile markers.
“We are going to miss him,” he said. “We’ve got six months to celebrate Peter and all that he’s done.”
Ciaccia said he’s focused on the marathon until “the final finisher crosses the finish line.”
“What you see on the faces of those folks who cross our finish lines every week is just sheer enjoyment, sheer accomplishment,” he said. “We love sharing in that. I love standing at the finish line greeting our runners.”
The second announcement was that Silver will run in his first and last marathon. Silver recalled standing with Ciaccia one day at the marathon’s finish line a few years ago and pledging to take part in the race one day as commissioner.
Although he grew up running in both high school and college, Silver said he stopped when he lived in North Carolina. He was in a car a lot more, and after seeing a doctor, he realized he wasn’t in great health.
When he decided to get active and change his diet, the commissioner joined the Road Runners. He reunited with his best friend from college, April Cargill, who persuaded him to join the group Harlem Run in January 2017.
“I met Harlem Run for the first time and fell in love,” Silver said. “Now, it is my running family that’s helping me get fit and train for the marathon.”
But what really inspired Silver to run in the marathon was seeing Cargill, whom he called his “shero,” train and run in the marathon last year.
“When she crossed the finish line, knowing how hard it was last year, something in me said if she could do it and cross, even though it was a tough race for her, I said this is the year,” he said. “I’ve got to do it.”
Silver said he will begin training in July, and share his journey on social media. He plans to run in all 16 open run parks in New York City and share his favorite routes, including Prospect Park.
When he crosses the finish line, he’ll be greeted by Ciaccia, completing the pledge he made years ago.
“It’s going to be scary, but also a lot of fun,” Silver said.