ORIGINAL NEW YORK HARRIERS RECALL TEAM'S BEGINNINGS AHEAD OF 30TH ANNIVERSARY
"The Harriers were formed as a rebellion against the tyranny of strict training schedules, required workouts, and anti-beer-drinking zealotry."
So begins the 1998 10th anniversary edition of the Harrier newsletter. Former Harriers President and member since 1993, Douglas Hegley, fondly recalls the printed Harrier Herald -- which he worked on for years -- as a labor of love. "We used to gather at a bar to fold, address, and stamp these things, then stagger to the nearest mailbox to send them out."
Since that time, the team has grown from a small band of plucky road racers to a large and passionate group of equally spirited runners. The newsletter now goes out to 200+ members weekly in an electronic format. But what hasn't changed is the dedication of the people who make up the team -- and their passion for running (and, yes, adult beverages).
Susan Bayat, founder of the women's team, first joined after meeting some runners at a local bar. "The guys were starting a new team and were thinking of calling it the Harriers," she recalls. "They were all on another team named Northshore and didn't care for their demanding coach, who didn't care for their drinking."
Diane Kenna, who joined in December '89 as a result of an encounter at Flemings, says she read an article in Running News about the team "which included more detail about Harrier hangovers than accomplishments." She promptly decided that this was the team for her.
The Harriers were competitive, constantly pushing their abilities, but always there to support and encourage their teammates.
"We were the only team in those days with anything on back of our racing shirts," Hegley says. "I can still picture running several races at 100% effort and seeing the bouncing H's of my teammates just ahead -- guys like Rob Morrison, Nich Galasso, Nick Tsilibes, Patrick Killackey, Joe Straub, Liam Kinsella, Stephen Marsalese."
Hegley's proudest moment was in 1997, the year the men's open team won the overall NYRR team title. "Totally inspiring," he says.
David Shotts, a former president elected "when I failed to show up for a (rare) non-pub meeting that I wasn’t invited to," agrees.
"We scored well in those years despite probably being the smallest team," he says. "We had a reputation for going hard at everything."
Hegley attributes that to the team attitude. "If one of us had a bad day, another would pick up the slack. I was lucky to be a part of it."
Ellen Foley, who joined the Harriers almost 30 years ago, remembers that team spirit on display at the 1989 NYC Marathon. "I loved our team outfits and everyone cheering us on," Foley said, recalling the start of a tradition that continues to this day.
Community has always been a pillar of the Harrier experience. Mary Schafer joined 18 years ago and became the first official treasurer ("I did it because no one else wanted to," she says, perhaps a sentiment echoed by the current administration). "I am a better runner and racer no doubt," Schafer acknowledges. "But the impact has been on my life. My New York Harrier teammates remain my people."
Anne-Marie d'Alessandro, who admits she can't even remember when or how she joined the Harriers, says that motivation was important, but "this was a group of amazing runners who never took themselves too seriously."
One 1993 newsletter notes, "We still maintain that it's more important for the entire team to fit at a bar in Avalan than to be a serious threat on the NYRR scene" -- while also solemnly noting a handful of Harrier men qualified for the elite crew in the 5th Avenue mile. The women's team was small but fierce and six months later, Foley led the women to their first team race victory at the Queens Half. While the team continued to celebrate its storied bar culture, the newsletter cheekily used an asterisk to denoted local running team "arch-enemies" in the standings, "in case there was any doubt."
That was a banner year for the Harriers, with the men's and women's teams creeping up in the standings, the men taking second place in the A standings and the women landing first in the B standings. They would enter the A division in 1994.
In 1996, the NYC marathon was dubbed "the Harriers' finest moment." Men finished second overall (top runner Nick Galasso blazing in at 2:27 - a record which still stands today and finishing as third American despite what the newsletter describes as "facial lacerations delivered by an enemy elbow" at the start, losing "10% of his blood volume" in the process), and women finished sixth -- their best showing ever.
When they weren't racing in Manhattan, the Harriers continued to forge their friendships through other events. One Harrier group won their category at the Hood to Coast relay after teammate Christina Duss got hit by a car within the last half mile of the race. D'Alessandro recounts, "She picked herself up and kept going. That is dedication!"
In 1996, the team bar moved to the Dublin House -- the newsletter noting that, in Harrier tradition, "attendance has been better than for most races."
A year later at Team Champs, the men's team placed 2nd, with ten runners coming in under 27:30. Our small band of runners had solidified its spot on the New York running scene. "We were pretty fast, but man, did we have fun!" says Hegley. That "passion for running, a zest for life" as Hegley describes it, continues to grow to this day.
Diane Kenna agrees, declaring the best parts of being a Harrier to be "marginal improvement on running; huge improvement on social life."
Shotts has a simpler answer to why the Harriers are the best: "We have the best uniforms," he says. Thirty years later, you can still see that same H on the backs of our runners, racing towards the finish line.
Happy 30th Anniversary, fellow Harriers -- old and new. And here's to many more years of rocking the H.