The Mountain Goat has become the opening bell for summertime road
races in Syracuse, and if you’re not running in either the 10-mile or
3-kilometer races on the morning of Sunday, May 2, I highly recommend
that you pick out a spot along the route, set up a lawn chair and get
ready to cheer.
This summer outdoor life in Central New York gets even better, as
Syracuse and Onondaga County will be home to its first Ironman
competition in September. If you think the folks beating the pavement
for 10 miles in the Mountain Goat are crazy, mark your calendar for
That’s the day when hundreds of locals will join with people from
across the country, and around the world, to swim, bike and run a
combined 70.3 miles. That event, known as a half Ironman, so as not to
be confused with another competition that goes twice as long, will jump
off at Jamesville Reservoir, where swimmers will stroke for 1.2 miles,
then get on their bikes for a 56-mile cycle on the hills of Jamesville,
LaFayette and Apulia, before finishing off with a half marathon (13.1
mile) run into Syracuse, all ending at the Inner Harbor. Now doesn’t
that make the Mountain Goat seem downright easy? (You can check out the
entire Half Ironman course, and still register for the race, at
The Mountain Goat started 32 years ago with a group of runners from
the downtown YMCA. As it evolved, the course encompassed the two big
reservoir hills in Syracuse— Woodland Reservoir and Westcott—and has
grown to one of the premier road races in the Northeast. The course is
grueling and challenging for runners unaccustomed to hills; in fact,
it’s grueling for those who are accustomed to hills.
After a flat first mile leaving Clinton Square, the pack of nearly
2,000 runners heads up into Strathmore and makes a loop through
Onondaga Park before descending to Kirk Park and the South Side. Then
they start a steady climb up Colvin Street toward Manley Field House
(in my view, the toughest part of the race), and get a brief respite as
they chug toward Syracuse University’s main campus along Comstock
Avenue. Pretty soon they face the hills in Thornden Park before
returning to downtown amid the cheers of the crowd lining Salina Street.
For the past six weeks runners training for the Goat have been
convening at the Museum of Science and Technology in Armory Square and
running a portion of the course in preparation for the big day. Most
Saturdays there have been at least 500 runners out there on the
streets. Any event that brings 500 souls, most of them from the
suburbs, into downtown has got to be a good thing for Syracuse. On race
day that number will multiply tenfold as runners along with their
friends and families come for the race and stay for the after-party
(with, yes, free beer) which includes Letizia and the Z Band, and on a
clear day can stretch way into the afternoon.
The race itself has gotten so well known that it draws runners from
all over. A victim of our own success, the field has gotten so
competitive that no local runner has won it since 2005, when Kevin
Collins took home first place among the men for the third straight year
and Michelle LaFleur led the women.
A lot of this has to do with a guy named Ed Griffin (no relation),
who runs a shoe store named Fleet Feet in DeWitt and also heads the
Mountain Goat Foundation. With the cooperation of city government and
the support of many volunteers, Griffin has brought the Goat the level
of attention it deserves, serving as a model of the type of
public-private partnership our city needs.
If you come out this Sunday, you won’t be disappointed. You’ll see
people running in costumes. You’ll see the guy who dribbles a
basketball every step of the way. You’ll see runners from Africa
competing for the $1,000 first-prize money and folks out there
promising themselves with every step that next year they won’t stay out
so late the night before.
You will see Syracuse showing the world that we know how to put on a
world-class event. Pick your viewing spot by going to www.mountaingoatrun.com/coursemaps/10_Mile.pdf.
See you there!
Read Ed Griffin-Nolan’s award-winning commentary each week in the Syracuse New Times.
And watch him massage the weary legs of his boss, the editor of this
newspaper, Sunday at the Mountain Goat. She plans on crossing the
finish line 80 minutes after starting the race.