Own the Streets: Running for Team Central Park

Ron Haney running for Team Central Park
Participants in Team Central Park receive guaranteed entry in the ING New York City marathon.

Ron Haney has run 32 marathons. Or maybe 33. He's lost count.

Most of the highlights of Ron's running career are what you would expect. Ron remembers running his first marathon, in New York, in 1995. He remembers breaking the esteemed three-hour mark by just two seconds at his second marathon. One race that surprisingly stands out for Ron is marathon number 31 (or was it 32?).

You might expect someone's 31st-ish marathon to get lost in a memory bank of more than 800 miles, but this one was different. It wasn't just that the 2011 ING New York City Marathon was Ron's first since becoming a dad six years earlier. The biggest difference was that this time he was running for Team Central Park.

Team Central Park gave Ron, and many others like him, a chance to use his participation in the race to raise funds for the Central Park Conservancy. Ron's pledge to raise $3,000 guaranteed his entry in the race and gave Ron a heightened sense of purpose during the marathon. "It felt so good… there was nothing like wearing that t-shirt and crossing the finish line and hearing people saying along the way 'Go Team Central Park!'"

Ron says the pride of running in support of the Park hit him at mile 16. The roaring crowds disperse for the first time as marathon runners cross the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. "It's your first chance to ask yourself 'what have I done?'" Ron realized he had never previously run a marathon for a cause beyond himself. "There was no better feeling," Ron said, than recognizing that he was running to support "the greatest park in the world."

Ron lives in Long Branch, NJ now, and even though his home is near an Atlantic Ocean beach, he still finds time to run in Central Park – "every chance I get." Ron finds the Park comforting. He brings his running shoes and gear every time he comes to Manhattan, hoping for a chance to run in the "one extremely bucolic setting in New York."

Running, and marathon running in particular, is an almost spiritual experience for Ron. "It really is a soul-searching journey." He believes just about anyone can, and should, complete a marathon. "You see all different kinds [of runners]. Everyone has a reason for being out there." To get inspired, Ron recommends watching a race in person. Seeing the diversity of runners at various skill levels, Ron believes, shows onlookers that they could run too. "Slower people are as much fun to watch as the fast ones."

"The hardest part is getting to the starting line," Ron says. "Everything else falls into place."

Click here to register to run with, or support, Team Central Park. Participating in Team Central Park guarantees your entry in the ING New York City Marathon.

Get the official guide to Central Park.