Power Couple Atkins and Erb to Headline NYRR Midnight Run
NEW YORK - As 2014 comes to a close, thousands of New Yorkers and runners from across the country will dash into 2015 at the stroke of midnight at the 36th NYRR Midnight Run in Central Park on December 31. American road-racing power couple Cole Atkins, the defending champion, and Esther Erb, the 2014 USA Marathon champion representing the local New York Athletic Club team, will lead a talented field of professional athletes. A new addition to this year’s race is the New Year’s Resolution Bib, a back bib for runners to write what they will be running for in 2015. Runners and spectators alike are invited to the free pre- and post-race festival at Central Park’s Naumburg Bandshell, featuring a dance party amidst the only fireworks display in Manhattan.
“The NYRR Midnight Run is one of our longest standing races and a New York City tradition,” said Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of New York Road Runners. “The high-spirited event brings together top local and national athletes, along with thousands of others running to bring in the New Year. It’s a fun night filled with music, fireworks, and the first run of the season.”
Atkins, 29, of Blowing Rock, NC, is the defending NYRR Midnight Run champion, having taken last year’s title by just three seconds. After a four-year collegiate soccer career at High Point University, he turned his attention to running full time and qualified for the 2013 USA Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 3000 meters and also for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Earlier this month, Atkins helped lead his professional running team, ZAP Fitness, to victory at the 2014 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships. Atkins is poised to defend his title and earn his second consecutive year-opening win.
“Last year was a great run for me,” said Atkins. “I vividly remember looking up after I made my move late in the race and seeing the fireworks exploding overhead! It was truly a unique experience that no other road race can provide. I'm happy to be back as I try to defend my title against a strong field. The race will serve as a nice tune-up for me as I look ahead to the USA Half-Marathon Championships in mid-January.”
Erb, 28, of Hopewell, NJ, is a member of the local New York Athletic Club team. She captured her first national title this past fall at the 2014 USA Marathon Championships, qualifying her to represent the United States for the first time in her career at the 2015 IAAF World Marathon Championships in Beijing, China. Her victory was an improvement from her third-place performance at the same event in 2013. Earlier in the year, the six-time NCAA Division II All-American set her marathon personal best of 2:33:15 at the Boston Marathon and was the fifth American female finisher at the NYC Half.
“This will be my seventh NYRR race this year, and I never cease to be impressed by the incredible organization and atmosphere that NYRR brings to each and every event that they put on,” said Erb. “2014 has been an incredible year for me including an amazing day and big PR at Boston, winning my first USA championship, and Cole asking me to spend the rest of our lives together. I'm excited to start 2015 off right with my third Midnight Run. We probably won't kiss at midnight, but hopefully he'll stick around to kiss me after I finish.”
Atkins and Erb will race into 2015 together as fiancé and fiancée after their engagement this past Thanksgiving Day in Atkins’ hometown of Charleston, SC. The couple met in 2010 as teammates at ZAP Fitness, located in Lenoir, NC, and began dating the following year. Erb moved to New Jersey this past year to take on an assistant cross country coaching position at Rider University.
“I am always really excited and happy when we can toe the starting line together,” said Atkins. “It will be a great way to ring in the New Year!”
Additional Athlete Backgrounds and Notable Performances
· Christian Thompson, 26, Elkins Park, PA, 2012 Midnight Run champion
· Craig Forys, 25, Howell, NJ, 2014 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships 3000-meter steeplechase finalist
· Andrew Colley, 23, Williamsburg, VA, three-time NCAA Cross Country All-American
· Neely Spence Gracey, 24, Lake Orion, MI, eight-time NCAA Division II Cross Country, Indoor Track and Field, and Outdoor Track and Field champion
· Chelsea Reilly, 25, Oakland, CA, 2013 3000-meter USA Indoor Track and Field champion
· Sarah Crouch, 25, Springfield, MA, seventh place at the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon
A new addition to this year’s fun run is the New Year’s Resolution Bib, a back bib for runners to write what they will be running for in 2015. Featuring a 15-minute fireworks display—the only one in Manhattan—at the sound of the starting horn, this race also gives runners the chance to toast to the New Year at the sparkling cider fluid station at the course’s halfway point.