The 2020 OSR1
Whenever I see Times Square, I think of the OSR1 Mile. It was one the most thrilling things I’ve done in the city.
Orchard Street Runners organizer Joe DiNoto leads runs on Tuesdays around New York City, mostly in Manhattan. Roughly once a quarter, OSR organizes a race that usually demands that the racers to cut through the middle Times Square sometime between 1:00-2:30am. It is not a closed course, and as far as I know the city has no knowledge of that’s happening, so it’s on the runners to avoid getting hit by cars.
The race itself is the climax of the experience, but it starts when you get ready around 10:30pm at night. I left my house at around 11:30PM in my running gear clothes, phone, keys, wallet, water bottle, and a jacket. Getting on the subway, I asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” The answer, of course, is, “Why the hell not?!”
As I walked closer to As Is, where everyone met up before hand, around 12:15, runner silhouettes started to stride out down the middle of the street and I knew I was coming closer to the center of the hive of the OSR 1am 1 mile race.
A few runners were chatting outside, but most people were inside. I walked into the buzzing of people laughing and talking in Tracksmith shorts, Next%s, and a few with jerseys representing their own running club. One table of people in the corner who clearly were not runners and were baffled at the scene in front of them.
Photo by David Paz
After getting checked in, Joe gave an overview of how the race would go. Paraphrasing, he said, “Race begins at 1:00 a couple blocks from here. Watch out for cars. Look for the finish line on the left of the street.”
Does he have liability insurance for this? It seems like a massive risk for 90 runners to sprint through Times Square in the middle of the night. I don’t remember signing a waiver, but I like that his races don't try to overcomplicate themselves and that they treat everyone as adults - adults who pay to run down the middle of one of the busiest streets in the country at night.
After the overview of the race, we had 30 minutes to warm up and meet at the starting line at 1:00AM. A few people were striding out a block away from the starting line. A nod of good luck and wtf are we doing here as we ran past each other and shook out their legs and arms a few minutes before the race, acknowledging the camaraderie of what we were all about to do.
Minutes before 1:00AM start time, almost as a divine joke, it started to rain.
With a cash prize for the first place male and female, everyone jostled to the made-up starting line at the intersection of 50th and 7th Ave. As the organizers waited for the light to turn green, cars, taxis, and even a police car lined up but behind us. Maybe someone called the police because of a large crowd of skinny people in short shorts and tank tops were gathering late at night, or that maybe they were there for our protection, or maybe they were there just by coincidence. Either way, they did not interfere with the race.
GO - we took off down the middle of the toad and a squad of volunteers on bikes pedaled in front to film and blow whistles to cars in the road to let them know that 90 runners were about to swarm through the intersection.
The primal mob energy paralyzed Times Square. We zoomed through 7th Ave traffic, flowing around taxis and through red lights. The danger of running on an open course and getting clipped by a car mixed the whoops and cheers from bystanders was just awesome.
Before I could settle in to a pace, it seemed like the finish line was in front of me.
I got high-fives crossing the line and joined gauntlet of other finishers who were cheering on those just crossing the finish line. Afterwards, everyone gradually jogged back to As Is to redeem one free drink that came with our registration to catch up about the race.
There are lots of ways you can convince yourself that a race like this isn’t for you or that you don’t have the time to make it happen. “I have work” “The kids” “I need to get up early” - all valid reasons to not run through Times Square at 1am. However, it can be helpful to shake your routine up with a novel experience like an OSR race. They’re well-organized and you see a familiar part of the city in a brand new way. I’ll never see Times Square the same again.