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HARLEM WEEK 2019: Percy Sutton run-walk grows, attracting record crowds

2019-08-19

The Percy Sutton 5K Run Walk is named for the former Manhattan borough president who helped make the New York Marathon a five-borough event. In 1976, Mayor Beame (3rd from r.) Sutton (4th from r.) promote the new citywide marathon with other borough presidents. (Dan Godfrey/New York Daily News)

They congregate at the starting line in central Harlem every year by the thousands — enthusiastic New Yorkers of all ages and athletic abilities eager to pound the pavement in Harlem Week’s largest sporting event.

More than a test of endurance that celebrates both a local legend and the community he served, the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K Run & Walk takes participants on a tour of historic uptown while offering them a leg up on qualifying for the TCS New York City Marathon.

This year’s event – on Harlem Week’s final day, Aug. 24 – will again be a big draw. Approximately 5,000 entrants are expected to gather at W. 136th St. and Edgecombe Ave. for the 8:30 a.m. start of the 11th event since its organizers, the New York Road Runners (NYRR), club introduced the 5K run to Harlem in 2009. An accompanying 1.5-mile walk for those who prefer a slower, shorter route around Harlem starts at 9 a.m.

This is the NYRR’s homage to Percy Sutton – the late Harlem titan, civil rights activist and Harlem Week co-founder whose accomplishments were many.

“In 1976, Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton played a critical role in bringing the New York City Marathon beyond Central Park and to the streets of the five boroughs,” said Michael Capiraso, president and CEO of the NYRR, which also organizes the marathon.

Thousands of participants from all over NYC, the tri-state region, nationally and internationally participate in the 2011 Percy Sutton Harlem 5K Run-Walk through historic Harlem.
Thousands of participants from all over NYC, the tri-state region, nationally and internationally participate in the 2011 Percy Sutton Harlem 5K Run-Walk through historic Harlem.

“Each year, the race honors the pioneer who had such a lasting and positive impact on both the Harlem community and the running community. We’re excited to get to share his legacy with all of the participants in the 5K, including the young women running their first-ever race with the NYRR Run for the Future program.”

The latter – a group of 100 11th-grade girls – are among the big winners of the Sutton 5K and the NYRR’s Run for the Future program. Free and for self-described non-athletes, it teaches participants the importance of health and fitness. At the end of the seven-week program, the girls are introduced to racing in the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K Run, and receive $2,000 college scholarships. Since 2011, the program has given out more than $600,000 in scholarships.

For more serious racers, it might be about beating best 5K times or securing a place in the New York City Marathon. The Sutton Harlem 5K counts as a qualifying event under the marathon’s 9+1 program, which guarantees entry to anyone who completes nine scored qualifying races and volunteers at one NYRR event during the preceding year.

Then are the legions of recreational and community participants who are just aiming to keep fit – another theme of the 5K under its co-sponsor, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce’s Healthy Harlem campaign.

These participants include an annual contingent from the City College of New York, whose imposing neo-Gothic campus in Hamilton Heights is a historic site on the 5K route.