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Giving Chase: A Guy Stole Our Bags, iPhones and Wallet from East River Park Track in New York City

I've always sort of wished someone would try to steal something from me on foot. Like my wallet, my book bag, or my phone. Please, let someone think they can take something from me and get away. I knew I would catch them - I'm a runner.

And last week, I finally got my chance.

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It's Tuesday morning around 8am and I'm just arriving to East River Park Track on the east side of downtown New York City. Our weekly Resident Runners "We On That Track" speed workout was scheduled to kick-off shortly so I sit and start lacing up.

Joined by two friends, Fabian and Marnie, we sit talking about the strange weather, go over the workout ahead of us, and look on as the Baruch men's soccer team knock the ball around during a short-sided scrimmage. At this time of day the track is pretty busy with the Tuesday regulars and a mixture of serious and not-so-serious runners, walkers, and onlookers. One onlooker sits, nodding to the music leaking from his white earbuds, softly muttering something.

"Did you say something?" asks Fabian.

"Nah, just singing to myself," replies the guy. Cool.

Time to get to work so we move our bags, a Nike backpack and a black drawstring pack, to the midfield line of the soccer field just about 10 feet inside the track. We'd done this the past three weeks as we all agreed it felt safer and less likely for them to be taken than if left on the pedestal that is those shiny silver bleachers. Just like every other time we place our valuables inside the bags and start off on a 1 mile warmup.

As we finish the warmup and go into some activation drills, all is normal. The soccer team is beginning to wrap-up practice and our bags are sitting just as we left them. The upcoming 12x400s feel a bit daunting, so we decide to get started right away.

One down… 200m recovery - a light jog halfway around the track. Two down… a bit fast on that one, so a slower 200m recovery. On 400 number three I notice something as I zoom down the final 100m stretch. About three of the soccer players and what I think is the coach are somewhat hovered around our bags. I catch their eye as I motion to make way and give them a convincing glance that says, "Don't touch our shit, please."

Their eyes soften and one nods with some degree of comprehension, so I thought. Finishing the third 400 interval we begin our recovery for another 200m to the other side of the track. Time for number four, GO!

That's when the story really begins. As I round the bend and glance down the straightaway I immediately notice the void - our bags are gone. And so is the soccer team. A fast pace became a sprint as I dash through the metal turnstile and out onto the asphalt path that runs up and down the Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt highway. Just as I exit I spot the soccer team crossing the highway via the pedestrian path up above.

Sensing my urgency they connect the dots and shout, "Were those your bags?! He ran that way," pointing South on the path, "wearing a white shirt!"

Off I go, with one thing continually running through my head: "I'm gonna catch this guy." After sprinting for about 300m I hear screams from the pedestrian bridge again and as I turn around I see I'm being waved back. Returning I'm told he ran along the water, so Fabian and Marnie are a bit ahead of me already making their way to the parallel cement path that runs along the East River. Separated from the FDR highway by various baseball fields, parks, and courts, I essentially backtracked only to eventually makeup the original 300m on the opposite side of the park area.

No matter, I was still gonna catch this fucking guy.

Pushing ahead I pass Fabian who assures me he saw someone up ahead running. He points and motions for me to go so I continue pushing, faster, faster, until in the distance I see our bags ditched alongside the path. "Great," but I don't care about the bags at this point. Onward, I keep running.

Unable to see who I'm chasing yet, I look back to Fabian and he points ahead through the park area separating the water-side path from the highway-side path. I'll let he and Marnie check the backs, I've got to keep going. I make a quick decision to switch directions and cut through the park to the highway-side path. As I do so I notice a white movement up ahead in the park, just visible through brush and trees. It's HIM.

As he merges onto the asphalt runner- and biker-path I kick it into full gear, hauling ass and still hearing myself reaffirm the fact that I would soon catch this guy. 50 meters, 40 meters, I'm gaining… and then, WHOA!

He stops, turns to the barricaded fence separating the path from the infamous FDR highway, and in an instant is up and over. Immediately cars screech and the ever-too-familiar sound of car horns begin to ring out. Without thought I immediately leap up and scale the iron fence as well, quickly landing on the opposite side in the first lane of traffic. A head-to-head game of Frogger begins as I dash from lane to lane pleading with drivers to slow down as I simultaneously eye his movements toward the opposite side.

After making it through the three lanes I hop up and balance myself on the cement median dividing the two sides of traffic. Only now it becomes apparent that southbound traffic is playing no games, traveling at much higher speeds and with far fewer gaps. With each contemplative move my brain reminds me that the gap is too small and the cars too fast. After about 10 seconds of anxious anticipation I get my break, quickly jumping and sprinting between two cars before I make my way up and over the outer cement barrier and onto the FDR service road.

My feet hit, I glance up, and NO WAY - a NYPD police cruiser is coasting down from Houston Street directly toward me. Checking south I see the guy begin to make his move running toward Baruch Houses, a series of public housing units at the corner of Delancey and FDR. My immediate urge is to sprint after him, sure that I can now make up the only 50 meters remaining between me and my long-running subconscious hopes of catching an intended thief.

But instead, I flag down the officer. It's not often (actually never) that police arrive at the very moment a crime takes place, so I feel obligated to at least alert him. His window rolls down and I try to explain the scenario assuming he just saw me hop off the highway on foot.

"Sir, I'm chasing a guy who just stole our bags and has my phone and wallet."

"Uh, where was it stolen from?" he asked.

In my head: "Who the fuck cares!?" Out loud: "The track, but he's right around the corner, I'm chasing him now and need to catch him."

He looks unalarmed and follows up with, "What was stolen?"

"My phone and wallet!" I yell. It's at this point I realize my mistake. I should have kept running, I should have ignored the cop, I should have caught the guy by now.

"I'm going to go catch him."

The officer nods and says he'll head up and around to try and find him as I take off.

I continue pursuit, sprinting through the courtyard and around one of the housing units. No one in sight other than a few bystanders, whom I question. No one saw anything, so I move back around to the highway via Delancey. Nothing.

He's gone.

Now, with no phone, and with friends no where in sight, I make my way back toward the track - about 3/4 of a mile. Coming over the highway (this time using a designated walking bridge) I see Fabian and Marnie walking along the water-side path. Finishing my run I approach the two co-chasers who are happy to present our bags with all other belongings still nicely packed inside.

The three of us walk along the path and begin to trade perspectives. It's then Fabian explains that as I ran along the opposite side of the highway, he stood and observed the guy run into the housing unit courtyard and quickly walk into one of the buildings. "That one," he pointed as we approach Baruch Houses.

We knew the building he went in, what he was wearing, and exactly what he looked like. Maybe we'll still get him… maybe. 20 minutes after calling the police, a unit shows up - but not for us. 40 minutes pass and after finishing their business the unit pulls up and we explain everything.

"You ran across the highway?" they question in disbelief. "Yep."

After a quick scan of the building and additional units arriving, we're told there's not much else to be done. I cancel all my financial accounts and start tracking the iPhone in case he turns it on. In the meantime, nothing left to do but file a police report.

To the station we go, somewhat hesitantly as we know he'll surely leave the building as soon as we're out of sight. At the precinct we file our reports, and everyone is really understanding and helpful. As we provide details it becomes apparent that Fabian got a really good look at the guy, even better than I despite giving chase for so long.

As a matter of fact, Fabian actually talked to the guy. Right on the bleachers. Right before we started our workout. The thief was the music-listening guy sitting beside us on the bleachers… he'd removed his striped shirt and red hat sometime during the chase, but that was him.

When the detectives learn of our encounter they ask us if we would recognize the guy if seen again. "Of course," replies Fabian. And he was right. After sorting through a hundred or more photos of previously convicted persons matching the descriptions, we identify him along with his long list of prior theft charges.

What's next? Not sure. Probably nothing. I doubt we'll get our stuff back and I doubt they can prove he stole it. There are no cameras in the housing courtyard or at the building entrance and no highway cams to capture the chase across the FDR. We gave it a good effort.

I did learn one lesson though.

Get faster.

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Join Resident Runners every Tuesday morning at 8am for #WEONTRACK at ERPT.

 

A Running Look Inside the Nike Montauk Project

[All photos by Zach Hetrick ]

It's a normal day. I sipped some coffee, hopped on Instagram, liked a few photos, made a comment here and there. Cute puppy - like. Beautiful sunset - Wow. Nike backpack and new Free Flyknits delivered to someone's door - cool… wait, HOLY SHIT what is this?

Let the insanity surrounding the mysterious #MontaukProject begin.

As quickly as one photo popped up, more started to appear. Most contained the invite, the backpack, the shoes, but that was it. Next step, search Google - nothing. Like, nothing. No info, no website or microsite, not even a mention other than on Instagram. Nike was up to something, I knew it. Exactly what it was, no clue. But then Knox Robinson reached out and asked the Resident Runners crew if we'd be down for a "running adventure" within the Thursday - Sunday window. We responded, "of course, we're free on Sunday," without connecting any dots. I imagine he laughed out loud and quickly corrected us, "Nah, we need you from Thursday through Sunday. And are you fit? It's a lot of running."

With that, Resident Runners' co-founder/my good homie Raymond Hailes and I sent in our info, shoe and apparel sizes, dietary restrictions, and address. A few days later, we started seeing a flood of insanely awesome #MontaukProject photos on Instagram from what turned out to be the Week 1 hand-selected attendees including Robin Arzon. Runners we knew of, had met, or planned on running with at some point. To be honest, we still didn't get it. But we knew it looked amazing.

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Flash forward one week and it was our turn. The doorbell rings, a messenger hands over the goods and I slip my sockless feet into a fresh new pair of Nike Free Flyknits. The only instructions given: "Arrive at Nike Flatiron ready to run… You will take flight… Be prepared to train hard…" So we arrived, and as promised we ran through the streets of New York City to the East Side, each of the 14 soon-to-be-running-buddies unintentionally pushing the pace in excitement. And again, as promised, we took flight - literally. Two seaplanes awaited the squad as we were given official Montauk Project waterproof jackets and quickly lifted off the East River. Destination: Montauk.

Upon arrival it became increasingly clear just how special this weekend would be. Greeted by Men in Black-esque drivers and blacked-out vans we were driven to Ruschmeyers, a dope little hotspot where we were put up in side-by-side rooms. As we entered, each runner's eyes widened to find what else but a room full of Nike gear - shirts, shorts, socks, sunglasses, you name it. With only 10 minutes to soak it all in, everyone met back outside of our rooms for a laugh of disbelief and then hit dinner with the Montauk Project counselors and coaches.

Back inside the room we reviewed the weekend's schedule on an iPad Mini, fantasized about stealing the super-dope Montauk Project doormat, and then tried to get some sleep.

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"Knock, knock." "Who's there?" "New Terra Kiger trail running shoes, that's who." In classic Nike fashion, we awoke to shoes on our doorstep perfectly suited for the morning's 5 mile trail run.

Off we go… bends, turns, roots, dirt, the beginning of a journey. After the run we were introduced to the rest of the team at the Montauk Project Head Quarters: co-Creator Pat Jeffers, a slew of coaches & counselors, and our chefs for the weekend including Nutritional Counselor & Herbal Medicine Expert Eileen Cuce HHC AADP (who, by the way, could "read our tongues" and diagnose basic ailments or deficiencies simply by peering into our mouthes). It was then that the true purpose of the Montauk Project was revealed.

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The Nike Montauk Project was created to provide elite-level training, resources, and knowledge to a select group of New York City lifestyle runners. The information and guidance we received was to be taken back to our boroughs, neighborhoods, and streets and shared with our expansive yet connected community of urban runners. The Montauk Project was going to offer things that most of us don't regularly get: nutritionists, massage therapists, tailored cross training, world-ranked running partners, and one crucial intangible: inspiration.

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Next up after eating and greeting was an intensely fun CORE workout with WNBA star and Nike Master Trainer Holly Rilinger. Explaining the importance of integrating CORE into a runner's regimen, Holly challenged the crew to reach, jump, and burn. From there we had some R&R, enjoyed the rain, and got into some gait analysis (in the rain and finished up the following day) courtesy of a space-age outdoor camera / screen setup. Raising questions about form, striking, and proper footwear the crew had their strides analyzed by Nike techxperts and a couple impressive specimens: Mike Rutt (3:57 miler & 6th in the world in the 800m) and Caroline King (Boston College standout and PENN RELAYS 4x1,500m relay anchor champ).

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Afterwards it was time for the evening's activity: #TrackAttack! But not without the Flyknit Lunar1+ appearing on our doorstep, of course.

Incorporating speed into the mix, Knox broke down the importance of the track. Our workout consisted of a 1 mile warmup, 5x1000m high intensity intervals with 200m recovery, and a 1 mile cooldown. The coolest part: running alongside Mike Rutt. Nothing can describe the feeling, but trust me, you just want to run fast and run hard. So we did. The best part - hearing Knox scream at Ray as he fell back a bit from the pace group.

"Ray, you getting tired? Then run faster!" And, "Ray, if you're falling behind, then move to the front!" So simple. It worked… Ray moved to the front.

At the completion of the final 1000m (as I chased after Keith Morrison side-by-side Leigh Gerson) I let out a good old fashioned dry-heave and then hugged everyone within arm's reach who'd finished. Cheering began for those coming in right on our heals and everyone shared the same face of exhaustion + exhilaration. Our reward (aside from finishing) was track-side dinner and drinks with great conversation.

Eric, Ray, and Mike Rutt at the Nike Montauk Project #trackattack 5x1000m workout.

Eric, Ray, and Mike Rutt at the Nike Montauk Project #trackattack 5x1000m workout.

Okay, now for morning 2. (Yeah, everything before was all in a day.) Heading out for a run through the streets of Montauk everyone smiled with anticipation for what was coming. SUP! (Standup Paddle Boarding) Ladies & gents split up, which was probably best as the guys were likely to drag down any and everything within 20 feet as we plunged into the water trying to maneuver sharp turns during our relay race. The level of CORE and arm strength required to paddle with any form of speed and coordination was surprising making SUP a clear choice for cross training and running supplementation. After we cruised back to shore and dried off it was time for another quick run back to the rooms to refresh before heading to the Montauk Project HQ.

Tacos for lunch and another dose of CORE from Nike Global Yoga Ambassador Leah Kim awaited us. Outside, on the grass, breathing the fresh air we followed Leah's direction through a series of poses, stretches, and challenges. The highlight: headstands, during which most of us struggled but a few, like Res Run's Ray, managed to maintain some dignity and hold the vertical pose. Namaste, homie, namaste.

With massages on deck, pool-side chilling, more great superfoods, and a little Steve Prefontaine action on the screen (not to mention countless pieces of memorabilia and Nike history throughout the Real World-style crib) it was hard to realize that we were only hours from what many would later agree is one of the most challenging workouts ever accomplished. The BEACH FARTLEK.

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If you're not familiar with the term FARTLEK, it's pretty simple and still in use after it's conception decades ago. Basically, you run hard and fast for a set period of time or distance, and then you recover for a set period of time or distance, ON / OFF, ON / OFF. By doing so, you're maximizing shorter workouts and pushing your body to limits that aren't possible on typical distance or tempo runs. The fartlek is challenging in and of itself, but Knox and Pat weren't going to have the Montauk Project crew doing a typical session. Instead, we set out for 20 minutes, only 20 minutes, of 1 MINUTE ON / 1 MINUTE OFF running through the sand including a damn-near-45 degree sand dune. The circular beach course had us hitting the dune anywhere between 7-8 times while challenging the mind and body to NOT do one thing: give up.

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For me, it was Pat Jeffers who made the beach fartlek session so memorable. Ahead of us after 6 or so minutes were two elites: Lono and Mike Rutt. With each minute on, I pushed, growing tired. At the first mumble of "Fuck, my legs are beat!" I would receive a quick response of "Let's go, you're good!" from Pat. Two steps ahead he'd look back and push me to run harder. Right beside us was Knox, excited to have his lungs hop out of his back and #nevernotencouraging me to "Run faster, stop sand-bagging!" Heading into the final three ON / OFF cycles we made our way straight down the coast… while I didn't catch the two upfront, we all accomplished the exact same thing. We pushed our bodies further than anyone thought possible, to the MAX. It was difficult to express the gratitude I had to Pat, but he got it. We turned and everyone cheered-in the rest of the crew finishing right behind us… those cheers go a long way.

Ray led the way into the water first, followed by Regina, Lono, Mike Rutt, myself, and a few others. The ocean was freezing, but it felt great. Like we earned it. And Nike thought we earned a candlelit dinner on the beach too, fueling us with lobster and celebratory beer as we recharged around the fire. A quick word of advice: get some sleep and drink lots of water. Tomorrow we're running 14 miles bright and early.

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Bags packed, we checked out of our rooms. Vans carried our gear away and we all laced up our shoes at the start of the trail. "Everyone here? Let's go!" The 14 mile journey, our last of the weekend, began on the trails. As a group we stayed together through the first 5 miles, building confidence with every stride. Upon reaching the Montauk Project HQ fueling station Knox explained in further detail our strategy for the remaining miles:

We're going to ease into this… slowly building, but cruising along until mile 11. At mile 11, you're going to GO. You're going to run fast. You're going to hit the uphills HARD, and you're going to hit the downhills HARD. This is how you pace a run… with strategy, with intent, and with the courage to attack your limits.

The next 9 miles progressed like this: 3 more feeling amazing, 3 more at a quicker pace (thanks to Caroline King pacing), and then 3 at a pace that made my heart want to leap out of my throat. Having the pleasure of running alongside Mike Rutt at a comfortable pace for the latter 6 miles, little did I know that the final 3 miles would be him pushing us to go faster, through trails laced with "WARNING" signs and subtle tails of "The Montauk Project" of the past.

"We're getting close," he told us. "Only a little farther, to that lighthouse," he pointed.

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Looking up we saw it, high atop a rocky, grass-covered cliff sat this simple, white and brown symbol of achievement. The finish. It was so close… so we thought. Just as we began to near the base, a sharp left sent us another 5 minutes away. The pace quickened, the terrain roughened as we pushed harder, became hungrier. Again, the lighthouse came into view, only this time it WAS close. Around the bend and there was only one challenge left: climb the hill. With every last ounce of energy we drove up, up, up and with one of the most genuine feelings of joy we reached the top, conquering 14 miles - together. Screams, cheers, encouragement ushered in every member of the Week 2 Montauk Project squad…

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The most inspirational finishes - Hector Espinal and Damien Correll. Runners, early in their journeys, both finished 6 miles that day. The longest run of his career, Hector conquered limitations both physical and mental. The whole crew screaming encouragement as Hector & Damien flew up the final hill remains one of my favorite moments. Pulling on our Montauk Project singlets one at a time, fresh with our names on the backs, we'd all made it.

36 miles in 3 days of running.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent reflecting, laughing, and continuing to realize just how lucky we all were. A little more R&R back at HQ gave us time to give thanks, exchange info, and say our goodbyes. The 14 "MP2" runners, as we dubbed ourselves, made the way home to NYC quietly at first, but then boisterous and excited to be taking home the experience.

The Nike Montauk Project was amazing. Plain and simple. As a group and individuals we owe huge thanks to Nike Running for planning and offering such a stellar program. No detail was forgotten. Nothing was spared. Short of naming every person, counselor and coach, all of whom made this so special, Resident Runners wants to throw a little extra nod to Knox Robinson and Pat Jeffers.

For me personally, and well, a few others... let's just say the Montauk Project left a pretty permanent mark (shout to Jorell Elie).

 

The Week 2 Nike Montauk Project  (MP2)

The Week 2 Nike Montauk Project  (MP2)

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