Count Mark Parisian among those who never thought the Pit Run would last to a 20th year.
Not only is the annual road race in Oneonta turning 20 on Sunday, but its health would appear to be stronger than ever.
“I would have asked which event you were talking about,” Parisian said when asked if he envisioned the Pit Run making it to 20. “I’m not comparing the Pit Run to the Boilermaker (a huge 15-kilometer race held annually in Utica). I’ve been active in the Pit Run and the Boilermaker. I was doing the Boilermaker before Rick was killed.
“I was recalling in 1996 that it was (the Boilermaker’s) 20th race and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, 20 years. I don’t think we’ll ever get that point,’” he continued. “Even that fall, that was third year of the Pit Run, and I was thinking five would be great, but 20 is out of reach. I don’t think it would be possible anywhere but Oneonta.”
Parisian’s brother, Ricky, died while trying to prevent an armed robbery in Oneonta in 1994. The Pit Run is held in honor of Ricky “Pit” Parisian, who was a New York State Police Investigator at the time of his death.
“There are some days when it seems like two years and others when it seems like 60 years,” Mark Parisian said. “It’s part of the whole process and not just the Pit Run, but what it’s been like for our lives. It’s a great milestone and it’s unbelievable we’ve been able to reach it.”
The signature race, the 10-kilometer, will start at 10:45 a.m. Sunday at the Main Street Bridge. The schedule also includes a 5K race, a two-mile stroll and a kids fun run that kicks things off at 9:45 a.m. in Neahwa Park.
Those who haven’t pre-registered can enter on race day. The 10K costs $35, the 5K is $30 and the two-mile stroll is $25. The fun run, for children ages 10-and-under, is free.
One aspect that may be absent from this year’s edition is a defending 10K champion.
Last year’s men’s winner, Cooperstown’s Josh Edmonds, said he’s not certain if he’ll run Sunday.
“I’m thinking about it,” Edmonds said Wednesday. “I have family in town and if things are too crazy, I won’t (run).”
Last year, Edmonds became the first local runner to win the Pit Run since 1995. He finished in 31 minutes, 57 seconds, which was good for a 54-second win over Syracuse’s Patrick Geoghegan.
Edmonds, who ran at Division I Liberty University, said if he does run that he’s in “OK shape.”
The last local runner before Edmonds to win the Pit Run was Oneonta’s Gary Toombs.
Two years ago, Edmonds finished second by 30 seconds to Fikadu Lemma, an Ethiopian-born runner.
Elite runners such as Lemma have shown up fairly regularly over the event’s history. With a $500 payout to men’s and women’s overall winners in the 10K, along with three $100 bonuses for leading after miles 1, 3 and 5 on the men’s side and 2, 4 and 6 for the women, there’s potential for an $800 payday.
“That’s pretty good for 30 minutes of work,” Parisian said. “I’m not surprised (the elite runners sometimes don’t show up). It’s been that way since the first year. We never know. We’ve had years where they come in with teams and with pacers. Nothing surprises me with the elite runners. It’s bittersweet because you would like to have big names, because it draws interest. But the numbers aren’t affected one way or the other. It’s nice to see locals have a shot at it.”
Unatego graduate Amanda LoPiccolo has won the women’s 10K two of the last three years, but she will not defend her title. LoPiccolo’s husband, Matt, recently took a job as an assistant track coach at Duke University. Matt LoPiccolo, the longtime track and cross country coach at Oneonta State, said in an email Wednesday they won’t make the trip from North Carolina.
“We are actually quite disappointed to miss the 20th installment,” Matt wrote in the email. “It is just not feasible as we moved here to Durham only four weeks ago. We certainly wish everyone well and look forward to seeing the results and following things on the new Pit Run Facebook page.”
Amanda LoPiccolo won last year’s women’s race in 37:51.
Last year’s 5K champions were Eli Townsend of Delhi and Julie Hilson of Bovina Center.
All told last year, 448 runners completed the 10K and 447 finished the 5K.
Proceeds from the race benefit the Ricky J. Parisian Memorial Foundation. Combined in scholarships, and gifts and grants to local youth programs, the foundation has raised more than $337,000 since 1995.
“It’s overwhelming,” Mark said of the foundation. “Rick believed the local youth were the future. He reflected that in his talks to elementary schools or by coaching Pee Wee football. The amazing part for me personally is that every one of the recipients stays in contact with the family and foundation to let us know how they’re doing. They call or send us send emails to let us know and that’s something Rick would have done. He always made time to stay in touch with people who were important to him.”
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.