By Rob Centorani
The Daily Star
---- — For runners such as Oneonta resident Amanda LoPiccolo, the Pit Run is about adjusting her training schedule and mapping out a strategy in order to give herself the best chance to win.
Others such as Oneonta High sophomore Logan Mancuso have different motivations.
“I’ve run the Pit Run lots of times before,” said Mancuso, in his third year on the OHS cross-country team. “I just love to run.
“It’s nice that everybody’s there,” he added. “I see a lot of friends from school and people from around town that I know.”
Come Sunday morning, more than 1,000 runners from this area and beyond will take to the streets of Oneonta for the 19th annual road race.
An event that started as a 10-kilometer race in 1994 has blossomed into one that offers runners and walkers of all ability levels the chance to participate.
Though pre-registration is closed, runners can sign up the day of the race from 8-10:15 a.m. at Neahwa Park. The fee is $30 for the 10K, $27 for the 5K, and $23 for the two-mile stroll.
There’s also a kids’ fun run that kicks off the festivities at 9:45 a.m. It is free for children 10 and under.
The other three races start at 10:45 a.m. at the Main Street bridge.
“I think what makes it my favorite event, and I’ve been competing in it since I was in high school, is I love the community aspect of it,” said Unatego graduate LoPiccolo, the women’s 10K Pit Run winner in 2010 and last year’s runner-up. “Even community members who aren’t runners want to run in this event.”
The Pit Run is named in honor of Oneonta native Ricky “Pit” Parisian — a New York State Police Investigator who died while trying to prevent an armed robbery in 1994.
Since 1995, the Ricky J. Parisian Memorial Foundation has contributed $160,000 in scholarships to area students and another $148,000 to local youth programs.
“It’s not only the scholarships, it’s different grants and our criteria for giving grants is anything to do with kids,” said co-race director Steve Parisian, Ricky’s brother. “We donate to the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and different school clubs.”
As for the running, the 10K is the feature event.
Men’s and women’s winners can earn up to $900. The men’s and women’s champions earn $500, and $100 bonuses are given to the men’s leader after miles 1, 3 and 5, and to the women’s leader after miles 2, 4 and 6. Another $100 will be awarded for course records.
Last season, LoPiccolo finished 11 seconds behind five-time winner Alemtsehay Misganaw, a native of Ethiopia who lives in New York City. Misganaw, who earned consecutive Pit Run titles from 2006-09, finished in 37 minutes, 6 seconds.
Assuming Misganaw is back to defend her title, LoPiccolo, 29, said she expects to be in contention.
“On any given day, anything can happen,” said LoPiccolo, a standout distance runner for Ithaca College. “You can’t control who shows up and the amount of work they’ve put in. I’ll do my best. I feel good and I feel confident, but you can’t control what other people do. I’ll run my race. If she’s there, I’ll keep my eyes on her and see what happens.”
LoPiccolo, the first local woman to win Pit Run 10K in 2010, with a time of 36:20, said she plans her strategy around the massive ascent midway through the race.
“The first two miles are relatively flat,” she said. “I always try to remind myself that the climb starts at the two-mile mark and ends at 3½. You try to prepare and be as chill as possible, and then from 2-to-3½, you have to man up and be tough. Everyone has to run it. It is what it is. I’ve done the hill a lot, so I know it like the back of my hand. Once you get to the top, then you just have to maintain.”
Misganaw’s traveling partner, Fikadu Lemma, won the men’s race in 31:25 last season. Former Cooperstown Central standout Josh Edmonds finished second — 30 seconds behind.
Steve Parisian said he didn’t know if Misganaw or Lemma would be back this season as elite runners normally register the day of the race.
Oneonta High graduate Levi Anderson won the 5K title last season. Anderson, who runs for SUNY Delhi, finished in 18:32 — 21 seconds ahead of Bainbridge’s Scott Hornung.
Mancuso placed ninth among 5K runners in 2011, in 20:42.
“Just because it’s in-season, I can’t strain myself too much,” said Mancuso, the top runner for the Yellowjackets.
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.