When the late long-distance runner Andy Neidnig’s house was sold in Sag Harbor this past year, the buyer discovered in it and in its garage boxes and boxes of medals, trophies, and awards Neidnig, who John Conner has described as “the best runner ever to come out of the East End,” had won from his high school years on.
What to do? The new owner called Robert Arcs, a member of Sag Harbor’s Lions Club, to report the significant find, and Arcs is now in possession of “200 to 300 awards, most of which are for first place, that span seven decades.”
Among his big wins was one over Josy Barthel of Luxembourg, in a half-mile race in Europe following the war. Barthel went on to win an Olympic gold medal in the 1,500 in 1952 at Helsinki.
It is generally agreed that Neidnig, who died Aug. 6, 2012, at the age of 93, would have been an Olympian had not World War II intervened.
He’s in Manhattan College’s Hall of Fame, was the Amateur Athletic Union’s mile champion in 1938 and ’39, and in his 70s was a two-time New York Road Runners Club golden age runner of the year. In 1989, he set an over-70 New York City Marathon record of 3 hours, 32 minutes, and 28 seconds.
Arcs and his fellow Lions Club members, therefore, are holding a 5-kilometer Run for Andy in the Harbor this Saturday. The start-finish line will be on West Water Street. Registration will be held there from 7:30 a.m. The race, following the same course as Katy’s Courage, is to begin at 8:30.
Asked what would happen to the treasure trove of awards, Arcs said, “I’m cleaning some of them up and will have them on display at the race. Perhaps we’ll give some out to the winners. I gave some to his friend, Tony [Venesina, the owner of the Conca D’Oro pizzeria in Sag Harbor]. . . . There are hundreds of them and the Lions Club doesn’t have a hall or a room to display them in. They’re in a member’s basement now. Perhaps the Old Montauk Athletic Club can find a place for them. . . . We’re open to suggestions.”