“I knew Andy Neidnig well,” John Conner said during the awards ceremony following the inaugural 5-kilometer Andy’s Run in Sag Harbor Saturday morning. “I ran with him for 30 years or so. Indubitably, he was a world-class runner.”
“He ran in masters world championships in Rome; in Melbourne, Australia; Japan; Turku, Finland; Puerto Rico; in Durban, South Africa. . . . And, whenever he could, he ran against the best.”
Had not World War II intervened, Neidnig, who died in August of last year, at the age of 93, would have been an Olympian, Conner added.
Fittingly, Saturday’s 3.1-mile course took the some 102 participants, including Tony Venesina, one of Neidnig’s best friends, and Sarah Adams, whose late father, Dr. George Sheehan, helped to popularize long-distance running with his books and Runners World columns, past Neidnig’s house at 52 Glover Street.
Bob Beattie, who timed the race, said afterward that he was happy to see so many youngsters inasmuch as the man after whom the Sag Harbor Lions Club had named the event had won, at the age of 11, the first race he’d ever entered, “from home plate straight to second base,” in the words of Neidnig, who was interviewed by this writer on the occasion of his 90th birthday.
The idea for Andy’s Run arose after Robert Arcs, a Lions Club member, had been called a month or so ago by the buyer of Neidnig’s house, who said there was a treasure trove of medals, trophies, and awards that had been left behind, in the house and in the garage.
Arcs filled his pickup truck to the brimming with boxes of these awards, “most of them for first place,” as well as with scrapbooks that spanned the late steamfitter’s many decades of competitive running, and was ticketed on the way home for rolling through a stop sign. “Everybody was yelling at me,” he said by way of explanation, “because I was going too slow. It was an old pickup truck and I didn’t want to lose anything.”
Where the awards will ultimately wind up apparently remains an open question. Perhaps some will go to Manhattan College’s Hall of Fame, of which Neidnig and Dr. Sheehan are members. Perhaps some will go to the Old Montauk Athletic Club, and perhaps some will go to the New York Road Runners Club . . . Neidnig was the 70-and-over New York City Marathon champion three times running, setting a record of 3 hours, 32 minutes, and 28 seconds in 1989 — a result Conner said he had forecast in a conversation with the previous 70-plus record-holder, a fellow New York Athletic Club member.
Trophies that Arcs had shined up were on display at the finish line, including a newspaper photo from the late 1930s of Manhattan College’s I.C. 4A championship relay team for which Neidnig and Sheehan, whose book “Running and Being” was recently reissued, both ran.
“These are just a small percentage of Andy’s awards,” said Arcs, who estimated that there were “over 500 medals, trophies, and plaques. . . . He ran for the ages.”
The male and female winners, Fiachra Hallissey, 42, of East Hampton, whose time was 18:38.36, and Sharon McCobb, 50, of Springs, the Old Montauk Athletic Club’s president, whose time was 20:57.39 (she was ninth over all), were given two of Neidnig’s 1990 first-place plaques to take home with them — from the Newsday marathon in his case, and from the New York Road Runners Club’s 10-mile winter series race in hers.
James Moore, 29, of Montauk, was the runner-up, in 19:22.33. Jorge Bautista, 24, of Sag Harbor, was third, in 19:24.82. Dermott Quinn, 44, of Sag Harbor, was fourth, in 19:48.79, and Tom O’Donoghue, 46, of Sag Harbor, was fifth, in 20:12.81.
The top 10 was rounded out by Brendan Clavin, 24, of Sag Harbor, in 20:24:19; Paul Hamilton, 53, of Springs, in 20:31.47; Shaun Golden, 38, of Sagaponack, in 20:45.20; McCobb, and Harrison Yardley, 15, of Sag Harbor, in 21:45.10.
David Powers, 45, of Wainscott, a triathlete who is to receive the Old Montauk Athletic Club’s athlete of the year award at its holiday dinner in December, ran with his 10-year-old daughter, Alden, who placed 13th, in 22:26.49.
The top 70-plus runner was Neil Fagin, 74, of Sag Harbor, in 29:16.34. Venesina was second in that age group, in 30:32.10.