Saturday Spotlight- Michael Ludwig

Name: Michael Ludwig
Age: 62

Town: NYC: Birth (Lenox Hill Hospital) – 6 (attended PS 6 and part of first grade at St. Jean the Baptiste)

Jackson Heights: 6-18 (St. Joan of Arc, grades 1-8; Brooklyn Tech HS)

Cortland: Attended SUNY Cortland, 1972-1976 (BS, health education); 1980-81 (MS, health education)

Walton, NY: Delhi Ag and Tech College (long story unrelated to running in any way)

NYC: (East 90th Street, Soho, Brooklyn Heights, West 19th Street, 75th and Lexington, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East 85th Street, East 83rd Street) On and off between 18 and 50, mostly on. Where I worked in the famous upper east side society restaurant, Mortimer’s (1977-1990, see: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/1985/06/mortimers-198506 ).

My first teaching gig was at Boys and Girls HS in Bedford Stuyvesant—upon graduating in 1976, there were precious few teaching jobs and my older brother was already established in the NYC system. He told me they needed special education teachers and the only requirement was a college degree and a warm body. I qualified but found that I was not prepared for what I was asked to do (do remedial work in a room with 3 or 4 students with the proviso that I keep them from fighting). I was already working at the restaurant, so I retreated and didn’t get another teaching job until 1986 when I started at the Computer School (a small alternative school, part of the NYC Board of Education, on the upper west side). At the Computer School, I taught algebra, social studies, health, and physical education. I stayed there for 2 ½ years (continuing to work a few shifts in the restaurant) before moving to Murry Bergtraum HS in lower Manhattan where I worked as a HS health teacher for 2 years before going to Penn State.

State College, PA: attended Penn State University (1990-1994) where I earned my Ph.D. in health education.

Stateboro, GA: my first academic appointment at Georgia Southern University (1994-1996)

Rock Hill, SC: second academic job at Winthrop University (1996-1997)

In 1997, I was hired by Hofstra University where I will complete my 20th year at the end of the fall 2017 semester. Upon returning to NY, my wife and I lived on the upper east side until the imminent birth of my second child. We then moved to where I currently reside in Nassau County.

Current: Rockville Centre, NY

Marital Status: Married to Jean Harris, also a professor at some other institution of higher education in Nassau County (Adelphi).

Children: Harry (17, finishing his junior year at South Side High School) and Anna (13, finishing 8th grade at South Side Middle School)

Occupation: Associate Professor in Hofstra’s School of Education; I teach across several programs: Our masters program in health education (leading to NYS certification, K-12), in our undergraduate community health program, and in our undergraduate health science program.

So, about the running…

As a kid growing up in Jackson Heights on 83rd Street between 34th and 35th Avenue (my 92 year old father still lives in the house I grew up in), I was always playing one sport or another in one of the many venues Jackson Heights had to offer: PS 69, IS 145 (Joseph Pulitzer JH), St. Joan of Arc school yard, and the block-long alley behind my house, affectionally referred to as the “Schnookie League.” Running was not a thing at that time, but I was always running in one way, shape or form.

At Brooklyn Tech HS, I followed in my brother’s footsteps and played football. The “Engineers” as we were known were a .500 team during my tenure on the team. However, the friendships forged as we practiced in Fort Greene Park (across the street from Tech) endure to this day. In fact, over the last 5 years we have a yearly reunion up in Walkill, NY where one of my former teammates and his wife live. Obviously, football involves running. I played on both offense (tight end) and defense (cornerback) but running seemed more like punishment than what I know it to be now. After the end of a long, hot, dusty practice, we would entertain the sadistic nature of our coaches and run wind sprints. Additionally, if during practice, I or one of my teammates jumped offsides or incurred the wrath of the coaches, we were gleefully told to “take a lap.” My HS football coach—for whom I have nothing but respect—joins us every year at our reunion. I was just taking a bit of artistic license by insinuating some evil motive behind the forced sprints or running as punishment trope, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.

At SUNY Cortland I was much more into weightlifting (powerlifting) than I was running. I was a hulkier lad back then and at one point bench pressed 365 pounds and deadlifted 505 pounds. I don’t recall an exact number for a squat but it was probably somewhere north of 300 pounds. Anyway, one of the gym rats I hung with had a sister who lived on Cape Cod. He invited me to spend a long weekend there with him and it just so happened that it coincided with the now famous Falmouth Road Race (7.1 miles). Back then, one could walk up the day of the race, pay the fee, and run. I recall it being a somewhat painful experience as I’m sure I had NEVER run 7 miles in my life. However, it was a festive event in a beautiful setting and so it began. I still remember that the sneakers I had were Puma and pre-dated the cushy rides many running shoes offer today. We went back the next year and did it again. For nostalgia’s sake, I ran the race again two years ago in 2015. Now, the only way in is via a lottery. It was a very hot day and I was not in my best racing shape so I slogged through the race in a little over an hour. Not to mention, I think they have let the race get too big. Getting to the starting line was an hour-long process (I was staying in Falmouth) and waiting to start once at the starting line was at least 20 minutes and I wasn’t the last corral. Fun Fact (I know that’s Friday’s post but this is appropriate here): Terry Bisogno, the one-and-only “Voice of Long Island Running” and I were suitemates and friends at Cortland. We played intramural sports together but road races were not in the picture at Cortland.

But the hay days of my running career were during the time I worked at Mortimer’s restaurant. A group of waiters (I was a waiter, a bartender, and the manager of the place at various times) were avid runners and living on the upper east side we had Central Park as our training ground. It was very much a favorite social activity that we all participated in with gusto. I’m not one to chronicle each race I participate in but a few highlights from that time include running the LI Marathon (3:43) the year it started in Eisenhower but finished in Long Beach (1983 I think). That same year I ran the best race in my life at the Brooklyn Half Marathon (I know that was 1983 because the race started at the Brooklyn Bridge—it was the Centenary) coming in at 1:21:58. I also have a tiny picture (the kind the race photographers would send to try and get you to buy photos) where I ran a 10K in 39+. Of course, I was in my twenties and I realize I will never see those times again.

I continued running, somewhat sporadically, after many of my running friends moved on from the restaurant (even though I worked an occasional benefit since I was a resident in the building and a favorite of the owner). When I was at the Computer School, I recall one of my colleagues wondering how we would pick up a van in Long Island City for a school camping trip as we both lived in Manhattan. I told him, don’t worry, I’ll run there and drive back to the upper west side. Problem solved. To this day, he still marvels at that; I think it was normal and rational. I coached track at Murry Bergtraum HS the two years I was there. The first year I did all three seasons: cross country, indoor, outdoor. After doing that, the following year I dropped indoor and outdoor seasons. At this point I was not competing in road races.

When I went to Penn State in 1990, one of my fellow graduate students (S. Carol) was an avid runner so we took up training together—she would always “trick” me and say we would run 5 or 6 that somehow turned into 8 or 9 miles. In fact, when my would-be wife showed up in 1992, running was our initial connection. The rest, as they say, is history. But my first running buddy also introduced me to the “Nittany Valley Hash House Harriers”—who described themselves as a drinking group with a running problem. The was running (on-on), there were bawdy ballads, there were snacks, and of course there was Yuengling Beer. It was great fun and nice release from reading, writing, and teaching.

I did keep running, albeit not as often as I would have liked, when down south. Stateboro, GA and Rock Hill, SC are hot, hot, hot. Hot weather and I are NOT a great combination but I managed to get out there a couple of times a week. However, when I moved back to NYC to take my current position at Hofstra, my running took a back seat to commuting from the upper east side to Hempstead, working to earn tenure, and in 2000 becoming a “new old” dad to my first born Harry (Harrison Jay Ludwig actually—son of Jean Harris, my wife).

At the end of 2011, I had had enough. I had become (in Ben & Jerry terms) a “chubby hubby” with a “dad bod.” I told myself this must change and I rededicated myself to running. At the time, I tipped the scales at about 206—ugh. Contrary to popular belief, it was not the running so much as a change in my diet that led me to my current svelte self (as a health professional I would put the ratio for successful weight loss at 80/20: 80% diet, 20% physical activity). But the running kept me motivated and once I lost the weight, I have kept it off now for 5 years. I was never heavy and so I did resort to my normal shape. I set my sights on the 2012 Long Island half marathon and it was at the Expo that I was re-united with my college buddy, Terry Bisogno. I ran the LI Half in 1:48:06 and have never looked back. I became a running junkie. My wife likens it to joining a cult.

Apropos to this posting, it was exactly one year ago yesterday on May 19, 2016 that I ran the Selden Hills for the first (and only) time with Terry Bisogno and Wilfredo Colon. I believe I also met KC Brett who had just finished a Slaughterhouse run. As a resident of western Nassau County, running the hills is not a typical outing for me. Having said that, I have never met a Selden Hills Warrior that I didn’t like. What you all (never adopted the southern y’all) have created and continue maintain and grow is a warm and welcoming community that I am privileged to be a part of, thanks in no small part to our “Godfather,” Lou LaFleur. Happy to be a Hillbilly! Thanks for reading.

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