Several Men in Black runners take on New York City Marathon recently

Four members of the Men in Black Running Club, a local running group comprised of friends and alums of the Huntington North High School boys’ cross country team, competed in the New York City Marathon on Nov. 5. Pictured are (from left) Tracy Blocker, Brad Prather, Austen Davenport and Dan Meyer.
Four members of the Men in Black Running Club, a local running group comprised of friends and alums of the Huntington North High School boys’ cross country team, competed in the New York City Marathon on Nov. 5. Pictured are (from left) Tracy Blocker, Brad Prather, Austen Davenport and Dan Meyer. Photo provided.

Members of the Men in Black Running Club do much of their running in Huntington County.

Earlier this month, though, four of the club’s members ventured outside the county to do some running.

How far outside?
The quartet traveled to New York City, NY. And along with 51,303 other runners, the foursome participated in the city’s annual marathon.

One of the most famous running events in the world, the New York City Marathon is a 26.2-mile race that snakes through each of the city’s five boroughs. Created in 1970, it has grown to attract the largest number of participants of any marathon on the globe.

This year, Men in Black runner Austen Davenport, of Columbia City, was determined to be one of those participants. He also hoped to convince a few of his peers from the club to join him.

He first suggested going to the marathon last fall.

“At that time, I didn’t think I convinced them,” admits Davenport. “But then like a month later, when it was getting closer to registration, we were texting back and forth and they were like, ‘Yes, let’s do it.’”

Tracy Blocker and Dan Meyer, both of Huntington, and Brad Prather, of Roanoke, let Davenport know they were up for the challenge.

It was the first time for any of them competing in the New York City Marathon. Although Davenport had a good idea of what he and his peers were getting into, he was awed by the event nevertheless upon arriving at the Staten Island starting point for the race on Nov. 5.

“Just to see the scale of it, be a part of something of that scale, is pretty cool,” he remarks. “The logistics of the whole thing is really cool. It’s overwhelming when you stand there on the start line and you’re right up front and it’s the New York City Marathon and all the celebrities and people are there.

“It just blows you away, the magnitude of the event itself.”

The marathon was organized into four waves. Blocker competed on his own while Davenport, Meyer and Prather competed in the same wave.

“Austen, Dan and I were able to stay together for quite a while and then Austen and I started together at the start line,” says Prather.

“It’s nice having somebody there in a big-city situation versus just like a local road race where you all just kind of show up to do your thing.”

While the wave assignments may have prevented Blocker from running with his Men in Black compatriots, he ended up finding a running partner in a man who hailed from Spain.

“Made friends with him and hung out with him for about three hours,” says Blocker.

Asked to cite the most challenging part of the course, all four men point to the ascent up the Queensboro Bridge, which connects Queens and Manhattan.

“It’s Mile 16 and it’s one mile uphill, up the bridge … that just zapped my legs,” recalls Davenport. “So, I was able to hang on for a few miles after that on the pace and then I kind of told myself, ‘All right.’ I knew, I’ve done enough marathons, I knew if I didn’t back it off a little bit, I was going to kind of blow up and struggle to finish.”

After Meyer made it through that part of the course, he credits the energy of the crowd with giving him a much-needed lift.

“When we came off the Queensboro Bridge at about Mile 16 or so, it was quiet coming all the way across the bridge,” says Meyer, “and then coming down off the ramp off the bridge and onto the street, it was just a wall of spectators.

“That was pretty cool.”

All four Men in Black members made it to the finish line. Davenport led the way with a time of 2:44:23. Prather was second with a clocking of 2:48:23, followed by Meyer in 3:22:03 and Blocker in 3:23:46.

While Blocker says he wishes he’d been a bit faster, the other three runners remark that they’re largely content with their times.

“I had an aggressive goal,” states Prather. “I went out with the aggressive goal and I was there for about halfway and then it didn’t quite work out, but I’m fine. I got, like, 349th place, so that’s pretty good. I’m satisfied with that.”

In the end, for as much as Davenport enjoyed the marathon, he says traveling there and taking in the sights with friends is what put the experience over the top.

“It was just cool,” he says, “to go with a group of guys like this.”