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New York Road Runners Club puts on spectacular New Years Event in Central Park

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The joint was really jumping Literally. Thousands gathered around the Central Park Bandshell at 72nd street and literally jumped up and down to the beat of the band - a great time was had by all.

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Dance party put on by New York Road Runners Club was literally the warm up to the main event, the four-mile Midnight Run Presented by Emerald Nuts through Central Park that kicked off at the stroke of midnight, as a spectacular 15-minute fireworks show lit up the Manhattan sky

This was the 35th annual New Year's Eve Midnight Run event, but it has grown, become more festive and now draws many thousands of New Years Eve revelers beyond the 5,000 registrants for the race (between 4,000 and 5,000 people run the race), who come from the good natured chance to enjoy hip music, spectacular fireworks (the only major fireworks on New Years in New York City), amid nature.

Emerald Nuts, the sponsor of the event, this year offered samples of its latest product, served up by formally attired staff.

As midnight approached, crowds filled the area around the famous Central Park fountain.

By the time the fireworks finish, the first runners are making their way to the finish line.

The festivities kicked off at 10 p.m. with a dance party featuring a DJ and live performers. Then there was a good-humored costume contest at 11 p.m. with the top three places (and prizes) going to the individual runner or group of runners who dressed in the “nuttiest” attire. This year's grand prize winners dressed up appropriately enough as Road Runner and Wil-e Coyote.

Runners and spectators could take commemorative photos, complete with New Year’s party favors, at the red-carpet photo tent in the festival area.

At the stroke of midnight, runners took off on a four-mile loop through Central Park (enjoying a sparkling cider toast near mile two), while the night sky sparkled with a fabulous 15-minute fireworks show.

The fireworks had barely ended when the first elite runners crossed the finish line at the 72nd Street Transverse.

This was a fun-run, but judging by the expression on people's faces, was serious, especially for a small field of professional athletes, including Timothy Ritchie, 26, of Brighton, MA, who was the runner-up at the 2012 NYRR Midnight Run Presented by Emerald Nuts in a time of 18:54, and Neely Spence Gracey, 23, of Lake Orion, MI, a six-time NCAA Division II champion. This year, Spence ran the race with (and against!) her husband, Dillon, celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary.

Reveling runners competed for a prize purse of $2,000, including $500 apiece to the male and female winners.

Hundreds of volunteers were on hand to host the event and manage the run, but compared to the New York Road Runners's signature event, the TCS New York City Marathon which draws 50,000 participants ranging from the world's elite athletes to recreational and charity runners, this must have seemed a piece of cake.

But like the NYC Marathon and the nearby New Years Eve in Times Square event a couple of miles downtown, this event also drew hundreds, if not thousands, of international visitors, sharing in the communal joy of welcoming in the new year.

Founded in 1958, New York Road Runners has grown from a local running club to one of the world’s premier community running organizations, To learn more, visit www.nyrr.org.

See also:

New Year's Eve in Times Square is once-in-lifetime experience and slideshow

Karen Rubin, National Eclectic Travel Examiner
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