As part of the annual August month-long Harlem Week celebration, thousands of competitive and recreational runners converged in Manhattan’s famous village this past Saturday to participate in the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K Run. Many more outdoor enthusiasts comprising all five current generations, from the youngest (Generation Z) to the oldest (Traditionalists), were present to take part in a 1.5-mile walk and kids’ races.
The rich and diverse culture of Harlem was reflected in the festive atmosphere permeating the race, as residents and visitors alike cheered on and encouraged the participants while enjoying the music, dance, food and exchange of oral history that transcended ethnicity and political ideology.
It was fitting, given that the race is named in honor of the great Percy Sutton, the late civil rights activist, entrepreneur and Manhattan borough president,He was one of the true giants of Harlem who also served as an attorney for Malcolm X. Born in San Antonio, Texas in 1920, Sutton stowed away on a passenger train to New York City as a preteen. Years later, he would emerge as one of the most powerful and prominent African-Americans in the United States, and by extension the world, and remained a revered and respected figure until his passing in 2009.
Along with Wilbert Tatum, the late publisher of the Amsterdam News, Sutton was instrumental in the newspaper being one of the most influential weeklies in the nation, read by United States presidents and foreign leaders.
To commence the event, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio greeted runners at the starting point at St. Nicholas Park and was joined by members of the New York Road Runners, which coordinated and directed the race as part of its NYRR club points series. As expected, the 5K produced compelling competition and a stirring finish as Aduna Lelisa Gemechu of the West Side Runners edged Gian-Paul Caccia of the New York Athletic Club on the men’s side.
Gemechu crossed the tape in 14:58, with Caccia right on his shoulder in a second-place time of 14:59. Matt Rand of the Central Park Track Club New Balance was third in 15:01.
Harriott Kelly of Urban Athletics took the women’s championship in 16:53, comfortably leading runner-up Rolanda Bell (17:11) of CPTC at the close. Alexandra Cadicano of NYAC rounded out the top three, running 17:15 on a nearly perfect, low 70-degree day.