Prospect Park Legends – Felipe Vergara and the Power of Work

I’ve seen Felipe Vergara hundreds of times, but until I read this great article, I didn’t know his name.  I didn’t know he was 49.  I didn’t know that he ran for the elite local club, West Side Runners.  I didn’t know that when I see him in the evenings, I’m seeing him clock his second work-out of the day — the book ends to a full time job as a plumber.  I didn’t know he supports four kids in Mexico, and I didn’t know he runs a 2:45 marathon.

See some great photos of Felipe, and other runners for WSX here.

All I knew was that if I was in the park around seven on a week night, I’d likely see Vergara and a group of other runners, blasting around the loop at a 6:30 or so pace, or stretching and chatting in Spanish near the Parade Ground entrance.  I’d exchange a nod, and that was that.  I didn’t know how hard he had worked that day, both on the roads and at his job, and I didn’t know how fast those hours on the roads had made him.   But I do now, and I’m inspired. 

I hope I get a chance to see him tonight and thank him.

Park Legends: Luis Rios

Park Legends: Luis Rios

Park Legends – An occasional series of posts on people I see often on my runs in Prospect Park.

Luis Rios getting in the miles.

The first time I saw Luis Rios in Prospect Park, I wasn’t sure if he was a runner.  Louis has a longish beard, and was, if memory serves, wearing jeans and a t-shirt and shuffling along at a modest clip.  He could have been someone out for a brisk stroll.  After that first day, about three years ago, as I ran more and more in the park, I saw Luis more and more.  On almost every weekend run, and often during the week, he’d be out there, getting in some miles.  The park in the winter can be a pretty empty place, but I’d always see Luis.  Sometimes he’d be running, sometime walking, almost always in the opposite direction of everyone else.  We never spoke, but he fascinated me.  How was it that I saw the same guy, no matter when I ran in the park?  Overtime, I learned more about Luis.  I learned that he had run numerous ultra marathons, including the legendary Sri Chimnoy six day run in Queens.  That he was a member of the same running club as me, Prospect Park Track Club, and that many runners knew him personally and spoke of his dedication admiringly.

And now the question of why I always see him in the park has been answered by a short New York Times profile.  So many of us see him in the park so often because he is so often there, running in endless circles, sometimes running forty miles in a single day, all of it in laps around the park.  The thought of forty miles of loops in the park fills my heart with dread, but hey, it seems to be working for Luis.

Some have said Luis is obsessed, and that his devotion to running is unhealthy.  Maybe it is.  I’m not one to judge.  All I know is when I see him rounding the bend in front of me, it makes me smile.  I’ve never spoken to Luis, but next time I see him, I think I’ll stop and chat for a while.  Its people like him that make Prospect Park such an amazing place to run.