Polish Runners Club
Word of Mouth, Speed of Foot
This Running Town Newsletter
Fall 2007, Vol. 2, No. 4
By Tracy Ziemer
The Polish Runners Club (PRC) was founded only four years ago,
but already it has established itself as one of the most competitive
NYRR clubs, having won the NYRR’s men’s division
B championship last year. The club’s roots can be traced
to the Polish-language magazine Kecz-Up, in which Yeshnev Beshnevski
placed an ad to start a running group. Four people responded,
including Jakub Szymala, the PRC’s current spokesman,
and the group was officially founded in August 2003 with modest
ambitions: to gather for runs in Central Park on Saturday mornings.
As the club grew, so did its success. “We started to
get a lot of our members toward mid-2004,” says Szymala.
“People started joining from other teams, or they got
word of the club through friends, or they saw us at races.
Last year, once we gathered a good number of people, we actually
Now with 60 members, the PRC is now one of 13 teams racing
in the NYRR’s men’s A division and is competitive
in the men’s 40+ age bracket, placing fifth last year.
Also, the PRC’s Jacek Boral placed 47th overall in last
year’s ING New York City Marathon with a time of 2:28:13.
The club strives to be competitive and to provide a social
networking function for its runners, some of whom are second-generation
Polish-Americans or new Polish immigrants. “For them,
it’s a connection back to Poland and to people who like
the same things they do,” says Szymala. “That
can be difficult to find if they’re new here.”
Adam Kuklinski, a PRC member who emigrated from Poland in
1999, enjoys the camaraderie but also the competitive push;
he often places in his age-group at NYRR races. “The
club gives me extra motivation,” he says. “After
a race, we get together, talk about it, and take pictures.
It makes me feel part of a group, and I was missing that.”
The group isn’t just a welcome place for Polish-Americans.
Several members don’t speak Polish, and some, like original
member Betsy Ladner, aren’t even of Polish descent.
“My friend is Polish and said this group is fun and
we should join, so we did,” says Ladner, 48. “Everybody
makes sure that I don’t feel excluded. They have a good
sense of humor and they have fun, but they also take what
they do seriously.”
Ladner is one of a handful of women on the team, and she
was one of five PRC runners who traveled to race the Warsaw
Marathon on September 17, 2006. Indeed, the club hasn’t
limited its activities, or membership, to just New York.
“Our vision from the beginning was to start out in
New York, because, outside of college and high school, it’s
the greatest running scene for amateur runners,” says
Szymala. “After, we wanted to move to cities where there
are a lot of Polish people.” Membership has spread to
Toronto and Philadelphia; Chicago and London could be next.
Until then, the New York chapter continues its runs in Central
Park on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings, and will host
its annual awards dinner at the end of the racing season.
If the team continues its winning ways, that event should
be a busy time of celebration.
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