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A Flyer of the Year’s Transformation with the Best Team in Town

Francesco Presutti

When Flyers past-president, John McCreesh, wrote me last November that I had been nominated for Flyer of the Year (FOTY), my first thought was: Really? Why me? I knew many incredibly big-hearted Flyers who truly deserved to be honored with this prestigious award. But me? 

Then at the Flyers Annual Awards Gala in February – to my surprise – Hiromi Nobata, recipient of last year’s FOTY award, announced that I had received this year's award together with Brad Goz. The award recipient is selected via voting by the Flyers membership, and it turned out that Brad and I received the exact same number of votes!   

Receiving the FOTY award from Hiromi Nobata

Thank you NY Flyers -- the world’s friendliest running club -- for honoring me as co-recipient of this year's award. I would also like to congratulate the other FOTY nominees: Lisa Konorty and David Gainesalong with fellow recipient Brad Goz. They all contribute significantly to the club, and they are also deserving of this award.🏆🏆🏆🏆

Flyers are nominated for the FOTY award because of their personal contributions to the club, but that's not what I'll talk about in this Flyers Blog post. Instead, I would rather highlight what the Flyers have done for me - including how the Flyers have profoundly changed my life.

And, little did I know that I would become the Flyers Spokesmodel on the NYRR website! 😂 I'm happy to represent this club that has provided a safe, supportive, and nurturing environment for my running since I joined nearly 12 years ago!

I became a Flyer in the summer of 2012 thanks to Sungwon Hwang and Nikhil Hutheesing. Training with the Flyers became an instant performance booster for me. The proof is in my race results. I started running in 2005 at age 43, but I set my PRs in all the classic distances only after I joined the Flyers. 

Yet, running is not only about racing, and joining a club is not only about athletic performance. As highlighted on the NYRR "Get Involved" link, the club offers something for everyone. The Flyers’ mission statement makes this very clear:

 The lead point in the club’s mission

"To promote friendship and camaraderie through organized social and athletic activities."

I've found this mission to reflect my experience as a Flyer  -- participating as a member of the club has been a transformative experience on so many levels beyond competitive racing -- and our team spirit resonates strongly within me. 

Beyond Competition: Flyers Giving Back!

and now...🥁

My Top Three Transformations - Thanks to becoming a Flyer


I owe Francine Alfandary and the Flyers Tues/Thurs 6am Group Run a debt of gratitude for helping me discover the joy of waking up at 5am to run twice a week.🌅 The idea of running at 6am would have been unthinkable until I began running with the Flyers early morning group. In the nearly two decades I spent in two French-speaking cities, Paris and Brussels, I picked up an expression that perfectly describes my gusto of lingering in bed in the morning: faire la grasse matinée (translation: "sleep in").

It all changed in 2012. I learned that visualizing a crowd of warm, welcoming, friendly, cheerful, good-looking, athletic runners meeting up together to run in Central Park will help the laziest bones to get out of bed – even at 5am!😊

Warm, Welcoming, Friendly, Cheerful, Good-looking 6AM Runners!

I built my new early morning running habit while my children were school-aged and living at home. If I drove them to school instead of putting them on the yellow bus🚌, it gave us an extra hour in the morning. This was a win-win situation since my kids were happy to have the extra hour of sleep and I could do the daily run needed for my marathon training.

The 6AM Group Before Sunrise

By the time I had completed my run with the Flyers 6am group, taken a shower, eaten breakfast,🥞🪺🥓🥛 driven my children to school and reached my office desk at the European Union Mission to the United Nations, I felt at peace with myself, energetic and ready to tackle a full day of negotiations at work. Much more effective than gulping down caffeine all day long!☕

My children have now both finished college 🎓and are in the workplace. But I have kept my habit of early morning running before starting my day!


The importance of holding a conversation while running is often underrated.

At what point in time in our running did we discover that talking while running is even possible? For many of us it feels like a lifetime ago. We probably all started running with the sense that running equals exhaustion.🥵

When did we realize that 80% of endurance training must happen at an easy, conversational pace, the so-called 80/20 training? I still know plenty of people who work out too hard too often. Of course, they get injured all the time.

As a running coach, I often use the “talk test”🗣with less experienced runners. I start a little conversation. Can they talk back in full sentences? In single words? This is how I measure their rate of perceived exertion (RPE), i.e. their effort level.

Not only are we capable of talking and physically benefit from it while doing easy running, but it also can make running more enjoyable. This is why running is such a compelling physical activity compared to swimming and cycling.🏊‍♀️🚴‍♀️ We can share opinions, tell jokes, and talk about our life problems. We can even combat loneliness and fend off anxiety and depression simply by joining a group of friendly runners. 

Great company in torrential downpour for 5th Ave Mile!

Many people have told me that I talk too much when I run. (Too much of a good thing? 🤔).  A longtime friend from Brussels once compared running with me to running with the radio on without an on/off switch. 😇 Another friend, this time a New Yorker, made a point of telling me that he missed the peace and quiet in Central Park when I was around. 🤫

The truth of the matter, and the irony in that, is that I have always been a reserved person. No wonder I started running on my own. As a child, I could go entire days without uttering a word. It is hard to believe that child is the same person who has made a career as a diplomat for the European Union, given scores of public presentations, taught law school students, and even recently joined the ranks of the Met tour guides. I suspect it is also thanks to my daily runs that I have managed to turn things around and to overcome my introversion.

Well, this is who I am now! Thank you, Flyers, for helping me to transform from a quiet lonely runner into a chatty sociable teammate!

Newport 5K in NJ with Teammates!


The idea that running is not a team sport is a false notion. It takes a team to win – and running with the Flyers has transformed me into a member of a winning team. Not surprisingly, the Flyers have been repeatedly nominated for the prestigious NYRR team spirit award, most recently this year.🎉

Despite the Flyers’ broadly non-competitive nature, our team has very competitive runners, especially in the older cohorts. I was very proud to bring the Flyers 60+ men team to the podium for two years in a row, together with John WhitfieldJérôme Bérard and all my other fellow teammates. Did you see how our eyes gleamed with excitement when we hoisted our trophy at NYRR club night? Competing for the NYRR team awards is for me one of the most rewarding aspects of being a Flyer.

Every Flyer should rightfully feel that they are a winner. When I write my race reports for the Flyers, I make a point of congratulating both the award winners and all other finishers. What fun is there in completing a race, coming back from an injury, setting a PR or winning an age group award if we cannot share our moment of glory with our teammates? Celebrating with our team is what really makes us all feel like true champions.

Thank you again for honoring me as co-recipient of this prestigious award!   🏆🙏🏼

Go Flyers! 

-Francesco Presutti