Before the sun set last Friday, Oz Pearlman was released in front of Engineers’ Gates, one of the entrances to Central Park. He rubbed his thighs and armpits with oil gel, then removed his toe socks and covered his feet. This wouldn’t be an ordinary weekday morning walk through one of Manhattan’s favorite and most famous runners.
Dressed in the national colors of Ukraine, and wearing two GPS watches to record distance and time, Pearlman tied his Day-Glo sneakers and stood in the middle of East Drive, in front of a Ukrainian flag, with few spectators. He planned to run all day and night while trying to break the record for most Central Park traffic that ended in a single day, while Russia was raising money to help displaced Ukrainian children displaced by the country’s invasion.
Pearlman, 39, of Brooklyn, is known by his stage name, Oz the Mentalist. (Oz rhymes with “clothes”). In 2015, she finished third in the 10th season of “America’s Got Talent,” and appeared in “Today,” “Live With Kelly and Ryan,” and “Ellen.” Its long duration would be another demonstration of the mind on matter.
The record that Pearlman wanted to break was set in 2021 by Robbie Balenger, an ultrarunner who rose to fame after being removed from the challenges of many days away. In 2019, Balenger crossed the continental US. Last summer, he completed what he called the Colorado Crush: a 1,176-mile run and a 300,000-foot vertical climb in 63 days, culminating in a 100-mile Leadville Trail.
According to Fastest Known Time, the digital platforms that “FKT” collects and secures on popular plots — such as Seven Summits — and in the dark, Pearlman should have traveled more than a mile more than Balenger. It should complete the other loop.
Although the park itself was founded in 1858, the first fastest time in Central Park was set in 2020 by Aaron Zellhoefer, who made 11 loops in just 14 hours. He was one of the thousands of FKTs established during the pandemic when the races were canceled and runners were looking for new challenges. Many of these records are regional and relatively unimportant, but this is important to many. Central Park is a world-class running destination and hosts more than two dozen races each year. This is where the New York Marathon ends.
In preparation for the Central Park Loop Challenge, Pearlman ran several over 20 miles, usually on or before road shows. When he is at home in Brooklyn, where he lives with his wife, Elisa Rosen, and their three children, he literally makes orders, sweating profusely. He has been training in Central Park for almost 20 years and has committed every bend in the road, every hill and straight, to his memory. “It’s the home field,” he said. “That six-mile loop is my comfort zone.”
But there would be a clock. Central Park is open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., and runners may not enter the roads until five minutes after they open. They must be out of the park five minutes before closing time. That took 18 hours 50 minutes for Pearlman to set a record.
At 6:05 a.m., it was very hot. He ran up the village, clockwise, at a pace of less than 7:30. Mike Halovatch, on the New York ultrarunning scene, was his only step for the first lap, finishing in less than 45 minutes. It would have been faster if he hadn’t walked on two big hills without the last-minute advice of a stranger who insisted.
Pearlman has won the New Jersey Marathon four times and the Hampton Marathon three times. The personal mark achieved in the marathon distance places him outside the range of men invited to the Olympic trials.
“Oz is a real race,” Halovach said. Referring to his best time at the Philadelphia Marathon in 2014, Pearlman said, “You run a 2:23 marathon, that’s running.”
Pearlman was not always a pedestrian fleet. He was the lowest-ranked runner in his high school cross country team, but by then he was doing magic shows in restaurants. After a divorce left her parents in financial uncertainty, she said she was bent on magic to enter the University of Michigan. After graduating from college, he became an early analyst at Merrill Lynch and worked as a magician for the moon.
He worked in restaurants on the East East Side, did bar mitzvahs and surprised colleagues during happy hour. His world collided with his investment banking career when he was hired to work at an event in honor of a Merrill director. When Pearlman turned a $ 1 bill into several Benjamins with a fingerprint, the chief was shocked until he learned that Pearlman was working for him.
“He said, ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ And I thought, ‘What am I working on here?’ ”Pearlman released his release a few weeks later, shortly after his first marathon.
Gradually the magic shifted from standard to mentalism. “It’s a little bit more brainy,” he said. “It’s about trying to decipher and reverse engineer the way people think. Basically, I’m trying to plant an idea in your head or get an impossible thought out of your head. ”
He asked me to think of the name of my first touch, someone who hadn’t seen, heard, or thought for decades. He nailed it. He was running. At the 80th kilometer.
After finishing each loop on Friday, he took a question sent to his 812,000 Instagram followers. One asked, “Does running help your mentalism?”
“Mentalism helps me run,” he replied. “If I can get into your brain, I can get into my brain when I’m in pain, go deeper and keep running.”
The sun broke through the clouds in its third loop, and its pace remained steady as the sky cleared and miles piled up, to the concern of Halovatch and his wife, Kate Pallardy, an elite distance runner and triathlete. They have learned from experience that a slower pace one morning results in better results in this type of event. Pallardy ran 18 miles with Pearlman at noon, just three weeks after giving birth to her third child.
In all, about 40 runners came out to set the pace. Typically in New York City, many of them met and entered Oz. He chatted at times, and did his best to keep everyone entertained. “He’s an interpreter in me,” he said. But like Pallardy and Halovach, he knew that suffering would begin at some point, and before Mile 50, he hit hard.
“Your head is doing tricks on you,” he said at the end of the eighth loop. “You start thinking about how far ahead and how much time you have, and you have doubts. They eat you. He tells you to give up your mind. ”
Twenty miles later, at its 12th loop, digestion deteriorated. He consumed only room (two or three laps), caffeine gum, and orange Gatorade. Maybe that caused it. Or it could have been that he had just worked late the day before and slept for four hours.
He threw it twice and had to find the toilet. His pace dropped from more than 12 minutes per 12 miles. The color drained from his face. He felt blisters form on the soles of his feet. His right hand began to pound. His team filled his cap with ice and threw himself to wake him up. After settling his stomach, he took out more caffeine gum to continue shaking his head.
As is often the case with Ultra, this period of deep pain and fatigue was intercepted by an extended flow state. Towards the end of his 13th lap, he hit the top march. Rocking with the playlists he prepared for the occasion, he sang out loud as he ran. His 91st mile was the fastest: 6:43.
Pearlman completed his 16th loop and 98 miles, around 8:20 p.m., to equal Balenger’s record distance. He ran four hours faster than Balenger. Two miles later, he ran 100 miles in a time of 14 hours 36 minutes, breaking a 100-kilometer record in two hours.
At 9:15 p.m., when he completed his 17th lap to set up the Central Park Loop Challenge FKT, he paused to celebrate with his wife and also confirmed that he had exceeded his goal of raising more than $ 100,000. But it wasn’t over. His pacers, some of them ultrarunner seasons, would not let him go home. They stressed that the Central Park Loop Challenge was giving some back to the new FKT. So a few minutes later, he walked through the village again.
On his 18th lap, he slowed down the pace and tasted the hills as they allowed him to walk. It was obvious in his expression that his right shin was getting worse. He took ibuprofen to keep the swelling and pain away, and he kept moving.
His 19th and final loop was his return to victory. “I told the boys we were going to finish the way we started: strong. And that’s what I went for. ‘
He was running, all of them, often with their eyes closed. It was up to his pacers to make sure he continued on his way, and they did. When he last arrived at the Engineers’ Gate before midnight on Friday, after a total of 19 loops and 116 miles, he fell to the ground, happy but exhausted.
“I had a spectacular day,” he said. “There is no other way to describe it.”
Hilary Swift reports help.