It figures that a woman who presides over a 585-acre urban park in one of the world’s most populous cities likes to be outside, taking in the scenery. What separates Sue Donoghue, president of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Alliance, is that she absorbs the sights and sounds at a brisker pace than most.
Twice a week Donoghue, 50, meets friends at 6 a.m. for a 3.4-mile run in the park. Come Oct. 10, Donoghue’s workout will be a little longer. She’ll be one of thousands of runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes taking part in the first Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon.
“Running helps me sustain my energy, helps me deal with stress,” says Donoghue, who’s married with three children, ages 12, 13 and 16. “It’s a great outlet, allowing myself time to do something for me.
“I’m really busy between my position with the Alliance and raising three kids. I want to be able to keep up and stay active for them. For me, running’s extremely important psychologically and for health reasons.”
By Donoghue’s count, the half marathon will be her 11th. She ran one marathon, New York City in 2013, finishing in 4 hours, 22 minutes.
She began running soon after the birth of her third child.
“It was very clear that I needed something I could do quickly, something I could do on my own, that didn’t need a lot of equipment, that I didn’t need to sign up for a class,” she says. “I needed something that offered small bursts of opportune time so I could throw on my sneakers and go.”
In her role as president of the Prospect Park Alliance, the non-profit organization that manages the Park in partnership with the City of New York, Donoghue oversees a staff of 170 and a $10.5 million budget. The Alliance is responsible for preserving and caring for the park, which attracts an estimated 10,000,000 visits per year.
The Alliance presents a range of programs—most free to the public—in the Park year round, including free fishing clinics, tours with naturalists and Celebrate Brooklyn!, a summer performance festival that this year included such diverse artists as Willie Nelson and Chaka Khan. The Park features acres of natural areas, as well as playgrounds, ball fields, a tennis center, and children’s destinations including a historic carousel.
And now, it will include the Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon.
“As a dedicated runner, I’m certainly excited that the Alliance and Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon have partnered this way,” says Donoghue. “What makes Prospect Park so special is that it brings people together across the borough. In this case it will bring people from across the country who share a love of running.”
Before becoming president of the Prospect Park Alliance, Donoghue served for six years as the senior advisor and assistant commissioner for NYC Parks.
Asked why she feels so passionate about parks, Donoghue says, “They’re beyond important. Prospect Park is critical for such a densely populated place like Brooklyn, providing residents with access to beautiful, open green space, woodlands, and a place to learn about and experience nature.”
New York’s most famous park (and arguably the world’s) is barely 10 miles away – Central Park. In many ways, Central Park is big brother to Brooklyn’s Prospect. Created in 1857, Central Park is 10 years older than Prospect and at 843 acres is considerably larger.
Both were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.
Living a block from Prospect Park, Donoghue isn’t shy about hiding her hometown pride.
No doubt with a playful smile on her face, she says, “We like to say Olmsted and Vaux practiced in Central Park and got it right in Prospect Park.”
Learn more about the Alliance and the many ways to enjoy Prospect Park on their website, www.prospectpark.org.