“I’m completely hungover, I barely slept last night, I don’t even know how I managed to do this morning’s race!” Emily Palmer bursts out laughing, then avidly crunches into a slice of pizza, dripping with burrata. She has just finished a ten-mile race through Central Park.
The previous day, the president of Honduras’s brother had been convicted of cocaine trafficking, and Emily had to file a story about it for her employer, the New York Times. “I covered the trial for three weeks non-stop,” she says frantically, without giving up her slice. “So I went on a bar tour to celebrate the end of it…”
On this bright, crisp late-October day, the crime reporter is joined by her friends, obituary writer Amisha Padnani and designer Frank Reneau, co-captains of the Times Run Club, to enjoy a free lunch, courtesy of a pop-up restaurant that allowed runners to swap their miles for pizza. This morning’s run was their last training before the New York Marathon.
The Times Run Club, the New York Times’ official running club since 1978, now counts 150 active members, who have roles in the newsroom, editorial, data and the company’s newer television ventures.
“The group contains a mix of fast runners; while some are running just for fun, others are looking to get back into running after time away from the sport,” says Frank Reneau. “A few are bouncing back from injury and some just want to get fit. We’re utilizing the club as a contrast from our day-to-day roles as journalists.”
The Times Run Club regularly competes against other media organizations in a race called Media Challenge, but created in 1979. It has won the past three Challenges and won four out of five races to take the crown last year, Reneau boasts.
On September 7th, The Times Run Club competed in a one mile race with other media organizations. One of the club’s runners placed second, while the team was awarded the “Fastest Media Team” price.
But being a news runner and an actual runner is sometimes hard Getting the entire club together is “impossible because of work schedules,” since The Times is a 24-hour news outlet,” Reneau admits. “Some of our runners, including myself, work afternoon/night shifts. But we find a way to make it work. We host group runs every Wednesday evening in Central Park, sometimes see one another at local races in the city and out of state.” The team’s best ally to keep in touch? Slack, always.
This year, over 30 runners representing The Times were registered to compete in the New York City Marathon, and several other runners traveled to Berlin, Chicago, Philadelphia to take on those marathons.
“I decided to run my first New York Marathon a day after fainting in the street in early September, Emily recalls. “I was drowning in work at the time. Frank called me and said “How about running the Marathon with a few others from the club?” I didn’t hesitate a second, I said yes straight away! Didn’t tell my parents immediately, though. I knew they would be mad.”
Caught in between two assignments, Emily was in poor health and not sleeping enough when the incident happened. When an ambulance came for her, she felt like it was a last warning. She sleeps more now, eats regularly, and runs three times a week. She knows her family and friends are her most devoted supporters.
Emily joined the Times running club just a year after her start at the newspaper as a 23-year-old fact-checker. At the time, the Columbia Journalism graduate from Durham, North Carolina, earned $120 a week. Her diet consisted of saltines and whiskey, she said.
Six weeks after being hired, she got her first assignment to cover crimes, because she told her editors she’d be willing to go anywhere. “I arrived on the scene of my first assignment to see a woman’s head severed from her body,” she recalls. “My editor called me a few hours later: ‘Emily, are you alive? Then WHERE’S MY STORY?’”
As Emily loves to remind people, she’s 27 and 5’7’ in four-inch heels. And, she does run in heels (for her reporting only). She’s also a true southern lady who has a tremendous passion for Hemingway. Once, she went to Spain just to visit his old apartment in Pamplona, from which he could see the bulls’ running in the street below.
Last June, she got a call while she was enjoying a Saturday high tea with friends in Manhattan: double homicide in the Bronx. She had to be there immediately. Emily, who since the age of four has loved to dress up in chic vintage dresses, pastel high-heels and feathered hats, had to go without having the time to change her outfit. She came to the crime scene wearing a chocolate dress, taupe fascinator, and beige stilettos.
“I usually dress more casually for crime scenes, but that doesn’t always work out— because you can’t plan for a crime to happen. I even got a call to cover a horrible accident on Halloween 2015. I was wearing a Carrie Bradshaw outfit that day. Everyone else there was in costume too, though, so this time, I fit right in!”
When she covered the El Chapo trial in February 2019, her most memorable trial to date, she spent several hours at night outside the Brooklyn Federal Court in a sleeping bag to get a seat in court. The temperatures were so frigid the guards took pity on the reporters and let them in early in the morning.
Emily lives as if she was racing every single day of her life. Every month, she posts a one-minute video on her Instagram account, in which every two seconds represents a day. When she completes a deadline, she takes a large piece of bubble wrap out of one of her closets and jumps on it as a sign of ultimate satisfaction. She sometimes films herself doing it.
Another great source of satisfaction? Food. When Emily runs with her NYT colleagues, they usually get a sugar fix post-race at a doughnut shop.
Toward the end of their meal at the pizza joint, a waiter approaches the table, his arms filled with packages from the shoe company that’s sponsoring the pop-up: inside, mauve jackets printed with a “NYC Marathon 2019” logo, a marine blue sweatshirt embroidered with a tiny slice of pizza and a protein honey and peanut bar. Again, on the house.
“Free pizza and free clothes!” rejoices Emily. “Isn’t this the best day ever?”