Student Athletes of the Month: Running to Bitter to Get Better 

‘He really cares about us on and off the track’ — Princess Golden (right)
‘He gets me to compete with myself and constantly try to do better’ – Ben Ramirez

Ted Bitter is so serious about running that he adopts a military-style approach to coaching.  

It’s hard to argue with success. For 20 years, Bitter has helmed the Westchester Striders, a Peekskill-based running club that attracts some of the county’s best young talent. The Striders don’t recruit; people come to Coach Ted. 

During practices five days a week at Depew Park, he can’t help but yelp observations and suggestions to his runners in a lilting Jamaican accent: “Princess, you’re running from your knees, you need to run from your hips!” Or, “Up and out, Isabel, push it out, one two, one two!” 

He is demanding for a reason: helping young people win in the game of life. “This is like a college level program,” said Bitter, 79. “High school teams have 100 kids on them, they can’t give personalized attention. We do wicket drills, they don’t do drills at all.” 

He also requires participation in stretching exercises, working with weights and drills where the runners hop like frogs and skip like dancers.  

Striders have pulled in trophies and accolades galore, but rather than focus on the races and the tournaments, Bitter is most proud of the scholarships, degrees and professions entered. His kids have graduated from Harvard, Stanford, Rice, Dartmouth and many others.  

Princess Golden, a 16-year-old senior at Hendrick Hudson High School, is already on her way to success. After a decade of running, she’s graduating early and heading to Syracuse University on a full scholarship. 

‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’ – Westchester Striders Coach Ted Bitter

“He’s a great coach,” she said. “It’s tough love and we’ve had strife sometimes, but he really cares about us on and off the track.” 

Bitter, who served as a paratrooper during the Vietnam War, experienced a difficult time readjusting to civilian life and found solace – and success – in running throughout his adult years. 

Private running clubs at all ages and skill levels are a significant subculture that provide age- and skill level-appropriate competition along with the motivation of being in a group to get up and go. 

For young people, clubs supplement school track teams. At a recent practice, Bitter took aside one runner with the proper long-legged build for extra coaching (there’s a type, like ballet dancers) who wants to make her high school team.  

Motivating the Striders to dig in, Bitter adheres to the motto “Running for Excellence.” There is also the Four Ds: discipline, dedication, determination and desire.  

“He gets me to compete with myself and constantly try to do better,” said Ben Ramirez, 18, a Hendrick Hudson High senior headed to Northeastern University. “I know the value of hard work and that extends to other aspects of my life.” 

The Striders practice five days a week in Depew Park.

Bean Runner Café, which Bitter co-owns with partner Drew Claxton, features sandwiches and entrees with names like the Starting Line, High Jump and Cross Country, so he does have some sense of humor. 

But for the most part, he’s strictly business when it comes to running. “It’s all about discipline,” he said. “I can teach technique and race strategy, but hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” 

All photos by Marc Ferris.

Regular contributor Marc Ferris is author of Star-Spangled Banner: The Unlikely Story of America’s National Anthem.

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