Communication with Fellow Race Directors

This is a funny time of year from a planning standpoint. We still have seven GLIRC major events coming up from October through December, but we have to spend an awful lot of time and energy focusing on 2020. Unlike many race management organizations, Winter is not really a down time for us. Two of our bigger events – the Sayville Running Company 10 Mile Run to the Blue Point Brewery and the Mardi Gras Run at the Great South Bay Brewery – take place near the start of the year, our increasingly popular Icebreaker Marathon and Half Marathon are in between the two Brewery Runs, and the Caumsett 50K Championship/25K Runs are held on March 1st. For most dedicated runners, running is a 12 months a year proposition, and so it is for the GLIRC management team.

Interestingly enough, however, GLIRC has no races scheduled for April of 2020. We go out of our way to avoid conflicts with other large events, so we have scheduled the 2020 Jonas Chiropractic Sports Injury Care Aspire 10 Kilometer Run for March 28th to accommodate Nancy Rettaliata and our other friends from the Patchogue YMCA, whose race will take place on April 4th. Similarly, the Lazer, Aptheker, Rosella & Yedid 15K Run will be held on March 14th to avoid a conflict with the Smithtown Rotary and Huntington Townwide Fund St. Patrick’s Day Runs which are planned for March 21st.

There are way too many conflicts on the Long Island racing calendar, and every Race Director, every organization that is hosting a running event, should be attentive of the need to minimize conflicts. (Arguably it can be said that there are way too many races, period, on Long Island, but that’s a discussion for another day). Some conflicts are unavoidable, but other situations could be worked out so as to avoid conflicts if only the Race Directors involved would talk to each other. Enlightened self interest should make this kind of thing obvious. When two races in neighboring or nearby communities are scheduled for the same date, both races are hurt by this kind of mutual cannibalization of prospective registrants, and neither Race Director can figure out why only 100 people registered for his or her race. That being said, I can think of at least three weekends in 2019 when two races were on the same date, at the same distance, and within a couple of miles of each other. Folks, talk to each other!!!!

We all use the phrase “Long Island running community” fairly often. But in a true community of interest, friends and neighbors are talking to each other all the time. People and organizations that are staging races. GLIRC tries to be something of a clearinghouse for information of this sort, but we can only do so to the extent that information is communicated to us.

In scheduling races, as well as in most other aspects of planning, the key words are indeed “Folks, talk to each other.” That’s a lesson, not only for Race Directors, but for everyone who truly wants the Long Island running community to be the best that it can be.

See you on the roads and the trails...and at the races.

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We Are Busy, But... We All Have A Lot of Fun Doing It!

Things are always busy here in the GLIRC office, but the summer months are, not surprisingly, especially busy. We just finished the Marcum Workplace Challenge on July 30th, arguably the most complicated running event of the Long Island year. As I write this on August 16th, we will be staging six events over the next six weeks – the Aloha Run, the Runner’s Edge-TOBAY Junior Triathlon, the Runner’s Edge-TOBAY Triathlon, the Blazing Trails 4 Mile Run, the Race Against Poverty AquaRun at TOBAY Beach, and the Ocean to Sound Relay. WOW!

Fortunately, of course, the Club can boast of an extremely efficient and effective staff to deal with all this. Our Executive Director Sue Fitzpatrick, our Vice President Mindy Davidson, our new Director of Development Jaclyn Dagnall, our Logistics Director Adriana Staiano, our bookkeeper Lyuda Mykola, & our Administrative Assistant Ruth Abrams, together form the kind of cohesive team that makes things a lot easier than they would otherwise be. Add in the amazing contributions of our two major Logistics Assistants Nick Palazzo and Rick Secor, as well as such managerial volunteers as Ric DiVeglio, Myron Bellovin, Rebecca McDonald, Karen Schackner, Carl Grossbard, Steven Toto, Jim Murray and others, and the net result is a management team that is second to none.

We are busy, but we are well staffed to handle it all, and besides...we all have a lot of fun doing it!

All that being said, I can’t give enough thanks to the race volunteers who are an indispensable part of our efforts. The list of those who volunteer on a regular basis is too long for a column like this one, but there are 25-30 folks who are on hand event after event, with enthusiasm, with knowledge, and with a genuine desire to make our events the best that they can be. You know who you are...and I thank you!

As a final note, I’m sure that we all can breathe a sigh of relief that Shawn Momtahen and John Zenkewich, both of whom needed hospitalization (and in John’s case surgery) after a Wednesday night race at Eisenhower Park, are well on the road to recovery. That being said, the dual incidents that night support my belief as to the importance of having an ambulance on site at races. Although everything I have heard indicates that Ron Nardo (himself an EMT) did an amazing job working on Shawn until the ambulance got there, getting folks to a hospital as soon as possible after an incident like this can well be a matter of life or death.

See you on the roads and trails...and most definitely at the Ocean to Sound Relay!

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Giving Back is What Makes Road Racing Special

Two of what are, at least to me, our most special races, were held during the month just past.

On Sunday evening, June 2nd, we staged the National Cancer Survivors Day Belmont Stakes 5K Run. Many of the participants in this race are not our “usual” runners, but have been attracted to the event because they or members of their immediate family are cancer survivors. The finish line on the racetrack is an unusual twist and everyone really seems to enjoy the Run/Walk. This is not an easy event to stage, and this year was complicated by the fact that NYRA added a tenth race to the end of their horse racing day, as well as by the uncertain weather. (Uncertain weather always seems to be a feature of this event!)

Four days later, at Eisenhower Park we staged the David Lerner Associates Long Island Police Appreciation Run. It’s great to see how many of the members of the Nassau, Suffolk and NYPD Running Clubs were on hand to support the Run. It seems like deserving requests for donations from the Police Crisis Foundation that the Run finances are increasing in the last couple of years, and this Run is the only way we can handle them. Remember folks- road racing here on Long Island would be impossible without the support of our Police. More to the point, the officers of our local police forces are dedicated, effective....and pretty much underpaid. They deserve everyone’s support.

At least as gratifying as those two events was the trip that Sue Fitzpatrick and I took to Amityville a few weeks ago to witness the graduation ceremony for The Opening Word Program. This Program is the beneficiary of two of our races – the Runner’s Edge Long Island Women’s Run this month and the Gold Coast Studios/ Steel Equities HoHoHo 5K in December. The Program teaches the English language and job readiness skills to immigrant women on Long Island, a population which is often underserved, undereducated, and/or underemployed. It is amazing to see first hand the results that the Program has achieved. Even more impressive is the number of women that the Program has helped to become U.S. Citizens.

Looking ahead to an event that really deserves everyone’s support is the October 27th Catholic Health Services Suffolk County Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K and 5K. In addition to being perhaps the best racing value around, last year – thanks to your help – we raised almost $200,000 that was spread amongst several veterans support agencies. This year’s Suffolk event is dedicated to the men and women who served our country in World War II, with specific reference to the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. You are going to LOVE this year’s finisher’s medal, which is consistent with the World War II theme!

See you on the roads and trails...and at all the great races that take place on Long Island!

The Gold Standard

You will read a lot about this year’s Caumsett 50K and 25K Runs in this issue of Long Island Footnotes, but there is one aspect of the day that I especially wanted to bring to everyone’s  attention.

The 50K was once again the USATF National 50K Championship and, of course, we had Lin Gentling of the USATF National office there as the official USATF observer.  She spent the day  with us, and her report back to the National office concluded as follows:  “A very special thanks and appreciation to Carl Grossbard and Sue Fitzpatrick of the Greater Long Island Running Club and to all the outstanding volunteers for putting on an amazing and incredibly well orchestrated event.  I am so grateful to all of you and for what you have contributed to the running community.  Definitely the gold standard!!”  Lin was effusive in her praise of the event all day long, and at one point she asked me if we might consider bidding on behalf of the United States for a World Championship!

It is always nice to be recognized for hard work and a job well done.  Caumsett Race

Director Carl Grossbard and Caumsett Coordinator of Volunteers Sue Fitzpatrick can be justifiably proud of their efforts, as can everyone else who contributed to the success of the

event.  With his usual quiet competence, Myron Bellovin had the post-race refreshments operation run as smoothly as possible.  Adriana Staiano and her logistics crew accomplished near miracles in a smoothly run job of setup and teardown of the course and the tent city that was the focal point of the event.  Richie Inammorato was anywhere and everywhere he was needed.

In summary, Caumsett was one of our finest hours, as GLIRC did Long Island proud on the National USATF stage!

Caumsett is one of three annual events that demonstrate that ultrarunning is alive and well on Long Island.  The Long Island Greenbelt Trail 50K and 25K Runs showcase the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail that is one of Long Island’s hidden treasures, and early signs indicate that this May 11th event may be our biggest Greenbelt Run ever.  The Fred von der Heydt Memorial 6 Hour, 60th Birthday Run on October 20th is another example of the kind of innovation and just plain fun that have been GLIRC trademarks for decades.

Our newest event, to be held on Sunday, August 11 is one that I am especially proud of.  With  the success of the 2nd annual Mardi Gras Run to the Great South Bay Brewery in February, it became clear that there was a demand for another themed Great South Bay Brewery Run in the summer, so mark your calendars now for what has been named Aloha Run to the Great South Bay Brewery...and start thinking about your costumes for the Run and especially for the amazing party that will follow the Run!

See you on the roads....and on the Greenbelt Trail on May 11th!

A Busy Winter & Taking Care of the Long Island Running Community!

Winter used to be the season when we had a chance to catch our collective breaths here in the GLIRC office, with very little doing between the Ho Ho Ho Run in mid-December and the Caumsett 50K/25K and the Kings Park 15K in March. That’s definitely no longer the case. This Winter’s calendar for our Club featured three major events in the space of only four weeks – the Sayville Running Company 10 Mile Run to the Blue Point Brewery in Patchogue, the Icebreaker Marathon/Half Marathon in Eisenhower Park, and the Mardi Gras Run to the Great South Bay Brewery in Bay Shore/Brentwood. All three of those events experienced substantial growth in 2019, and all three were unqualified successes.

That’s not to say that there weren’t difficulties involved in each event. Predicting how many shirts and finisher medals we need is always a tricky business, and this year we ran out of shirts in two of those three races and ran out of medals in two of those three races – culminating with the Mardi Gras Run where we ran out of BOTH shirts and medals. That being said, we promise that everyone will get a shirt and a medal, we have reordered them for everyone who missed out on race day, and will mail them out as soon as possible. The fact that the companies in China that manufacture the medals close down for Chinese New Year festivities is delaying our getting them. Nevertheless, the bottom line remains that every runner will ultimately get what we promised; that’s our trademark!

Looking forward, we have an awful lot on our plate in the coming month, including two of our most important events – the Lazer Aptheker Rosella & Yedid Kings Park 15K and the Jonas Chiropractic Sports Injury Care Aspire 10K. Fortunately for the sanity of everyone in the office, Kings Park Race Director Steven Toto and Aspire Race Director Karen Schackner are knowedgeable and experienced Race Directors who have everything under control!

The Aspire Run will be especially interesting this year, as we inaugurate a new course for that event for the first time in decades. It will be an interesting change, and I hope that everyone enjoys it. Again, our apologies regarding the change in the date of the event, but it made sense from the standpoint of the overall running community to hold the Run on March 30th rather than April 6th as originally planned.

The bottom line of this is that our primary role as an organization is to take care of the Long Island running community. We are a not-for-profit corporation, we don’t have any shareholders expecting big profits from what we do. Our concerns focus on doing the right thing by the runners. We may not always get things right to start with, but we always try to make things right for the running community....and you can put that in the bank!

See you on the roads and trails.

Flexibility

Flexibility is an important attribute of our Club, and it is especially important as it affects our relationship with the Long Island running community at large. The date originally scheduled for our 42nd annual Jonas Chiropractic Sports Injury Care Aspire 10 Kilometer Run was Saturday, April 6th. The event has generally taken place on the first Saturday in April, and we expected that there would be no problem with it. However, a few weeks ago it came to our attention that the Patchogue YMCA 5K had also been scheduled for that date, and that the YMCA would be honoring Lou LaFleur at the post-race Awards Ceremony. We spoke to the YMCA Race Directors and they advised us that they were locked in to the April 6th date and could not change it.

Quite frankly, if our buddy Lou was going to be honored, I was personally going to move Heaven and Earth to make sure that nothing GLIRC did would in any way detract from that honor. (And besides, I wanted to be at a race that was honoring him!) So we explored all the alternatives. Neither Sunday, March 31st nor Sunday, April 7th were possible because St. Pius X R.C. Church on Washington Avenue advised that they would be very unhappy if we tried to do the race on a Sunday during Lent when their Masses were packed with parishioners. But, thankfully, moving the event to Saturday, March 30th worked for everyone and, with the support of our sponsor Jonas Chiropractic Sports Injury Care, that’s what we decided to do. The change caused a bit of extra paperwork on our part, but it was well worth it.

So....I hope to see everyone joining us on Saturday, March 30th for the 42nd annual Aspire 10K, and joining us again on Saturday, April 6th for the Patchogue YMCA 5K to help us honor Selden Hills Warriors co-founder (and GLIRC Executive Board member!) Lou LaFleur.

As races proliferate on Long Island, it becomes more and more difficult to avoid conflicts. There are weekends in the Spring and Fall where there can be as many as a dozen Long Island races between Saturday and Sunday. I believe that GLIRC, as a defacto umbrella organization covering the entire Long Island running community, has a responsibility to try to minimize conflicts.

Race Directors who advertise in the Club’s annual Calendar and in Long Island Footnotes make it easier for us to meet that responsibility and to serve as something of a clearinghouse for race scheduling, and we very much appreciate their support.

Finally, changing the subject, my personal thanks go to Ric DiVeglio for the amazing job he did with this year’s Sayville Running Company 10 Mile Run to the Blue Point Brewery. Nobody, repeat nobody, devotes as much time and energy into this and other GLIRC events as Ric does, and we really appreciate it! Our thanks as well to Ric’s wife Kathy for tolerating all the demands on Ric’s time that his involvement in GLIRC makes. This is in no way meant to detract from the hard work of Sue Fitzpatrick, Cheryl Clifford, Adriana Staiano and others whose efforts made the Blue Point Brewery Run a reality this year, but I know that they would all agree that Ric’s contributions are very, very special!

See you on the roads and trails...and at the Aspire 10K on March 30th.

Pet Peeves

MY EIGHT ROAD RACING PEEVES
(In no particular order, except that Number 8 is by far the most important!)

1. Races that “guarantee shirts to the first 300 registrants.” If you are going to take my money, especially if I am paying extra on the day of the race, you should guarantee that I will get a shirt.  I understand that you may run out, and I don’t mind waiting, but if you are sufficiently successful that you have to re-order additional shirts, you need to mail them to whomever didn’t get one on the day of the race.

2. People who “bandit” races.

3. People who sign up for a race, realize they can’t make it, and give their bib numbers to other runners.  This is no better than banditting the race.  Most races are for charity, and if you run as a bandit or accept someone else’s number and run with it, you are really stealing from the charity.  Spend the $25 or $30 if you want to run.

4. Headphones.  Part of the fun of racing is enjoying your surroundings and interacting with other participants.  If you are wearing headphones you miss all that.  

5. Races that give awards in ten year age groups, rather than five year age groups.  There aren’t too many of them left, but there shouldn’t be any at all.

6. People who run lots of races but never “give back” by volunteering.  We are all busy people and recreational time is obviously limited, but why not give back to our sport by offering to volunteer at one race for every ten races that you run?  It’s good for the sport....and volunteering can be fun.

7. Races that don’t bother having their course accurately measured and USATF Certified. We runners don’t expect much, but we have a right to expect that if race organizers have advertised their event as a 5 Kilometer Race, they have taken the trouble and spent the few dollars to offer a Certified course, not one that was measured by someone’s car and might in reality be 2.9 miles or 3.3 miles.

8. Absolutely the worst of all --People who yell at volunteers.  Everybody has a bad experience from time to time at a race, but PLEASE don’t take it out on the volunteer staff that makes the race possible.  If you are unhappy with something that happened at a race, calmly and reasonably let the Race Director know about.  Much of the time there can be a relatively easy fix for the situation, but even if the Race Director is not receptive to your complaint, but – no matter what! – it is NEVER appropriate to verbally abuse the volunteers.  No matter what happens, you need to thank the volunteers, not abuse them!

The Runner's Edge Women's 5K Run In Retrospect

Eighteen Julys ago, Naomi Wangui of Kenya won our annual Long Island Women’s 5K Run with a time of 16:05 to take home the $2000 first prize. Four years later, Russian Olympic hopeful Tatiana Chulakh ran a 16:01 to win $2000. This was the pattern that had lasted for many years before and for many years afterwards.

Sometime while we were planning for the 2008 Run, someone (it probably wasn’t me!) asked a very pertinent question – Why were we giving thousands of dollars to folks who didn’t live on Long Island, who came in on the LIRR that morning and left right after the race? It didn’t take us much time to come up with what was the obvious – and obviously correct! – decision.

Instead of giving big prize money to non-Long Islanders, we now give modest ($500-$300-$200) awards to the first three finishers overall, plus $100 to each age group winner, plus $100 to the winners in the two Athena categories. Most important of all, we limited prize money eligibility to women who were either U.S. citizens or permanent residents of Long Island.

The net result, and I think that it’s a good one, is that every July we are able to reward twenty Long Island residents for their accomplishments, giving our local champions of every age group a chance to get some (admittedly small) financial recognition for their efforts.

I guess what may be an even bigger attraction these days is the diamond earrings valued at $2500 that one lucky entrant in the Runner’s Edge Long Island Women’s 5Kwill be getting as a result of the Grand Door Prize drawing held after the Awards Ceremony. Dan Kulchinsky of Mayfair Jewelers has been very generously donating the earrings every year, and it is something that everyone very much looks forward to.

This event pretty much has everything these days – a (very) fast, flat course that finishes on the track at Farmingdale High School, a free kids fun run with every finisher getting a medal, the prize money and door prizes, refreshments that include the GLIRC ice cream wagon, watermelon and the great pastries generously donated by Glen Wolther and All Round Foods.

And, of course, the bottom line in this year when empowering women has come to the forefront of public awareness, it is more important than ever that women participate in an event that has led the way in encouraging women runners on Long Island since 1984.

The "Sprint" That's Seen it All: Evolution of the Sands Point Sprint

What is now the Lynn, Gartner, Dunne & Covello Sands Point Sprint has had a long - and nomadic! - history.

It was born in 1981 as the Syosset Sprint, a 5-kilometer race that started and finished at H.B. Thompson Middle School in Syosset. Over the first few years it was not a Club event, but managed by Gunther Dauth and Fred Winkel. Somewhere around 1985, it did become a Club event and I became the Race Director.

Jim Flynn of the New York Athletic Club had several overall wins in the race in the mid-1980's, including a course record of 14:29.  The 1990 Syosset Sprint was especially memorable, with Martin Ryan of NYAC and Mike Anderson duking it out to the finish, with Ryan scoring the win in 14:46, one second in front of Anderson. Ryan was a repeat winner in 1991, with a time of 14:49.

The Sprint was moved to Syosset High School in 1992 and became a 4 mile race in 1993, with Don Speranza winning the first 4 miler in 20:29.  Michael Going turned in a strong 19:43 to win the 1994 Sprint.

Lynn Kotler took over as the Race Director in 1995.

We had some difficulties with the Syosset School District in connection with the 1996 event, which resulted in our moving the Sprint to Bay Shore in November of 1997, and Mary Ellen Stajk joined Lynn as Co-Director of what was the first POBRRC event staged in Suffolk County, with Mike Guastella of Warren Street taking top honors in 19:47.  Guastella repeated in 1998, and Robis Degirmenci of the Bellmore Striders won in 1999.

In 2000, with Lynn back as the sole Race Director, we moved the race to Eisenhower Park, and renamed it the Sprint for the Parks.  Some misdirection along the course changed what was supposed to be a 4 mile run into a 5.34 mile run, meaning PRs for everyone and big wins for Carlos Castro and Donna McMahon. In 2002 the runners covered the correct 4 mile distance.

The 2002 and 2003 Sprints were moved to August and the distance went back to a 5K.

Another move marked the August 2004 edition of the Sprint, as it became the Sprint for the Arts 5K at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor. In 2005 Bob Mittleman joined Lynn as Co-Director of the Sprint, and in 2016 Bob served as the sole Director.

Starting with 2007, managing the Sprint became a group effort at the GLIRC office, and we made what has (so far!) been our final change of location - to the beautiful grounds of the Sands Point Preserve, with a combination of paths and trails that became an instant success.  Jonathan Cuomo and Kathy Martin were the winners of the inaugural effort at Sands Point in 2007. 

In 2008 the Sands Point Sprint became the Sands Point Sprint for the Feinstein Institute with Abe Bernstein talking the lead on behalf of the Institute and Tim Murphy and Una Broderick scoring as the overall winners.  We were proud and pleased to help Abe raise funds for the Feinstein Institute for six years through the 2013 edition of the Sprint.

2014 truly began the "modern" era of the Sprint, with a very generous title sponsor and a new name for the race - the Lynn, Gartner, Dunne & Covello, LLP Sands Point Preserve Sprint.  Shawn Anderson and Alyssa Knott won the 2014 Sprint.

2017 presented a very interesting year for the Lynn, Gartner, Dunne & Covello Sands Point Preserve Sprint, To start out with, we were pleased to bring ACDS on board as our charitable beneficiary.  That was the good news.  But 16 days before the scheduled 2017 race, we were advised by the folks at the Preserve that the course we had planned to use for the race would not be available. There was apparently going to be a movie being filmed on the paths by the stables and that we would have to revamp the course.

So....in the midst of a rainstorm the following Monday, myself along with GLIRC's Executive Director Linda Ottaviano spent the morning tramping through the trails at the Preserve and came up with a new course that we felt would solve the problem.  With the positive reaction by the participants on August 6, the new course is definitely a "keeper!"  A bit more in the way of trails with a great view of the Long Island Sound, it was a course that really worked for everyone.  Alex Eletto was the overall 2017 winner for the second consecutive year, with Michele Grieco winning the women's division.

August 5, 2018 will mark the 38th annual edition of the "Sprint" than began at the Thompson Middle School in Syosset and has seen a total of six different venues in its peripatetic journey. Last year we had 416 finishers and we are looking forward to a bigger than ever turnout this year.  Please join us this summer!

History of Prize Money at the LI Women's Run

Lianne Farber winning the 2017 Runner's Edge Long Island Women's 5K Run

Lianne Farber winning the 2017 Runner's Edge Long Island Women's 5K Run

Prize money in local races has always been an issue that I have had mixed feelings about.

The one race for which we have consistently paid prize money has been the Long Island Women’s 5K Run, presently sponsored by Bob Cook and the Runner’s Edge.  However, the way we have paid out the money has changed dramatically over the years.

Back in the 1980's, 1990's and into the first decade of the 21st century, the prize money structure was “front-ended," with $2000 going to the first woman overall, $1000 for second place overall, $500 for third and $500 for the first master’s finisher. The result was that we could boast of several great athletes on our list of overall winners over the years. Anne Marie Letko, who was the first American finisher in the 1996 Olympic Women’s Marathon, was a two time winner of the Long Island Women’s 5K. Even more impressive, Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, who won silver medals in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Marathon and was a four time winner of the Boston Marathon, and who has been described by some as the greatest women’s marathoner of all time, also won the won the Long Island Women’s Run twice, and I believe that we paid her a large amount in “appearance money” in the second of those years.

Great runners aside, each year of the Run we were experiencing  five or six folks coming from outside Long Island, taking their prize money and leaving Long Island directly after the race. The race itself in those years usually attracted 300-350 finishers, and somewhere around 2006 we started questioning what we intended to accomplish with our prize money pool and whether our prize money structure made sense.

About ten years ago we made a dramatic adjustment in the prize money pool. Since then we have paid out $500/$250/$150 to the first three overall finishers, and $100 each to the first place finishers in each of thirteen age groups starting with 20-24, and $100 each to the top finisher in each of two Athena categories. The concept was to encourage and reward top Long Island runners like Jodie Robertson , Leonora Petrina, and Lianne Farber, and to have a nice incentive for competition in each of the age groups.

Hey, it has worked! Registration and the number of finishers has increased by 10-15 percent over the past ten years, and the age group competition has inspired a couple of exciting duels to the finish in recent years. (The fact that the Grand Prize in our post-race raffle is a pair of $2500 diamond earrings generously donated by Dan Kulchinsky of Mayfair Diamonds and Fine Jewelry has also been a great contributor to the success of the event in recent years!) Yeah, we lost the allure of having National and even World class runners at the race, but I honestly think that it was the right call. Hey, we are always all about Long Island and the Long Island running community.

The One and Only LI 100 Mile Run

GLIRC and, more accurately, its predecessor the Plainview-Old Bethpage Road Runners, was the pioneer organization of ultramarathoning on Long Island.

Back in the mid 1980s, we started holding 12 and 24 hour races on High School tracks, at first at Syosset High School and then at Plainview and Bethpage High Schools. After a while, these 1/4 mile loop races lost some of their luster, for the runners and most certainly for the Club members who were out there on the track seemingly forever as volunteer lap counters.

So in May of 1995 we launched what we rather optimistically titled the “inaugural” Long Island 100 Mile Endurance Challenge Run, which started at Orient Point and finished at Syosset High School. Both Nick Palazzo and I were reasonably confident that it was easily do-able. He had completed several 100 milers and I had crewed and paced at Western States and Wasatch. We added Mindy Davidson, Vinny Croce, Don Butchin, Kathy Mannkopf, Phil Costello, Kevin Wizbicki, Mary Anne Leahy, Roger Loberto and others to our team and were confident of our ability get the job done. Hey, how hard could it be staging it?

The process of obtaining permits gave us our first clue as to exactly how hard it could be. The course covered six different Townships and seven Villages, each of whom had a Town or Village Clerk that had their own procedures and their own paperwork.  Somehow we managed to get through the paperwork.

So, at 12:00 noon of May 20, 1995, fifty-two ultra runners, and four teams of three (each team member to cover a third of the route) from Long Island and beyond, assembled at Orient Point, and off they went. Between the heat (it was in the 80's) and the hills of the North Shore (oh, yes, Port Jeff!) only 31 of the individuals and three of the teams made it to the Syosset finish line.

David Luljak of Huntington, a veteran of most of our track ultras, took the lead pretty early on, and coasted (well you really don’t “coast” in a 100 mile run) to the finish line in 15 hours, 36 minutes, 26 seconds, nearly 40 minutes in front of his nearest competitor.  David had completed the Long Island Marathon in 2:40 only two weeks earlier, so his win was no surprise.

The first (and only!) female finisher was Eileen Eliot of Hollywood, Florida, who had no trouble with the heat, but had a bit of trouble getting oriented to Long Island, making a six mile detour along the way. Sadly, Eileen wasn’t the only runner who went astray.  What seemed like a relative clear route wasn’t quite as clear to the runners. At 2 AM, after logging 60 miles or so, your mind isn’t quite as sharp as it normally would be, and we certainly weren’t able to post a volunteer at every turn over a hundred mile course.  Hence many of the 21 runners who dropped out along the way were several who may still be wandering somewhere on Long Island.

The team competition took a strange twist. Jose Mendez was supposed to handle one of the 33 1/3 mile legs along with teammates Rudy Afanador and Dave Kliphon, but Jose came down with the flu earlier in the week and couldn’t compete. So Rudy decided to handle the first and third legs in what was his first ultra, and the switch worked sufficiently well that he and Dave won the team competition by nearly six hours in 14:38:57, almost a full hour in front of the first individual runner.

The final finisher rounded the track at Syosset High School in 28:58:51.

The event gave me a distinct respect for the folks who organize Western States, Wasatch, Leadville and the other major 100 Milers. Putting on a 5K, a 10K or even a marathon is not an easy task, but putting on a 100 miler is way, way more difficult.  (Keep in mind that, except for crashing at the track while waiting for finishers, most of the Race Committee had been up for over 28 hours themselves.) I’m glad we did it once, but that was enough! It didn’t take us long to decide that we didn’t want to go through this ordeal again, and in 1996 we substituted a trail 50K as the Club’s May ultramarathon, and the Greenbelt Trail Run survives to this day.

Pat Petersen's 1988 Record-Setting Aspire Run, as well as his running career

Pat Petersen sets the record at the 1988 Aspire 10K.

Pat Petersen sets the record at the 1988 Aspire 10K.

This year’s Aspire 10 Kilometer Run on April 7 marks the 30th anniversary of the record setting performance of Pat Petersen in the 1988 edition of the Aspire Run. 

Pat cruised through the course in 30 minutes, 28 seconds, and every April since then we have been trying to give away $500 to anyone who can beat that record. Obviously nobody has done so. I had thought that Nick Filippzzo might come close last year, but his winning time of 31:22, while certainly not at all shabby, didn’t really threaten Pat’s record.

The 1988 Aspire 10K included a bevy of amazing performances. Pat’s 30:28 headed a field where the top eight finishers bested 33 minutes and the top twenty-eight runners finished under 35 minutes. In contrast, in the 2017 Aspire 10K, only Sean Mahon, Michael Petrina and William Herbert joined Filipazzo in breaking 35 minutes, and in the 2017 LI Marathon 10K only overall winner Narcisco Mejia scored in under 35 minutes. The talent is still here on Long Island, but the depth of talent is nowhere near what it was thirty years ago.

Pat was an amazing runner, notwithstanding his unusual running style, rocking side to side, all elbows and knees. His style and, of course, the fact that here on Long Island he would invariably have been at the front of the pack, made him easy to pick out for spectators at a race.  Pat scored his marathon PR of 2:10 in the 1989 London Marathon, and had three New York finishes placing in the top four. He had a half marathon PR of 1:03:56 and a 10 Mile PR of 48:46.  

He competed with the Grumman Running team for many years when I was at Grumman also, and he was a proud member of what was then the Plainview-Old Bethpage Road Runners Club.  When he ran his 30:28 time in the 1988 Aspire Run, it was not a surprise that he and his Grumman Running Team teammates Ed Von Bevern, Mike Timmons and Lance Hugelmeyer were easy winners in the Corporate Team Division.

Pat left us at the far, far too young age of 55 in May of 2015, having finished second best to pancreatic cancer.

The First Use of Chip Timing on LI at GLIRC's 1998 Kings Park Race

Start of the 1998 Kings Park 15K.

Start of the 1998 Kings Park 15K.

March 22, 1998 was a very important day in the history of Long Island running and racing.

It was the date of the inaugural Kings Park 15-kilometer Run which, at the time, was the only 15K run held on Long Island. We had deliberately tried to come up with as tough a 9.3 miles as we could find, and I think that we succeeded. 

Back then the race started and finished at the W.T. Rogers Middle School, which is at the 4 mile mark of the current course. The runners went down Kohr Road, which is a major uphill on the current course. Most of the fifth mile back then was an excruciating steep climb up Walnut Road in the San Remo development, and the final mile was what seemed to be an endless climb up Old Dock Road to the finish line.

In what pretty much set the standard for the next nineteen Kings Park races, the only significant snowstorm of the 1997-1998 winter hit the New York Metropolitan area only a few hours before the starting time. Nevertheless, 493 intrepid runners crossed the finish line. We had over 600 preregistered, and 97 folks actually signed up that morning, but a couple of hundred “no shows” mostly from the five boroughs of NYC where the weather was much worse than in Suffolk County, kept the turnout down. Overall winners of the first Kings Park 15K were Carlos Castro (52:42) for the men and Helen Visgauss (1:03:19) for the women.

That inaugural Kings Park 15K was a milestone in Long Island running and racing history for another reason.  It was the first “chip timed” race on Long Island. David Katz used Kings Park to introduced us to the Champion Chip Timing System, billed as the same technology as that of E-Z Pass. Each runner wore a small plastic chip tied through his or her shoe lace.  The “chip” had been previously used at the Boston, Los Angeles and Berlin Marathon, but this was its first use on Long Island. The chips had to be returned after the finish and reprogrammed before they could be used at another race.

So on March 22, 1998, not only did the “Challenge Begin” in Kings Park, but a new era in Long Island running and racing began as well.

Snow Events and LI Running

Photo by GLIRC member Yvonne Leippert

Photo by GLIRC member Yvonne Leippert

Today’s weather, with a couple more ridiculous days to come, and the need to cancel tonight’s Training Run in Sayville and the wise decision to postpone Saturday’s Greenway Run at the Bench until January 20th, reminds me of past winter storms and the effect they have had on the Long Island running community.

My most vivid memory of this kind of snow event isn’t even a winter one. It was a Thanksgiving Day, somewhere in the early 1980s, when I was all set to head for Port Washington and David’s Katz’s 5 Mile Run at Manorhaven Park.  A massive snowstorm started early Wednesday evening and lasted till past dawn on Thursday, forcing the cancellation of the race. I was even more obsessed 35 years ago than I am now, so a couple of buddies and I met at Plainview High School and did a five mile run up Washington Avenue and back. The roads hadn’t been plowed yet, but we made our own route though the snow and accomplished what we had set out to do. Hey, we were scheduled to do five miles that day, so we did it.

My next best memory of a snow event is of the Kings Park 15K somewhere about 15 years ago. We were actually up at the William T. Rogers Middle School (the race started and finished there until about 8 or 10 yeas ago), but the snow was coming down so heavily that it was just impossible to proceed. Forget the “just about” - it would have been impossible. So we called it off and rescheduled it for June. The ironic part of the story I that two or three hours later the sun was out, the roads were clear an we could have held the race

Most recently in December of 2016, we had snow and ice on the streets of Bethpage for the Ho Ho Ho Run. Most of the preregistered runners didn’t show, but we had three or four hundred dedicated (out of their minds???) souls who were ready to go ....and so were Race Director Ric DiVeglio and the GLIRC team. The race was scheduled to start at 9:30 AM.  At 9:00 AM, the head of the NCPD detail advised us that the icy roads were simply too treacherous for the race to proceed. It was at about the same time that the guys who were going to be the lead bikes came in from the course and told us the same thing. Well, we had way more than enough refreshments for everyone to enjoy, picked the raffle winners - including the Canon camera and the HDTV - and called it a day. We would have loved to reschedule for the following Saturday, but it was Christmas weekend and there was no way.  Obviously we made every effort to get the race sweatshirts to everyone who didn’t show up that morning... but it wasn’t the same, and I still feel badly about it today.

I’ve got a lot of other similar weather related war stories, and to this day the idea of cancelling a race gives me great pain. However, you need to use your common sense, even if your instincts as a runner tell you to forge ahead!

LI Winter Runs Back in the Day

Mike (R) and fellow GLIRC members at the 1983 New Year's Eve Midnight Run in Central Park.(L to R: Jimmy McDougall, Bob Sanelli, Nancy Ackley, Mike Polansky)

Mike (R) and fellow GLIRC members at the 1983 New Year's Eve Midnight Run in Central Park.(L to R: Jimmy McDougall, Bob Sanelli, Nancy Ackley, Mike Polansky)

“Back in the day” the racing season on Long Island ended with the Ho Ho Ho 5K Run in mid-December and, with the exception of the Joe Latino Relays at Sunken Meadow on a date in February that often ran afoul of Winter weather, didn’t come alive again until the Little Cow Harbor 4 Miler and Kings Park 15K in March.

Things have definitely changed! 

The new Maggie’s Mile at Sunken Meadow on New Year’s Day adds a new dimension to what were always lots of untimed New Year’s Day fun runs. The January 13th  Sayville Running Company 10 Mile Run to the Blue Point Brewery has become one of the biggest races on the Long Island calendar, and may become even bigger in 2019 when the new, bigger Brewery location is available. The January 28th Icebreaker Marathon and Half Marathon offers runners an opportunity to get a long run in, and perhaps qualify for Boston, for the low, low price of only $25. The new Mardi Gras Run to the Great South Bay Brewery on February 11th promises to be another great run, followed by what is becoming the traditional “all you can eat, all the beer you can (safely!!!) drink” with a live band post-race party! Then it's time to get more serious with the Caumsett 50K/25 K plus the usual Little Cow Harbor and Kings Park races in early March.

The Long Island running and racing scene is alive and well all Winter Long. Be a part of it!