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!