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.