Heavy rains accompanied by strong winds are one of the worst nightmares of race management teams, and GLIRC seems to have suffered more than its share of race days like that in recent months.
It’s awfully tough to have worse weather than we experienced at the Suffolk County Marathon last October, and some pretty nasty weather has been the theme at this year’s Icebreaker International Marathon/Half Marathon and Mardi Gras Run to the Great South Bay Bay Brewery. Most of the participants in those events made the best of it, actually getting a kick out of splashing through the puddles to the finish, but that kind of weather is always a challenge for the race management team.
The worst day from that standpoint that I can remember was December 5, 1993, when we hosted the inaugural edition of Rob’s Run, the Club’s 5 Kilometer cross country race in memory of our good friend Rob Lauterborn.
The Run started and finished at the Syosset-Woodbury Community Park that day. Steady and sometimes very heavy rain started in the early afternoon of the previous day and continued for almost 24 hours, turning the course through the trails around the Park into the Long Island equivalent of the Okefenokee Swamp. Making things worse was a failure of communication between us and the folks from the Town who manage the Park, so that when we got to the Park at about 7 AM to open registration and packet pickup, the Administration Building was locked! We started with the frantic phone calls that eventually led to somebody coming to the Park to pen the Building about 8:30, but in the meantime, we had to do all the registration chores in a very small overhang at the entrance to the Building in the midst of a monsoon.
Race Directors Ed Melnik and Steve Klemes made sure that the race started as scheduled at 9 AM, and 200 intrepid runners slogged for 3.1 miles through ankle deep mud. But those runners who showed up in spite of the conditions were obviously runners with the right kind of attitude for this kind of thing. Bob Nugent ran a winning time of 16:49 that was nothing short of incredible under the prevailing conditions, with Keith Fields second in 17:09 and Pete McNeill was third in 17:10. (You can imagine the duel to the finish for second place under those conditions!) Barbara Gubbins “coasted” to a 19:49 win in the Women’s Division.
The runners were really pretty good about everything, and there was an enthusiastic reaction to the very moving speech by Rob’s brother Ed at the awards ceremony (yes, INSIDE the Administration Building!) in which Ed observed that the awful weather conditions were exactly what his brother Rob would have enjoyed, and that the positive attitude of the runners was the kind of thing that Rob would have wholeheartedly endorsed.
It’s been a quarter of a century since that day, but every time we experience that kind of heavy rain, I think back to the inaugural edition of Rob’s Run and wonder if Rob looks down and makes sure that we have the right “can do” attitude that both the Club and the runners evidenced on December 5, 1993.