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.