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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.

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.