Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, July 21, 2013
Copyright, Madeline Bost, 2013
Maybe another record was broken and that being the high temperature that cause the organizers to post a notice on the race website on Thursday afternoon that the event would not be timed and would be shortened by nearly a mile due to the extreme heat. Some people may have opted to stay in a nice air conditioned space but from the look of Headquarters Plaza Speedwell Avenue a lot of people were ready to go, racing or not, hot as heck or not.
The Morris County Striders [full disclosure: my running club] provides course marshals for the event and they were able to double up on positions due to the missing mile. That may have been a good thing because the marshals who were in the “floater” position, Roger Price of Randolph, Ed Neighbour of Sparta and Joe Treimel of Pequannock and Bernie McKay of Morristown were there to react to any situation and remedy it. Their roles had called for strong voices and an instinct to react quickly to a situation. They had no inkling that they would soon be put to the test.
With those four or five thousand runners and walkers starting out to travel just two miles there was bound to be some problems. The faster runners fairly leaped off the starting line when the horn sounded on Speedwell, but those further back barely moved for several minutes before they were clear to run or walk.
The course is basically an out and back and the last three quarter mile or so was still filled with people who had barely begun to move off Speedwell Avenue to the first turn onto Early Street when the faster runners had hit the turn-around and were on their way back.
Ooops! Those back-of-the-pack folks had filled Early Street from sidewalk to sidewalk and now the police vehicle leading the returning speedsters would soon be turning onto Early and heading right into the crowd.
“I said to Bernie,” Price recalls. “Oh my God, look up there! We’ve got to get them off the street.”
It’s not easy convincing people that they must clear a road for what appears to be no good reason. Most of the runners had probably never looked at the course map and did not know that theirs was only one side of the road.
Shouting, the four men desperately began to herd the unwitting runners back to their rightful place on their half of Early Street.
They were mostly successful but when the lead police vehicle turned up Early Street there were still some people on the wrong side of the road. Siren screaming, horn sounding, lights flashing the police car was using its full arsenal of sound and sight as people scurried either to the sidewalk or back to the other side of the street.
Just in time as Tradelle Ward of Hoboken was in full stride to be the first runner to finish. If you want to say you had a run of bad luck it would have to top Ward’s. Last year the runner from Stryker was delayed in traffic and didn’t make it to the start. This year Ward, a former miler, was primed for action and although he was the first man to cross the finish line it was an empty victory. No time recorded and no award given.
Meanwhile, out on the course those less fit and much slower were feeling the heat. If Ward and the other leaders of the pack finished in ten or eleven minutes and were tossing down gulps of water at the finish, out on Sussex Avenue at the turn- around, folks may have been on the run for twenty minutes or more.
Course marshal Marty Rosenberg of Wharton was at the beginning of the large loop that turned the runners back to head to the finish. Rosenberg said that many of the slower people were looking pretty ragged. He appointed himself the unofficial “monitor” and began to tell people to just turn back at that point and not make the loop that might have added another quarter mile of agony.
Rosenberg said that some refused to give in to the heat and their pain and completed the full course, but others gratefully followed his direction and did a one eighty and headed for “home”. When a race isn’t a race there is no shame in cutting the course.
Back at Headquarters Plaza none appeared to be suffering from doing the two mile race and there were many happy faces around. Competitive runners had not found the heat to be daunting thanks to the abbreviated course and not feeling the need for speed the less fit were happy too. A smiling couple with their two children, all dressed in similar attire asked a stranger to take their picture for posterity. Their happy grins said it all. Race or not, hot or not, it was a fun event.
A calendar of USATF sanctioned events can be found at www.usatfnj.org or at www.raceforum.com for running and tri and biathlon events.
Contact Madeline Bost at firstname.lastname@example.org.