Sunday, September 27, 2015

Morris County Runners big winners at Half

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, September 27, 2015


Despite gusty winds and sunny skies over two thousand runners hit the bricks in Jersey City for the T-Mobile Newport Liberty Half Marathon this past Sunday.  Two runners from Morris County made it to the line first in their division.  Mark Hess of Morristown, who placed second last year in the race, became the winner this time around.  Hess finished in 1:09.39, three minutes faster than his 2014 performance.

Roberta Groner of Randolph also moved up.   She finished first woman in 1:19.29 – five minutes faster than 2014 when she placed fourth.

The winds that whipped banners and flags throughout the run did not deter either Hess or Groner by their own account.

“Sunday was a great race,” said Hess.  “The wind didn’t have a tremendous effect.”

Hess said he was mostly concerned with maintaining his goal pace of 5:20 per mile in spite of any weather conditions.  He came close with a 5:19 average.

“I went out with the leaders, but at two and a half miles I fell back from the top three guys by 50 to 75 meters,” said Hess.   “I didn’t catch up again until mile seven, or seven and a half.  They were running faster than my goal pace and I wanted to stay consistent, run my own race, and not run over my head.  After seven and a half miles I ran with Steve Mennitt until mile ten when I pulled away.”

Hess is training for the Philadelphia Marathon in November and said that he has been able to piece together good training and good races the last 18 months.  Evidence of that is his second place finish last year and a second at the Atlantic City Marathon last October.  He credits changing his eating habits to a more healthy diet, to sleeping more and to partying less than he did when he was in college and law school.

“After making those changes, I’ve been able to handle a lot more miles and it’s starting to pay off.”

Groner is also training for a marathon.   The one that is just across the river from Jersey City. 

“I did not taper into this race so I did not know what to expect,” said Groner. “The wind did not affect my race. At one point by the water it was gusty but not horrible.”

Groner has found a compatible training partner in Beau Atwater, 57, of Bernardsville who introduced her to the Hanson's marathon training plan.  Their race strategy was to start off slow and work up to 6:10 pace by mile ten.

“I could see two other women early on and they were both 45 seconds to a minute ahead of me,” said Groner.  “I passed the second place woman around the 10K mark.  At mile eight I felt really good and decided to pick up the pace. I ran the last 5 miles under 6:00 pace. I could tell at mile ten that the first place woman was fading.  I passed her before the eleven mile mark.”

Atwater did not go with Groner and finished in 1:21.33 for seventh place master and only third of all men over age 50.  He age graded at 84.98%, second by fractions to Reno Stirrat, 61 of Rockaway whose time of 1:24.40 hit 84.99%

Atwater points out that the problem with half marathons within a marathon training phase is that you usually lose at least two weeks of marathon training: one for the taper to the half marathon and one at least for recovery.

“I'm sure a taper would have shaved off another couple minutes from Roberta's time,” he said. “I am confident Roberta will have an excellent showing at New York.  At this point it's all about staying healthy.”

Not everyone got through the race in as good of shape as the leaders.  The wind, coupled with near zero humidity, literally dried some runners into dehydration.  Runners reported having to stop to work out leg cramps later in the race and some barely made it to the finish due to dehydration.

But finish they did.  Some local teams had a good day; especially the Morris based Garmin runners.  Their open men’s team was the first non Adidas Garden State Track Club team to score.  They swept the M40, M50, and W40, W50 divisions.  The Do Run Runners took second in the M50 and third in the M40 divisions.  In all, seventy-seven teams competed.  

Stirrat and Atwater weren’t the only local masters to score big in age grading.  Nora Cary, 60, of Morristown topped the chart with her 1:38:47 age graded at 85.17%.  Second was Mary Christian, 52, of Flanders who hit 80.81% with her 1:33.55.


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