Jogging For Jersey

With nothing on the race calendar for this weekend, Laura and I were glad to jump into the Jogging for Jersey 5K, a last minute affair put together by local runner Sarah Ferris.  Sarah grew up in New Jersey and wanted to do something to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy.  With gorgeous weather, lots of local running pals, a nice park that I’ve been running in since the early eighties, oh and door prizes, how could I not go?  Add the fact that the Panthers stink and I definitely had no reason to stay home.

Sunday afternoon rolled around and I hopped in the car to head over to the ol’ stomping ground, Frank Liske park.  I grew up just a few miles away and have run many a mile in that park.  As recently as 2004, Todd (Spears) and I did a lot of  training for our first marathon there.   Back in my pre-Garmin days, I used to run a loop in the park where I guesstimated distances.  I remember calling a park bench the “1-mile bench” and was elated years later when I measured the distance with my Garmin and discovered it was .98 miles to the bench.

I headed down 73 towards Concord when suddenly I found myself completely stopped in bumper to bumper traffic.  I am the King of discovering weekend traffic jams.  I could only guess this was due to the Renaissance Festival.  I really wanted to punch some dude, any dude, in tights, maybe beat him over the head a few times with a turkey leg.  But all I could legally do was wait.  I texted Laura and she kindly went ahead and registered me.  Luckily, I had left very early.   I killed time in the traffic jam by frequently checking fantasy football scores –  I was in a dogfight with league leader John Compton – by the way, it’s totally unfair that the fastest runner in a fantasy football league of runners is undefeated.  I’m just saying.

Eventually, some 2 miles and forty-five minutes later (is the GD RenFest really that popular?) I broke free from the traffic and sped to the park.  I arrived with barely a few minutes to spare and Laura handed me my bib.

All the local running clubs were well represented either with runners and/or volunteers, but none more so than DART.  I chatted with Chas and Dave, both coming off big races the day before, the Richmond Marathon and the Spencer Mountain 10-miler respectively.

My pal Leonard jogged up and I introduced everybody while we spent the last few minutes talking running and joking around until post time.  Then suddenly it was race time and we lined up.

The starting line of the Jogging for Jersey 5K. DART was well represented as evidenced by Dave (408), Chas (401), and Julie Alsop (21) in the front.

Laura and I planned to run with her 2 sons, Warren and Wilson, 6 and 8 respectively, both running their first 5K.  Warren is a little fair, red-headed kid so when we spotted another little boy with red hair, Laura pointed him out and told Warren that he should try and outrun that boy, to which I added, “Yeah, you’ve got to be first Ginger.”

Peter Asciutto of Vac and Dash was on-hand to help out and he made a few announcements and then we were off and running.  Within the first few minutes, Warren had dropped his big brother.  Warren and I cruised ahead while Laura dropped back to keep an eye on Wilson.  Here we are locking into pace:

A future Notre Dame runner and a former North Carolina runner become allies.

Laura helps Wilson through his first 5K.

We settled in and had fun.  I tried to teach Warren racing strategy – it was a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of conversation as I instructed him “don’t start out too fast early – you need to pace yourself”.  He did pretty well, although I noticed he would drop some surges whenever anyone passed us, so very much like his mom’s boyfriend.

Laura joined us, turning around often to check on Wilson.  The course led us across the main road of the park where the 2 DART Mark’s (actually Marc and Mark) Hirschfield and Ippolito, blocked traffic and we exchanged greetings.  Little Warren chugged away while I matched his pace as he alternated equal parts jog, sprint, and walk in some kind of curious Galloway meets Fartlek workout.

Nearing the second mile, the leaders were already on their way back.  I tried to get Warren to stay to the right, but his race strategy apparently included meandering.  Tacking seemed to help him muster energy.  I yelled and waved to Stan who had a lock on second place, then Leonard, in third and Eric in fourth.  I exchanged high fives with Chas and then Dave as they came jaunting past.

We passed the one mile mark and Warren kept churning.  I saw Troy Eisenberger follow his son Sam as he cut a corner and I jokingly yelled “Troy!  DQ!”  but I don’t think he heard me.  Laura, Warren, and I carried on, past the one-mile bench where I told Laura the story.  We made the turnaround and waved to Chad Randolph who was manning the spot.

Here, the crushed gravel trail was loaded down with new gravel making for some tricky footing and Warren went down.  I was a little concerned that this might break his will a bit, but he popped right back up as if nothing had happened.

We followed the winding course along the grass (I wondered why we did so much running through the fields when there are such great trails in this park, but hey, I didn’t design the course), and suddenly we could see the finish line less than a quarter of a mile away.  Laura and I admonished Warren, our pacesetter, to pick things up.  I told him, “When we round that corner, let’s sprint to the finish”.  So he did.

Warren kicked for all he was worth, and I matched him stride for stride.  This series of pictures chronicles our epic battle:

Warren drops his mom as I struggle to hang on…

Sheer determination.

A split second later, Warren, clearly a future Fighting Irish, allegedly out leaned me at the tape, but I disputed the results. I am filing a formal protest with the race directors.

I checked my watch and saw 39:04 and cried out to Eric and Leonard, “39:04!  PR!  This was a 10K, right?”  I got a few half-hearted chuckles at my admittedly lame joke.  Warren and I hit the shelter containing all the post-race goodies while Laura ran back to bring Wilson in.  A few minutes later, I chuckled when Wilson, who walked most of the race, sprinted through the finish chute:

Wilson kicks, a little too late to catch his younger brother.

With everyone finished running, we gathered around for the raffle (there were no actual race awards).  Leonard had left his raffle ticket in the car so I encouraged him to go get it – there was a Kindle Fire and a Blu-ray player up for grabs!

Peter drew raffle tickets and did his best stand-up comedian impression.  “The course was a little short so consider this your Paul-Ryan-almost-a-5K 5K”.  That kind of thing.  When he finally got to the big prize, the Kindle Fire, he called out a few tickets of people that were no longer there – you had to be present to win.  Then he drew Leonard’s ticket.  That lucky bastard.

He may not have finished first but Leonard was the big winner.

And that was the Jogging for Jersey 5K.  Great friends, a beautiful day, and a good cause – what more could you ask for?  Oh, well, everybody except Leonard could ask for a Kindle Fire, but we can’t all be that lucky.

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