This year marked the 40th Anniversary of the Long Beach Island 18 Mile Race.
The now permanent milestone in the history of LBI was the brainchild of 16 year old Bill Fitzpatrick. A young man from North Jersey, who was a runner himself that vacationed on the island with his family during the summer months.
|The race began at Holgate.|
You always need an idea guy, a sponsor and location, location. Bill, who had run a few long distance races in high school and was preparing to go to college, thought that Long Beach Island and its straight 18 mile stretch down the Boulevard was an ideal location.
|Here come the runners.|
He had played basketball at the St. Francis Community Center and envisioned the hall as an excellent location for the pasta dinner the evening before the race. This has proved to be an lucrative fundraiser for the church and a very popular contest that has 6 lucky people going home with or receiving a phone call that they had just won a brand new car. Tickets may seem a little steep at $100 dollars each but that gives you a chance to win one of 6 cars and they are all nice. Only 3,000 tickets are sold and often the tickets are sold out, as they were this year. The prizes included two Mustang's, two Honda's, a Ford Escape ( I wanted that one) and a Ford 150 Truck, a lot of people had their hearts set on that one.
|Making the call to the winners of the cars. The truck winner was from Florida.|
The packed community center was full of anticipated winners, local community members mingling with neighbors and I suppose the celebrity runners were also in attendance. There had to be quite a few winners in the crowd. Mike Thompson has taken over the reins as organizer the last several years.
|Bill Fitzpatrick and Mike Thompson discuss strategy and specifics.|
The first race in 1973 had 85 entrants and 78 finishers. It consisted of all male registrants. This was the early 70's after all and not many women were running let alone participating in major sporting events. Coincidentally, 1972 was the year Title IX was passed and the following year 1974, the race had one female participant.
|One of the top five runners to pass us around the half way point.|
This year, forty years later the ratio is about 65-35 and the women are gaining. The largest number of runners occurred in the 80's and the race can accommodate 1,200 runners. This year a guestimated 1009 people registered and there were 806 runners that were timed and recorded to have crossed the finish line at Barnegat Light State Park.
|Some runners were on their own, while others passed in packs.|
There were 16 water stations sponsored by local business set up along the route and cheering spectators and volunteers throughout the course.
Bill Fitzpatrick did not run the race this year. He walked the entire 18 miles along with 1956 Olympic race walker Elliott Denman and Alan Sherman. Also in attendance at the start of the race was the original race official photographer, Dave Fiebert. Elliott has attended every Olympic game since 1956 as a sports journalist. You can read his London recap at runblogrun.com
|Dave Fiebert, Alan Sherman, Elliott Denman and Bill Fitzpatrick|
T-shirts were available for purchase at the pasta dinner and a display of all previous years t-shits were on display at the community center the day of the race. It was an amazing sight to see the results of a 16 year old kid's idea just for fun. I have known Bill a little over 25 years and he is a very quiet humble guy but you could easily see the pride in his eyes.
|40 Years of T-shirts|
This race was dedicated to the 11 Israeli athletes slain by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and the thousands who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, senseless acts of terrorism. There were also three-mile markers in place honoring the three LBI residents that were killed on September 11th and the race will continue to serve as a memorial to these two devastating events. The winner will be honored by having his name inscribed on the trophy donated by the Long Beach Island Jewish Community Center.
Full list of results of the race.
Follow the comments and see photos of the event on Facebook.
Find out how to get a chance book on the cars next year.
This year at the 2012 Olympics in London a moment of silence was offered at the Olympic Village for the athletes who were killed in 1972. Many believe a special acknowledgement should have been made during the Opening Ceremonies.