What a beautiful day it would have been for laying in the grass under a tree. Instead, we were running in circles for 12 hours. Saturday, June 19 was the date for the 25th Joe Kleinerman 12-Hour race. The race was named after Joe Kleinerman, a towering figure in New York running history. This race was held for 23 consecutive years up to 2004, then again in 2008 and this year. It's an event rich with history, and very repsectful of history, and has been an important race for me personally. The 2003 edition was just ny 3rd ultra, in the 2004 race Byron Lane and I battled hard late in the race until Byron finally won by half a mile, and I also finished 2nd in 2008. So I was hoping I might be able to pull out a win this year and take home the Joe Kleinerman Cup.
The weather was nearly perfect for a pre-summer day, temperatures in the 80's, sunny, light breeze. It would have been perfect for just about any outdoor activity, but was a little warm for a 12-hour race, and for a few hours at least it was feeling quite warm. Fortunately most of the course was shaded and the race volunteers took good care of us with plenty of fluids, foods and the blessed ice cold sponges. Richie had told us before the race that there was a shortage of volunteers for this event, as many of the regulars had schedule conflicts. But from my perspective there was no sign of it and everything went off without a hitch, the aid station was always well-stocked.
I was very much looking forward to this race also because it would be a chance to see many friends, some of whom I haven't seen for a while. A lot of the regulars were there, who are always a pleasure to see, but I'll give special mention to: Admas Belilgne, fresh off a Comrades finish, and her first New York ultra in a while after an injury; the recently-engaged Shishaldin in her first ultra in a while; Ray Krolewicz, who drove up from South Carolina as he often does; Dave Luljak and Barbara Christen from Maryland, functioning as runners, t-shirt designers, raffle prize scroungers, parents of two young runners, not to mention Dave being the course record-holder at 87+ miles; Mike Costello, my Badwater pacer/crew member from last year in his first BUS event; and last but not by any means least, Greg Accetta, a wrestler who has recently taken up running, who saw my name on the Badwater entry list and emailed me asking for ultra advice, and who ran his very first race of any length, finishing with over 40 miles!
As I've said, I finished second in this race twice before, finishing second to Byron Lane both times, once in a very hard-fought battle to the finish. So I was looking forward to another battle with Byron. But we had the presence of another heavy hitter to contend with, Mike Arnstein, a fellow New York City resident. Mike finished second at JFK last year and won Sybil this year, so he could really have a phenonemal performance. It was tough to say, though, since Mike is entered in Western States 100 next weekend and might not want to go full out. For myself, I have Badwater in three weeks, so I wanted to be careful how hard I push as well. I was pretty confident, having put up some good 12-hour splits in the last two 24-hour races I ran, but it was tough to say how things would play out.
At the 7:30 am start, Mike started out fast and pulled away from me by the first lap, each lap being just short of a mile. But I was going as fast as I thought wise, even a bit too fast maybe, so I didn't give chase. After the first couple of hours, Byron wasn't looking like he was at full strength, and afterwards admitted to some stomach problems. Mike had lapped me twice in about four hours, but I was still going as fast as I dared in the warm weather. As the weather warmed up, I passed Mike back once as he was stretching out a bit. By about the 6:30 mark (2:00 pm) I had made up the difference on Mike, who was sepnding sme time walking. Eventually I worked my way up so that I had a number of laps on bot Mike and Byron, while also keeping an eye on Brennen Wysong, who was running extremely well. I never discount a late surge from Byron, but throughout the last four hours of the race, I became confident that if I could sustain my pace I could finish with a win and a good mileage. But also in the last few hours the temperature cooled off a bit, the shadows were longer, and on the stretch along the north end of the park especially a very refreshing breeze came along to make me feel so good! I did come away with the win in about 79.4 miles. Mike got second with I believe 74, and Byron third with over 70, and Brennen also finished over 70. I think that's the first time since I've run the event that four runners finished over 70!
Alicja Barahona won the women's race with 68 miles, Gail Marino, a former outright winner of this race, was second, and Susan Warren third.
Other items of note: one of the hardest things in this race is to keep running when the ice cream truck parks in the parking lot in the hot afternoon, but Richie countered that by providing root beer floats to the runners! In 2008 Dave Luljak jogged and walked (and rested) with his son Peter for a total of over 30 miles! This year Peter was back and with Dave got 40 miles! Plus his 13-year old sister took part as well, running and walking (and resting) most of the time with Al Prawda's 9-year old daughter Zoey, each completing 30 miles. Not to worry, all three youngsters were mixing the jogging, walking and resting, and not pushing too hard. That, I think, is the beauty of a race like this, where a runner, particularly if new to this kind of running, can run a while, walk a while, rest a while, with food and drink readily available, and enjoy themselves while not being pressured to push themselves more than they are ready for. So it was great to see some first-time ultrarunners, as I mentioned Greg Accetta, and also Mike's wife Vicki, who had a good total in her furst ultra.
On top of it all, there were a number of items that were raffled off, and I was the lucky recipient of an excellent lightweight windbreaker, and quite a few people were lucky winners as well.
So congratulations to all the athletes, thanks to John Garlepp and the Millrose AA for donating the Joe Kleinerman cups, to Dave Luljak and Barbara Christen for all their worke mentioned above, and a big thanks to Richie as always, and the volunteers for putting on a stellar event!
Pics: 1. Taking my shoes off after the race (courtesy of Frank Colella); 2. Frank C., me, Lucimar and Emmy with our awards (courtesy of Frank Colella, although I don't remember who actually took the picture); 3. The staging area before the race; 4. Shishaldin, me, Yuri Esperov and Bob Oberkehr after the race