The Beachcomber Fall Festival Guide

Many Runners Have a Great Story to Tell After 18 Mile Run

By David Biggy | Sep 27, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Chris Bigos swiped the top spot in last year’s Long Beach Island 18 Mile Commemorative Run.

Long Beach Island — Among the many hundreds who typically start the Long Beach Island 18 Mile Commemorative Run in Holgate, there’s always a really good storyline with at least a few of the runners. In last year’s race, a local lifeguard won it in honor of his recently deceased uncle.

“I had a real blast, coming back to lifeguarding for the summer and now winning this race,” said Chris Bigos, who swiped the first spot in 1 hour, 53 minutes, 17.43 seconds last October. “My Uncle Gerry passed away in August and my dad was here today, so I wanted to win it for him.”

Some 20 places behind the winner, one of its first-timers crossed the finish line with her ailing mother via FaceTime.

“My mom is terminally ill and on hospice, so she had to cross the finish line with me from home,” said Kelly Tingle, a 30-year-old from Delmar, Md., who switched her cell phone to FaceTime around the fork that separates Broadway from Long Beach Boulevard in Barnegat Light. “She has stage IV cancer pretty much everywhere in her body, but she’s still with me, and so she crossed the finish line today, too. I had the camera on me, and as I approached the chute I switched it so she could see us cross the finish line. We did it.”

Perhaps the best story to come out of last year’s race was that of the second-place finisher, Margaret Vido, who finished about 17 seconds behind Bigos to become the highest-placing female during the past 20 years and perhaps in the race’s 46-year history.

“My parents have a house on the Island, and I’ve done the Dog Day Race in the past,” she said. “But I’m usually not around for this race. I was able to be here this year, and I’m really happy with how it turned out.”

This year, on Sunday, Oct. 13, starting at 10:30 a.m., many race veterans and newbies will make the trek from Holgate to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park in Barnegat Light, and, no doubt, several will have a great story attached to their running shoes.

“It’s a great race to run,” Bigos said. “For me, the decision to run usually depends on the weather. As long as the conditions are relatively good, I usually run.”

Since 1973, the 18 Mile Run has been contested in honor of the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches murdered during the Munich Olympic Games of 1972 and, in recent years, of those lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks – the mile markers bear the names of those Israeli athletes and coaches, as well as the names of the three Island residents who died on 9/11.

The idea of an Island-long race, just for fun, was developed into 1972 by Island resident and Rutgers University track athlete Bill Fitzpatrick. Later that year, the Munich Games massacre occurred, and immediately organizers decided to make the 18 Mile Run a commemorative race.

Sponsored by St. Francis Community Center in cooperation with the Jewish Community Center of Long Beach Island, the race is mostly a straight run up Long Beach Boulevard from south to north, with the exception of the last quarter-mile, when runners turn up Fourth Street in Barnegat Light and soon after end up in the parking lot near Barnegat Lighthouse.

The course is flat and relatively fast, depending on the wind, which most years comes out of the north in some variation. Each year, the winner is honored by having his or her name inscribed on the trophy that is donated by the Long Beach Island Jewish Community Center.

The winner of the first race – exactly 46 years ago on Oct. 7 – with a time of 1 hour, 37 minutes was famed African American marathoner Moses Mayfield, who had won the Philadelphia Marathon in 1970 and 1971. Former Rutgers track star Bill Seiben holds the course record of 1:32:32, set in 1979.

Of course, the 18 Mile Run isn’t only for marathoners or experienced runners of any distance. However, first-timers often struggle through miles 15 through 18, even though the lighthouse is mostly in view on the horizon, mainly because the typical north wind beats down runners as they head toward it.

But regardless of whether you get to the finish line relatively quickly – in, say, two hours – or it takes a lot longer, you will treated like royalty by all the volunteers. Refreshments, including a variety of fluids, are available at the end of the race, and all runners are invited to a recognition luncheon at St. Francis Community Center in Brant Beach following the race. The finish line closes at 2:15 p.m.

Applications and more race information are available online at stfranciscenterlbi.org, or by calling 609-494-8861. Runners also can register online at raceforum.com/lbi.

— David Biggy

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