The George Sheehan Classic is a 5 mile foot race in my home town of Red Bank, New Jersey. Its origins, as far as I know, go back to when it was the Asbury Park 10k. Then Asbury became a not-so-desirable place to do anything other than drugs, and the race moved to Red Bank. It remained a 10k until I'd say about 15 years ago, when residents of one of the asshole towns the race passed through pitched a fit and the race was adjusted to its current distance of 5 miles.
Also, the race used to be held in August. When I was in high school, we would volunteer at the race, so I never ran it in the event until 1999, when I used it to show off my 60+ mile training weeks as I headed to college. I managed to run 29:09 I believe, which was my first 5 mile race. For me, it was a great result. I think I may have done worse in 2000, when I had something weird going on with me that summer (a result of giving blood the week prior to the race no doubt). I missed the event in 2001 as I was in Australia. 2002 I got back on track, running 28:49, which is still my course best. In 2003 the race was just a week after I broke my ankle, so I was obviously not able to compete, and I don't think I did it in 2004 either.
Then they moved the race to June. I was never too sure why they did this, but it had a significant impact on the race's attendance. It used to pull 4000 people and if you didn't break 29 you weren't in the top 100. All of a sudden the majority of times were slower, although the winners stayed the same as there was some money and a few foreigners would come and drop 23 lows. I know 2007 I had a bad race and ran 29:06. 2006 was a good year, as I ran 28:56 or something. 2005 I was just getting back to racing that year and went 30:30. This year I was hoping to run a course best.
Over the four years now that they've held the race in June, it's gotten worse and worse. This year there were no foreign athletes and the winning time was 25:34. 3rd-5th were 27:09-27:30. That's terrible. Apparently they took the money away from the race. Then, it used to have a great expo down at Marine Park, and a post-race food assortment that rivaled any race. Now it's no longer the case. Small expo, not in the parking lot but rather on a small plot of grass, not much to offer in terms of food. Only maybe 2000 people in the race. I realize that's still a lot, but a far cry from the old days.
It saddens me, this being my hometown race I just want to see it thrive like it did in the old days. The race is run in honor of Dr. George Sheehan, a runner and author, who is known among the running circles as a great man. He just happens to be from my town.
Anyway, I was able to tell the competition was not here this year just by looking around. It didn't stop a ton of old people from lining up in front of me. Who do these people think they are? I noticed to my left that a man, looked older, was knocked down and trampled at the start. That's what you get. Personally I wasn't expecting much. With my body still reeling from Eagleman, and my first run just the day before - I figure 6 minute pace would be nice but if it was too hard I would just chill out. Also, my right foot started hurting again during the run at Patapsco on Friday, which is now worrying me.
I start running, annoyed that I'm stuck behind slow people, and it's about 200-300m before I find some open real estate. I start picking off a few people, and then catch up to a large group. I felt really comfortable but had no idea how fast or slow I was running. I was surprised to see my watch at 5:38 at the first mile. I continued to stay comfortable, and actually felt like I was moving along pretty well. The second mile is flat, then a little downhill and then back uphill. I was not handling any uphills very well, and came through mile 2 in 5:49. Mile 3 is all flat. I was feeling decent now, the effort wasn't killing me but I also wasn't getting faster. 5:55 mile. So I was at 17:22 or so at 3 miles. I would have been happy ending the race there.
Mile 4 is largely through a neighborhood. Not that the two compare, but this is my version of Hawaii's Natural Energy Lab. The neighborhood just sucks so much energy out of me. Lots of turns and chicanes, and then you come back out on Ridge Rd, going against a sea of slower runners, and you're running towards a hill. Mile 4 was 6:18, my worst neighborhood mile ever. I was dead going into Tower Hill, and felt like I was walking up it. Fortunately, I recovered and tried my legs out about 800m from the finish.
I could tell I wasn't going to have much, at this point I was just trying to hang on. I saw my parents and Vic at the corner as I turned onto Broad Street, and from that point there is less than a quarter mile to the finish. Just a straight shot, drag race style. Normally I would go into a furious sprint, but my legs wouldn't respond today. I "let" a few people go by me, and settled for 18th male/22nd overall in 29:44.95. No course best for me today, which is slightly disappointing. I did manage to hold off Maggie Guiney (30:03) and put it down on Jeremy Pilkington, although I think he's hurt.
The weather was alright, not very windy, humid, close to 80. Weird though, my body hasn't seemed to like the heat much this week, and 80 felt like the same as Eagleman. My right foot was alright, not sure how that works, but my left foot got blistered up from no socks. Time for some new shoes too. Positive side-note, me and Beez Nuts (my sister) took 2nd in the sibling-sibling contest for the 2nd straight year.
So I'm frustrated that 29:45 gets me 22nd at this race, Kootman ran 26:40 once and got 22nd I think. I love this race so much but unless it does something to get better, I don't know where its future is headed. It has to get most of the race paid for through sponsors. so I don't know why they can't put on a good race. I'll see what happens for 2009, as it will be the week after Eagleman again I'm sure.
Another thing I've been thinking about is that I can't believe I moved from NJ 3 years ago. This is my fourth June in Baltimore and that just seems crazy to me. Sometimes I think about how little I've actually accomplished in that time here, but really I've come pretty far considering this time in 2005 I was just getting back to racing. Of course, I did run a 30:30 then, so the fact I only ran :45 faster this year is a blow, even if I did have an excuse.