Even after 45 years, the Long Beach Island Commemorative 18 Mile Run continues to be a big event on the Island every October. Hundreds of runners, many of whom are preparing for the Philadelphia or New York marathons, mark the Columbus Day weekend race on their calendars every year.
While many of those planning to run in this year’s 46th edition of the run from Holgate to Barnegat Light will have an agenda of their own on Sunday, Oct. 7, at times it’s easy to miss the overall significance of the event. This isn’t just any race. Since 1973, it has been run in honor of the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches murdered during the Munich Games of 1972 and, in recent years, of those lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The idea of an Island-long race, just for fun, was developed in 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 18 Mile Run 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.
Starting in Holgate and heading northward on Long Beach Boulevard, 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 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. Plenty of first-timers take part, including last year’s first female, Brianna Feerst, who finished ninth overall behind Kyle Price, last year’s winner in 1:43:23.63
But regardless of whether you get to the finish line relatively quickly – in, say, two hours – or it takes a lot longer, you will be treated like royalty by all the volunteers. Refreshments, including a variety of fluids, are available at the end of the race, and all runners as well as the public are invited to a recognition luncheon at St. Francis Community Center 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.