Under threatening skies, nearly a thousand runners–from elite class to novice—toed the starting line last night for the 47th running of the Captain Bill Gallagher Island Run.
The race, famous for its “rain or shine” policy and history of being held under all types of conditions, could have fallen victim this year to the one weather event organizers state would cancel or postpone it: an electrical storm.
Pop-up storms were present throughout South Jersey most of the day, but the clouds parted—albeit briefly—about 30 minutes before the 5:30 p.m. starting siren.
From that point on the runners endured brutal humidity and a strong head wind for much of the competition.
23-year-old Mark Steinsberger seemed impervious to the conditions and cruised to an easy overall win in 54 minutes, 41 seconds.
Erin Levecci, 34, was the womens’ champion.
Age group awards and team trophies were also awarded.
For Captain Renny Steele and the Sea Isle Beach Patrol, it was another flawless staging of one of the most unique events in distance running. Steele and the Beach Patrol have overseen the event since its early days of a few hundred diehards –it was then a half marathon—to today’s mega race with chip timing, food and drinks at the finish and other amenities.
The event is popular with runners as being different than the standard road race. Eight of the 10 miles takes place on the hard packed beach sand, the other two on the Promenade. At the start, fans at the Springfield Inn’s outdoor bar, dozens more looking on from condo and hotel balconies and thousands along the route cheered on the competitors.
Soft sand at the Promenade ramps and at the finish line, jetties that must be hurdled, uneven running surfaces at points in the race contributed to the challenge, along with the tough weather conditions.
Still, the runners seem to love it.
“The fan support is phenomenal,” said Ron Ferguson of Pittsburgh, PA. “There are times in a race like this where the fans carry you.”
This year’s course was different than in previous years. Because of erosion on the beach at the extreme South end of the island, the turnaround on the North end was moved by a full mile. Thus, the traditional start and halfway point at 44th street this year was the six-mile mark.
“Psychologically, I think the change helped,” said Bill Kehner, 65, of Pitman NJ, who completed his 40th consecutive race. “In previous years when you got to the Beach Patrol headquarters, you knew you were half done. This year, it helped to know you were actually 60 percent done.”
The Beach Patrol manned the water stops along the way, patrolled the course with an ambulance in case of emergencies.
The winners and their stats can be found at: http://www.compuscore.com/event/4194