Despite Brutal Conditions, Dixon Runs Away With LBI 18-Miler
Besides contending with a brutal, 30-mph north wind and rain, Michael Dixon had something else to be concerned about at the start of the Long Beach Island 18 Mile Run.
“I knew this would be tough because I’m recovering from a 50k trail race that I did a week ago,” said the 33-year-old from Fanwood after he crossed the finish line in 1:57:47.40 for the victory. “So, I’ve only a week to recover from that, and I just wanted to have a strong effort today. But this was rough.”
Starting off among 404 runners amid light rain in Holgate, Dixon went out behind the pair of runners who eventually finished well behind him – Brendan Conway of Ridgefield Park and Devon Quaglietta of Monroe. But as they neared a fluid station just before the five-mile mark, Dixon popped around the pair and never looked back.
By the seventh mile marker, Dixon had pushed his lead to almost a minute. At the 12-mile marker, Dixon was some six minutes ahead of Conway and Quaglietta, who still kept pace together going through the time pad at the 12th marker. But they weren’t catching Dixon, or even getting close.
Heading into the 15th mile, Dixon was nearly eight minutes up on Conway, who had begun a move into second place by himself. Ultimately, Dixon finished 9:25 ahead of Conway, who finished second in 2:07:12.59. Queglietta was third in 2:08:23.05.
“I figured those were giving chase the whole time,” Dixon said. “They’re local guys who are a bit speedier with 5k to 10k runs, so I expected them to hang. But who knows? They could have been using this as a training run as well. They obviously let me go, but I don’t turn around at all when I’m out in front.”
Fortunately for Dixon, he had run the course multiple times before and knew what to expect. He last ran it in 2009 and won in 1:40:35, clocking a 5:35 pace, significantly quicker than when he finished third in 2008 in 1:44:13 and seventh in 2007 in 1:51:45.
Still, with that driving north wind and soaking conditions, he wasn’t even attempting to drop a personal record. Instead, he ran a solid 6:32 pace, one he gradually increased between Miles 5 and 15.
“The wind was getting worse and worse as we went north,” he said. “You try not to fight it. You just try to stay as narrow as you can be and pump your arms through it. But it was like a fight. Every now and then you get punched, and the wind was always in your face.
“I felt really good through those 10 miles. Today, I used a lot more strength later on when the wind was taking a lot out of me. I was pretty depleted during those last couple of miles. At that point, you just take it mile by mile, block by block, and then when you see the end of the Island it’s a little easier despite how much you’re hurting.”
Martin Rodrigues of Selbyville, Del., and Connell McCall of Philadelphia finished fourth and fifth, respectively, with times of 2:09:37.74 and 2:10:14.11. And not far behind McCall was the first female finisher of the race, Kristen Karwacki, who clocked in sixth at 2:10:19.05.
“I ran this race once before and it was windy, but not anything like this,” said the 37-year-old from Macungie, Pa. “This is crazy out here today, and I definitely ran a slower pace than I normally would. But I had fun with it. I had a blast.”
For the better part of 10 miles, Karwacki ran with a group of several men, all working together with lead positions for drafting purposes at varying times. But as the miles went on, each individual had gone off on their own.
“I ran the last few miles by myself, which was fine with me because I like running alone,” said Karwacki, who is training for the Harrisburg Marathon on Nov. 13. “The wind definitely slowed me down, but it’s the best I’ve felt after a race in a long time, so I think it helped. Today’s conditions definitely made me tougher.”
The first local runner to cross the finish line was Barnegat’s Rob Goglia, who placed eighth overall in 2:14:17.59, while Juan Carlos Tapia of Long Beach Township placed ninth overall with a time of 2:18:28.62 and Haven Beach’s Jonathan Wert came in 10th with a time of 2:18:28.63.
Ship Bottom lifeguard and Little Egg Harbor resident Tom Smith finished in 14th at 2:21:16.47, while two other locals cracked the top 50 – Brant Beach’s Tim Mernar placed 21st overall in 2:25:25.82 and Manahawkin’s Deidre Martin finished 41st in 2:31:45.28.
Unfortunately, the weather wreaked havoc on the number of runners who started and finished the race. About 565 had registered, and after 404 started the race only 340 ended up at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park.
Among them was 25-year-old Caroline Mann of Princeton, who managed a 123rd-place finish in a sub-10-minute-pace 2:59:22.05, good enough to grab fourth among females runners in the 25-29 age group in her first attempt at the 18 Mile Run.
“At the start, we all kind of looked at each other and said, ‘We’re actually going to run this?’ and then we ran it,” said Mann, who was using the race to train for the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov. 20.
“I’ve never run in conditions like this in my life. It’s definitely the windiest race I’ve run. When you’re running into that kind of wind, it’s not easy. But given the conditions, I wanted to be around three hours and I was fine with my time. Hopefully, I’ll come back next year and I’ll actually be able to run it in a much faster time.”
This year’s last finisher, by the way ... 74-year-old K. Tucker Andersen of Warren, Conn., who crossed the line in 4:32:04.99.