LBI 18-Mile Run a Great, Challenging Race
Harry Uberti has trekked his way from Holgate to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park an estimated 10 times during the Long Beach Island Commemorative 18 Mile Run, and he’ll be making that run again on Sunday, Oct. 9.
“Obviously, it’s a great local race, and it’s always for a great cause,” said the 57-year-old from Manahawkin who, along with hundreds of others, will line up at 10:30 a.m. to compete in the 44th version of the event. Since 1973, it has been run in honor of the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes murdered during the Munich Games of 1972 and, in recent years, of those lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“The volunteers are phenomenal. A lot of different community organizations and groups from Southern Regional High School are there to help out, and their attitudes at the aid stations are just awesome. They help keep the runners motivated the entire way, and it’s a great atmosphere.”
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 toward the finish and 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. Last year, Uberti finished 179th in 2:42:29 and has completed the 18 miles in as little as 2½ hours.
“The wind can be brutal,” said Uberti, who first ran the 18 Mile Run in his early 30s but started running seriously at 45 and nowadays does ultra-runs of 50 miles or more. “And if the weather is going to be a challenge, all the goals and things you wanted to do in the race go out the window. But it is a great race, and my advice for first-timers is to not go there and try to kill it. Enjoy the sights, the crowd, talk to other runners as you go, and thank the volunteers as you pass them.
“The last thing you want to say when you get to the end is ‘That sucked.’”
Jeff Roma, another Manahawkin resident who also has run the course an estimated 10 times, got his start with the 18 Mile Run as a youngster, when he used to help out at water stations when his aunt Carol would run. She has since passed on, but Roma’s father, Ken, and sister, Ginny, continue the family tradition along with Jeff.
“The first time I ran it, I was 23 or 24,” Jeff said. “The race has a lot of history for my family. And it’s just a cool, unique race with a unique distance.”
Roma, a commercial fisherman who primarily competes in triathlons – he’ll be at Ironman Maryland a week before the 18 Mile Run – said the biggest challenge of the LBI race is the mental challenge it takes to run it.
“For those who don’t know the Island, they get to a certain point and don’t really grasp how much longer you have to go,” he said. “When you’re in Beach Haven and passing Murphy’s, you realize you have a long way to go. And then you get into Harvey Cedars, around Mile 13 or so, and you still realize you have a long way to go. When you see the lighthouse, it looks like the light’s at the end of the tunnel, but you still have 5 miles left.”
Indeed, many runners over the years have claimed to hit the “wall” at around Mile 13 or 14, since those who typically run half-marathons don’t go beyond 13.1 miles and those who routinely run marathons often experience many more turning points.
“That straight stretch is grueling,” Uberti said. “I’ve done a lot of races, and this race definitely is the most challenging because once you get out of Harvey Cedars and into the 14th and 15th miles, there’s very little crowd support there, there’s no shade, and it’s sometimes just tough from a mental standpoint.”
But at the end, it’s all worth it.
“It’s a great feeling when you get to the end of the 18 miles,” said Roma, a 1998 Southern Regional graduate who last year finished 55th in 2:23:19. “I’ve been in races that have been very well-organized and others that are train wrecks, and this one’s right up there with the best of them. As a runner, you can appreciate all they do to make this race special.”
Race applications can be downloaded at stfranciscenterlbi.org. The fee to participate is $35 per runner for USATF-NJ members, $45 per runner until Sept. 30, and $55 per runner starting Oct. 1 through 9:30 a.m. on the day of the race. All runners are invited to a recognition luncheon at St. Francis Center immediately following the race. The finish line closes at 2:15 p.m.
— David Biggy