‘Shamrocks for the Shore’ Brings Out Best in Local Runners
Whether it’s the 18 Mile Run or the Dog Day Road Race, Tom Smith usually is in the pack somewhere and often somewhat close to the front. On Sunday, March 12, the Little Egg Harbor resident and Ship Bottom lifeguard was the front man in the Shamrocks for the Shore 10K race.
“Usually I need a push, and in this race I was running by myself for a long time, so it was hard to keep a faster pace,” said Smith, who clocked in at 41:04.8, more than 10 minutes ahead of second-place finisher Shaun Cronen. “But I figured, ‘Well, I’m in front. I’m just going to enjoy it.’ I was trying to break 40 minutes again this year, but it didn’t matter. I enjoyed being in first.”
Through the first 5 kilometers, the 42-year-old was right around the 20-minute mark. But with nobody around to give him any incentive to run faster, he simply cruised along.
“I wanted to run a 6:25 pace, but I wasn’t too far off that,” said Smith, who’s run in five marathons during the past five years and prefers longer distances. “But the weather wasn’t bad. It’s 25 degrees, but there’s no wind, so it was good. I’d rather run in this than the temperatures during the Dog Day race,” held every August in Harvey Cedars.
But despite the cold and the fact every runner lost an hour due to the Daylight Saving Time change early Sunday morning, the fields for both the 5K and 10K races were fairly deep. The 5K had nearly 100 competitors, while Smith led a field of 38 for the 10K. Cronen finished in 51:50, while Manahawkin’s Dominic Boeta took third in 51:53.9.
Also among the 10K field was Long Beach Township resident Lisa Leonard, one of many representatives of the Southern Ocean Ladies Running Club, which hosted the race that started and ended at the Stafford Township municipal complex. Leonard had a really good day, crossing the 10K finish line in fourth overall and first among female competitors.
“It’s cold, but I feel awesome,” said Leonard, who registered a time of 52:23.6 in preparation for her second marathon – this Sunday’s Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, Va. “The two guys who were right behind for most of the race and passed me near the end kept me motivated. The plan was to be close to the front, and I fulfilled that goal. I felt great.”
The Shamrocks for the Shore 5K/10K started five years ago as the Shamrocks for Sandy race following Superstorm Sandy. This year it was raising money to benefit the interpretive trail at Grassle Marsh, which is part of the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve.
The funds raised from Sunday’s race will go toward building a raised boardwalk and overlook for the interpretive trail, said Rose Petrecca, who works for the reserve and is part of the SOL Running Club.
“Right now the trail is open, and right now we’re in the process of putting up signage and putting in benches along the trail,” she said. “The interpretive trail links to our exhibit, Life on the Edge, at Tuckerton Seaport. Right now we’re in the permitting process to get the boardwalk built. We’re hoping to have it complete in October.”
Additionally, Shamrocks for the Shore benefits several environmental projects by the Jetty Foundation, and a garden project at All Saints Regional Catholic School, said SOL President Cynthia Spallina.
“It’s a ‘green’ race, so our goal is to raise money that will help with anything that benefits our environment, or helps others enjoy it,” Spallina said. “It was a little warmer last year, and we raised a little over $8,000. But we have a lot of great sponsors, and it’s starting to become a tradition for many runners. For a lot of runners, there are no 10K races at this time of year, and it’s great that we get to provide one for the runners preparing for spring half-marathons.”
Of course, many runners enjoy the 5K as well, including the guy who won this year’s race – Chad Scanlon of Lacey, who was running as part of the team representing The Causeway Family of Dealerships. Scanlon cruised to the finish line in 17:43, nearly three minutes ahead of second-place finisher Alex Howley.
“I was feeling good at the start, and I wanted to get some distance between me and most of the other runners, so I went out pretty fast,” said Scanlon, one of Causeway’s sales representatives, who is training for a 50-mile race coming up soon. “Usually, at the start of a 5K, it’s a little crowded, so I wanted to create some space and settle into my own pace. I was happy with my pace. My legs aren’t totally ready for the big race coming up in a few weeks, so I was pleasantly surprised I did so well.”
One young racer – Jessica Abbott of Toms River – wasn’t too surprised by how well she did. The almost-9-year-old was third overall and the first female across the 5K finish line for a second straight year, clocking in at 20:55.9.
“I wanted to be at a 6:40 pace and I got a little behind it, so I just did my best,” said Abbott, who passed by Manahawkin’s Karen Ritchie rounding the turn from East Bay Avenue into the parking lot of the municipal complex and won by just over five seconds.
It’s worth noting that Abbott’s pace was 6:45 – not bad considering the cold and the fact she skipped a national indoor meet in Staten Island, N.Y., where she would have competed in the 800-meter run.
“The 5K is my favorite race right now, but I want to do a 10K someday,” she said. “I like longer distance races. I might do a marathon someday, too.”
To start the day, a group of about 10 youngsters lined up to run after a particular female dressed in some green getup during the 1-Mile Leprechaun Chase. And actually, most of them passed her within the first 100 yards. So much for chasing the leprechaun.
“I just wanted to keep a steady pace for the race so I didn’t get too tired,” said Jonah Short, who passed the leprechaun 20 yards into the race and just kept going until he finished first. “It’s cold, so I didn’t want to slow down after I passed the leprechaun.”
And the leprechaun, SOL’s Andrea Stevens, didn’t seem to mind.
“We needed a volunteer to be the leprechaun, so I decided to help in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day,” said Stevens, who trailed the field a quarter of the way through the race but managed to get closer to the front later on. “I didn’t expect all the kids to school me. I figured they’d be a little bit behind me. But it was fun.”
— David Biggy