Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ashenfelter 8K Classic

Ashenfelter 8K Classic
     On November 28th, 2013 I laced up for only the second time to run a race in New Jersey.  Yes it may sound strange.  I was born and raised in Jersey City.  I left when I was 22 and was nowhere near a runner at that time.  The other thing keeping me from racing was the lack of popularity of the local race at the time. 
     This race is named for:
Horace Ashenfelter, the Olympic Gold Medalist that the race is named after, was one of America's premier distance runners during the 1950s, winning 17 national championships at a variety of distances. But his most remarkable achievement was winning the gold medal in the 1952 Olympic 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Ashenfelter was the first American since James Lightbody in 1904 to win the Olympic steeplechase beating the favorite, Vladimir Kazantsev of the Soviet Union. Horace Ashenfelter also won the 1952 Sullivan Award as the nation's outstanding amateur athlete.

Ashenfelter served in World War II and then attended Penn State. He won the NCAA 2-mile run in 1949, the IC4A outdoor 2-mile in 1948 and 1949, and the IC4A indoor 2-mile in 1948. He was also AAU national champion in cross-country, 1951, 1955 and 1956; the steeplechase, 1951, 1953, and 1956; the 3-mile run, 1954 and 1955; the 6-mile, 1950; and the indoor 3-mile, 1952 through 1956.

This year was the 14th edition of the race.  I signed up thinking it would be a small local race.  Wow was I surprised when I went to packet pick up on the 27th in flurries.  The crowds were pretty big.  I went back to the house and looked up the race and noticed how fast people have run it.  Further reading led me to understand why.  This race is the USATF-NJ 8K Championship. 
     On race morning this became evident as groups of race clubs were gathering in the High School Gym, they were pumping each other up getting ready.  I had already went through my race day ritual of getting up early cleaning myself up and heading to race land.  I drank some water ate a banana and was ready to go. 
     It was of course cold and knowing I was not going to win this I decided to run comfortably in sweats and two shirts.  The clubs however were in shorts and singlets.  This was another telltale sign that this was going to be a very competitive race. 
     At the start runners were spread across the entire road.  The start was a crawl to the line, but it was not chaos.  Runners were organized in PPM groups so if you knew you were fast you stayed with those runners and most others fell back. In the first 300 yards a young girl tripped over a sewer plate and nearly caused a tour de France style pile up, but runners reacted much better and got around and helped her back up and running. 
     I was just in a mode I guess running without music since my iPod was on the fritz. (Will not shut off)  After mile one I think I was just cruising.  I did not notice mile two at all thought it was the longest mile ever.  At the turn to complete mike three I woke up and just started chugging along.   
     As we headed towards the final turns the home stretch was on the right.  Runners were cheering each other on like the running community usually does.  I made the last turn and found a runner down.  Surprisingly everyone else was cruising by him.  I stopped made sure he was not in danger got him going and then went on to finish. 

     There were 2702 runners in the 8K 1400 Men and 1302 Women, The winner came across in 24:27 at a 4:55 pace pretty good. 
If in the Glen Ridge, NJ area next year I would recommend this race to you.