You’re excited. You’ve been selected to run the classic race on June 19. Please use this as advice from a veteran of more than 20 Island races. As a middle-of-the-pack guy, my experience connects with the broadest audience.
Before you tie up your laces, remember that in this race it’s not the distance that matters most. Beware of the heat, humidity and hills since all play an important potential role, and you must plan your race in consideration of each. The best strategy is preparation (especially to hydrate before the race) and listen to your body during the race. This year it’s critical because it’s been said that there will no water stations on the course.
As for the hills — let me assure you, this is not a flat course. “Familiarity breeds contempt,” for people and places, but it builds confidence for race courses. And confidence eliminates the extra stress of not knowing what’s around the next bend or how close you are to the next mile marker. The purpose of this column is to educate you to challenges of this classic 10K course. Please, I’m not worried that you’ll get lost on the course. However, ignorance is never bliss. Use this input to make this your best race ever.
Mile One: The first quarter mile is deceptive because it combines a downhill slope with the fast-paced enthusiasm of the start. This is no place to blow your energy. Play it cool and you’ll be prepared to start the real race via a sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill. Follow a straight shot covering a trio of small hills. As you past St. Mary’s Church on the right, you’ll hear its bell ringing in support of the runners. Entering a traffic circle, bear to the right, and you’ll pass the first mile mark on your left.
Mile Two: Proceeding straight, you’ll face a series of small, connected hills that bring you to the top of Tuts Hill and you can’t miss the amazing view at the top. This is no promise, but you may confront a kind gentleman (a former town supervisor) at the top who will (if you wish) spray you with some cooling water.
Take advantage of this long downhill by quickening your pace and leaning a bit forward to be perpendicular to the road surface. You make a couple of slight left turns and start up Cobbetts Hill. This is one that you just work through since it has five distinct sections (all uphill, sorry) and is one of the most difficult parts of the course. You’ll pass the 2-mile point about two-thirds or three-quarters of the way up the hill.
Mile Three: From the top of Cobbetts Hill you have a little respite cruising down two hills. At the crossroad, a right turn puts you on what I believe is the “longest mile” of the course. Why? It is so beautiful with woods all the away and seemingly goes on forever. Unlike the poppy fields in the “Wizard of Oz,” do not fear. You finally break out of the forest to pass the 3-mile point at the base of the Gardiner’s Bay Country Club’s golf course.
Mile Four: Through Dering Harbor, starting with Land’s End via a short rectangular route and returning with a short uphill and then a right to go down to a private road along the waterfront. It’s a beautiful section but beware of the sun exposure; it’s one of the few sections with no tree cover. The residents are especially supportive. You’re making progress; you’ll find the 5-mile marker on your right.
Mile Five: This section begins with another long, uphill slog, over a bridge and then up and up. You are then deposited on Route 114, a commercial neighborhood without a lot of visual appeal. Just bear down and be happy that it’s flat.
Mile Six: As you leave Route 114, you make a right and an immediate left onto Midway Road. You’ll be joined by the merging 5K runners so there will be more excitement. At the end of this section, what were minor hills morph into major ones. A merciful, but small, downhill leads to a left turn and the 6-mile marker.
The End: Never forget that this is a 6.2-mile race! You still have the most difficult, nearly quarter-mile you’ll ever run. The trip around Fiske Field’s fence seems endless. You don’t see the finish line until you’re almost there. This is not a mirage and once you finish, cool down. I know you’ll be back.