“I run… to stop weight loss. Weird.” L.L.
Mike Keohane is one of the stalwarts of the New York running scene, both as a coach and competitor. With a 2:16.24 PR in the marathon, Mike’s speed props are legendary, and, beginning as an assistant at Columbia University, he has established a portfolio befitting his status as one of NYC’s pre-eminant coaches. While working as the General Manager of RUN at Foot Locker, and maintaining his own private coaching practice, Mike has most recently signed on as the head coach of the Front Runners. A great runner, a great coach, and a great guy, the FR’s are lucky to have him. Below, please enjoy Mike’s account of the recent “Reach The Beach,” an overnight relay excursion run on some of New Hampshire’s most beautiful and rugged terrain…
What an experience! What a fantastic opportunity to learn about yourself and other people about being a “runner”! Talk about challenging yourself, your boundaries!
It sounds like I’m talking about running a marathon, but what I’m really writing about is running the “Reach the Beach” relay in New Hampshire: a 200+ mile relay of between 6 and 12 people (we ran with 10; more on that later) from the Cannon Mountain Ski Area in the Northeast to Hampton Beach State Park in the Southeast of New Hampshire.
Here are the basics: you enter the team and team name (one team was actually named ‘50 Shades of Pain’), and each runner then registers and provides an actual pace for 10K. You receive a starting time on Friday, race day, and start at 7:00 AM, with waves sent off in 15-minute intervals. As there were 482 teams, with all those runners on the course and the transitions at one time, a lot of space was taken up on those mountain roads. Our start time was 1:40 PM on Friday, with our expected running pace of 8:30 bringing us to the beach sometime after 6:00 PM on Saturday. In case you haven’t figured this out yet, the relay goes continuously through the night, non-stop, with very little rest (even when you’re not running) and not much in the way of gourmet cooking!
My team was ‘NYC Soles,’ a group of 10 runners from my own running class. We ran with only 10 members, as traveling for several hours in 2 SUV’s, with a lot of running gear and food, was more comfortable for everyone concerned. Since 5 people will be doing marathons in October, running with less people meant the entire team all got to run more than 20 miles, a good last long run. There are 36 legs in the relay with distances from 2.98 miles to 9.5 miles starting from the very hilly ski resort areas in the North, to the flat and faster South.
Weather is always an issue, and I was hoping and praying the rain would stop as we drove up to the starting area, particularly as I was running the first leg. Fortunately the rain stopped in time for my wave to get going but, 3 miles into my 8.5 mile leg the clouds opened up and rain returned. Normally I wouldn’t plan on bringing 2 pairs of running shoes (because I’m just not a good planner) but I did and was so glad! The shoes and everything I was wearing was soaked and since we didn’t have enough room for a clothes dryer (or hair dryer) in the SUVs that stuff was done for the duration of the race! Fortunately, the rain only continued through part of the next leg so only Stephanie on our team was soaked as well. Soon the rain stopped, and much to our relief by sunset the clear sky began to break through and Saturday was a sunny beautiful day for our finish!
One of the major challenges of this race are the overnight legs. The combination of tired, hungry runners, zero visibility on unlit mountain roads, and continuous driving for the group of active runners, takes a huge toll! Since most teams have 2 SUVs or vans there is no need for everyone to follow one runner, so there is an active vehicle that follows the current runner with the ones yet to run, along with an inactive vehicle with “resting” runners. From experience our team has learned the hard way that as the nighttime hours continue, strange things can happen to directions, timing, and decision-making. Frequently, all sense of civility is lost, thrown out of the window, and abandoned on the side of the road. Unfortunately, people just “lose it,” and while it should be expected to happen, the race moves on, a good thing since then no one can focus too much on the drama and get back into racing mode.
After all of this (and much more), our group, like many others, seeing that they’ve made it through to the end, conquering another challenge with several bumps in the road, started planning on next year’s race and what we can do as a team to get better and finish faster! That always seemed to be at the back of everyone’s mind and for good reason. I think it’s why we are drawn to running and running races: to push ourselves out of our comfort zones so that whatever happens, happens for good or bad. Fortunately more often than not it’s all for good!
This post is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Dashing Whippets Running Team, its board, or its captains.