A Hometown Race Still Going Strong- The Middletown Crystal Run Healthcare 10K Classic

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image1.JPGJeff Benjamin, Bob Beamon, Frank Giannino, courtesy of Jeff Benjamin

image2.JPGBob Beamon, Frank Shorter, photo by Jeff Benjamin

I remember running the Middletown 10k in 1986. It is not an easy course, and the field was very competitive. Jeff Benjamin wrote this piece on the Middletown Crystal Run Healthcare 10K Classic, giving our readers a view of a classic summer road race.

A Hometown Race Still Going Strong-
The Middletown Crystal Run Healthcare 10K Classic

By Jeff Benjamin

As a point of fact, the roar of the Olympic Stadium was never given nor heard for American Running Legend Frank Shorter. In his Gold Medal performance of 1972, Shorter, leading by more than a minute, neared the Munich stadium preceded by a young prankster, who jumped in at the tunnel entrance, finishing in front of Shorter on the track and stealing away the crowd's cheers for his performance. In 1976, running perhaps a better race in Montreal, Shorter would enter the stadium in 2nd again, this time seemingly beaten by East German Waldemar Cierpinkski. By the mid 1990's though, it was officially discovered that Cierpinski took performance-enhancing drugs as part of that country's decades-long doping program. Once again denied the cheers of the Olympic crowd, his 1976 Olympic Teammate Don Kardong (who really was robbed as he finished 4th in Montreal) told his friend that Shorter was the first followed into the Olympic Stadium by an imposter and then 4 years later by a cheat!

Shorter has always said that he wasn't running for the cheers of the crowd, but rather for the goal. At this past weekend's Crystal Run Healthcare 10K Classic in his childhood hometown of Middletown, NY, the 69 year old Olympic Legend heard the cheers as he entered this particular stadium and crossed the finish line on the track. As he crossed one couldn't help but wonder if these cheers meant more to him than in any stadium he has ever entered in his illustrious career.

The combination of Shorter (who returns to the race every year) combined with the vibrant and supportive community seems to be what brought close to 1,000 runners to Middletown. Race creator and local running guru Frank Giannino called his race "a gem", and, after soaking in this event over race weekend (replete with a top-notch field competing also in the USATFNY Championship, a 5K race along with kids' races and with appearances not only by Shorter but fellow Olympic Legend Bob Beamon!) one can say that in the ever-evolving world of road racing the 10K, a distance which is harder to find out there in the running world, is not only alive, but also thriving in another dynamic- that of remaining a true, hometown-owned and controlled race.

That Hometown competitive flavor was present at the roots of the race. For Giannino (who once held the incredible endurance record of running across America) its developed into his true labor of love. Created in 1981, the race has seen great competitors from the "Boom" years, including Bill Rodgers, Rod Dixon and Joan Benoit. But the race in its early years were dominated by the hometown hero. "I always trained to run this race as my peak race," Shorter told a group at the pre-race evening dinner. In the two separate races against Rodgers and Dixon, Shorter defeated America's hottest racers in 1981 & 1982, prompting the defeated Dixon to quip, "Hey Frank, next time you come to my hometown in New Zealand for a rematch!"

Despite the end of the high quality boom years and the rise of corporate-style races, Middletown still also gets strong fields, as evidenced by victories this year of Eliud Ngetich in a photo-finish over Bernard Lagat (no, not that one!) as both were timed in 29:09. Askale Merachi led the women in 33:15.

Ngetich seems to like these hometown races. This upcoming Sunday he will be defending his title at the Annual Litchfield Hills Road Race in Connecticut. One would think that one of the reasons runners still going to these "gems" is due to the hometown flavor. As echoed by Shorter in a postrace interview--

-"It's a community of inclusion."

Bell Lap- For information on the 2018 race, please contact Frank Giannino
- http://www.shoe-fitter.com/

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