OVER 40 MEMBERS OF THE JOHNNY COBB FAMILY RAN IN THE
BELMAR FIVE, RENAMED THIS YEAR IN HIS HONOR.
WAYNE BAKER PHOTO
Sounds and Sights of Summer Signal
Belmar (Cobb) Five

BY WAYNE BAKER

BELMAR, NJ--My alarm sounded at 5:40 a.m. I tend to get rolling slowly, so it was almost 6:00 when I climbed out of bed, went into the bathroom, brushed my teeth, put in my contact lenses, and began the process of getting dressed and repacking to correct the problems I had thought of before falling asleep last night.

I live in fear of mispacking. Sixteen or seventeen years ago, I arrived to run this race wearing flip-flop sandals and, as I went into my gym bag, discovered I had no shoes. I ran barefoot that year. Needless to say, not being prepared to run that way, I was gimpy for most of a week.

After repacking, I got out of the house at about 6:25, 25 minutes later than my target time, but ahead of my "worst case" time of 6:30. My drive to the race is about an hour, and I like to arrive about an hour early to warm up and get my bearings. In the car, I eat a banana and about a third of the cereal I had brought.

Arriving in Belmar at about 7:25, I need to find parking and get ready. Since Belmar is a summer resort town and is hosting almost 3,000 runners, their families, and many hundreds of race volunteers, I give some thought to where to park. I decide to head for the north end of town, far from the ocean, where I should be able to find a space quickly.

Belmar is a special race. Along with being the second of the big summer races at the Jersey shore, it has generally been regarded as the "party" race. The date has been moved ahead a month this year--from mid-August to mid-July. This means it is no longer one week after the George Sheehan Classic. It should now be possible to race all three of the big shore races hard. Only time will tell if that will happen.

One thing that makes Belmar particularly special is the general feeling of support for the race that the town projects. Historically, groups of college students and twenty-somethings rent houses in Belmar for the summer. Many of them will run the race (some after partying well into the night at one of Belmar's bars). Some houses play music to the runners--often something inspiring like the theme from "Chariots of Fire" or from "Rocky" or the classic Shore music of Springteen. The race supports the Belmar Improvement Fund--a town charity that has helped pay for many town improvements including the gazebo where the awards will be held later.

The race was renamed this year after Johnny Cobb, one of the race's founders and a 25-year veteran of the Belmar Police Department. Cobb was killed last summer in an auto accident. About 45 members of his family are running today to honor him.

I take out my racing shoes, race number, small camera, a pen and paper, and head for the porta-johns. After taking care of my business, I sit in the park where the postrace festivities will be held and put on my racing shoes. I then walk around briefly, say hi to a few friends and race officials, and jog back to my car. There, I leave a few things and take out the waterproof, disposable camera I've decided to carry on the run.

I start back to the park and I see an older man wearing a very old (1979) race shirt picking up his newspapers from the sidewalk. I say "nice shirt." His wife calls from the window saying it's too small. I ask him if he's running this year. He says "no," but he'll be spraying the runners with his hose. I thank him in advance for his efforts. Continuing towards the start, I realize I need to use the facilities again. Knowing that the lines will be brutally long, I ask some people watching the action if I may use their bathroom. They say, "no problem" and shortly I'm on my way again to the start.

Arriving back at the park, I hear the PA system saying "10 minutes until race start." The runners are being encouraged towards the starting line. Since the park is in front of the starting line, the slower runners will need to work themselves through the crowd to avoid being trampled.

At the start, the wheelchairs are preparing for their start. They will leave two minutes earlier than the runners. If they're reasonably good, they'll be increasing that lead throughout the race. I take some pictures of the chairs. Someone sings the "Star Spangled Banner." The wheelchairs start.

Race management moves the crowd up to the real starting line. I position myself around the fifth row of runners, far enough forward that I shouldn't be impeded by slower runners, but far enough back that I shouldn't be in the way of the fast ones. I hold up the camera and snap a couple of pictures of the crowd behind me--with almost 3,000 runners, there are plenty. The race begins. I quickly realize I should have been in the second or third row. I'm working to avoid stepping on the slower people. It takes me most of a quarter mile until I feel like I'm running more or less normally.

After about a half mile, I pass Bob McCarren, of Staten Island, NY, pushing his daughter, Diane, in a wheelchair. I've seen them off and on over the last 15 years or so. I think Diane was a teenager when I first saw them. I take their picture.

Somewhere beyond the 2-mile mark, I find myself running near Dawn Ciccone. Along with being a very good (and attractive) runner, Dawn is a fine singer and is often called on to deliver the National Anthem at area races. Dawn gives a few words of encouragement to other runners, especially women, as we pass. Just beyond the 4-mile mark, she moves ahead of me. I laugh as I notice about six guys running beside and behind her, but nobody in the several yards ahead. I guess they want to keep Dawn in their field of view.

As I approach the finish, I see Jim Keady in the old race shirt, spraying the runners. It wasn't too hot this morning, but if it had been, I'd have been praying for dozens more like him. Since New Jersey is in the middle of a drought, I suspect he was breaking some regulation, but what cop would write a ticket?

I cross the finish line in 34:39¾a bit slow, but I was taking pictures. I get my finisher's medal, one of the nice extra touches Belmar provides. I get some water and walk to the car to change and prepare to cover the awards.

The Race Story

The Johnny Cobb Memorial Belmar Five Mile Run in 2002 was unusual because the winners raced without close competition. Leading virtually from the gun, Anthony DeBenedictis, of Roselle Park, NJ, put nearly a minute between himself at 24:16.4 and the 25:13.9 of second place finisher Bryan Patrick Poerner, of Philadelphia. Rounding out the top five men were: Patrick Lenaghan, of Spring Lake, NJ (25:56.3), Eric John Motzenbecker, of Manasquan, NJ (25:58.9), and Gene Mitchell, of Franklin Lakes, NJ (26:05.6).

Dorian Meyer, of Rumson, NJ, turned in a 29:31.3 to capture the women's race by over a minute. Meyer is one of the country's top Masters marathoners. Her fall plans include the Philadelphia Distance Run and the New York Marathon. When asked about running with men, Meyer indicated that the men around her recognize the level at which she is competing. In longer races, they often go out of their way to make certain she has access to water stops. Patty Andersen Parrade, of Weehawken, NJ, took second in 30:35.0. Belmar's own Megan Phillips, in 30:41.4, took third. Jennifer Clausen, of Jackson, NJ (31:10.0), and Maura Bolger, of Brielle, NJ (31:40.6), completed the top five.

 

JIM KEADY, IN HIS 1979 RACE SHIRT, SPRAYS GRATEFUL RUNNERS WITH HIS HOSE.
WAYNE BAKER PHOTO

 

TOP FINISHERS AT BELMAR FROM LEFT: MEGAN PHILLIPS (THIRD WOMAN),
FEMALE WINNER DORIAN MEYER, COBB FAMILY MEMBERS, PATTY ANDERSEN
PARRADE (SECOND WOMAN), MAURA BOLGER (FIFTH WOMAN), PATRICK POERNER
(SECOND), AND WINNER ANTHONY DEBENEDICTIS.
WAYNE BAKER PHOTO
MALE

Overall

1. Anthony Debenedictis 24:16
2. Bryan Patrick Poerner 25:13
3. Patrick Lenaghan 25:56
4. Eric John Motzenbecker 25:58
5. Gene Mitchell 26:05
6. Stephen Schaefer 26:50
7. Hans Parado 27:00
8. Bob Bythell 27:09
9. Matthew Forys 27:23
10. Ken Shatzer 27:44
11. Kevin Brewer 27:45
12. Tom Gordon 27:50
13. Joe Donahue 27:56
14. Chris Stephen Platt 28:03
15. Bob August Horn 28:08

FEMALE

Overall

1. Dorian Meyer 29:31
2. Patty Andersen Parrade 30:35
3. Megan Phillips 30:41
4. Jennifer Clausen 31:10
5. Maura Bolge 31:40
6. Natalie Jones 32:08
7. Christy Defilippis 32:24
8. Dianne Deoliveira 32:21
9. Denise Cardamone 32:47
10. Carol Buonanno 32:49
11. Christine Corey 33:08
12. Laurie Clark 33:22
13. Kerry Maybaum 33:26
14. Keara McGraw 33:55
15. Catherine Lynch 33:56