The Southampton Rotary Firecracker 8K is no stranger to hot and humid days, and the 23rd annual version of the race was no different on Sunday morning. What was different though was race officials talking about moving the race start time back due to the sweltering heat expected by the time the race was to start at 8:30 a.m.
“We used to start the race at 9 [a.m.] and now it’s 8:30,” Kevin Luss, head of the race committee, said. “We’re not against moving it to 8 a.m. Runners seem to be an early bunch, and if that would help them, we would accommodate them. And I think we’d certainly have the support of the community. I think the earlier we can get out from in front of their driveway the better.”
The muggy conditions didn’t seem to bother Gregory Hayward, a 31-year-old from Glen Cove. He won the race, handily, in 28:38.2, a mile pace of 5:44. Hayward stayed with the race pack at the initial start, but once the runners made the right-hand turn onto Main Street, he took the lead and never relinquished it. Charles Scherr, 18, of New York, kept up with Hayward for the entire race but could never overtake his lead. Scherr finished second overall in 29.11.2 (5:50).
“I thought it was a beautiful course,” Hayward said following the race. “The lake was beautiful, the setting is lovely, the ambiance is great. The crowd is very nice. Everyone is very humble and giving and pleasant. Everyone has their own story.”
Hayward’s story is that he weighed 100 pounds more than what he does now. After dieting and exercise he was able to lose the weight and he started running competitively about six months ago.
It was just Hayward’s second 8K ever, having run in the New Hyde Park 8K about a month ago, in which he placed fourth. He was urged to run in the Firecracker by his family, who lives in Hampton Bays.
Hayward said it was definitely hot on Sunday, but it’s something he’s used to. “The trees helped,” he said. “I’m used to running on my days off from work and the weekends. I usually run around 1 in the afternoon. So usually over where I am, it’s in the 90s, and I’m running on the track and the blacktop with no trees. So it helps.”
Jason Hancock, 39, of Southampton, placed third overall in 30:20.1 (6:04). Tara Farrell, 34, of East Quogue placed fourth overall and was the first female to cross the finish line in 30:51 (6:10). It was the second consecutive year Farrell has won the female side of the Firecracker.
“This race is always so hot, sunny, and humid,” she said. “It’s definitely a factor.”
Helen Millson, 27, of Bronxville was the second female finisher in 32:06.8 (6:25) while Jennifer Donnelly, 21, of Wellesley was the third female finisher in 32:21.9 (6:28). All race results can be found at island-timing.com.
This year’s race saw 354 runners, which is down for the second-straight year. Last year, 376 runners competed in the race, which was down from the record 530 runners who competed in 2011. Luss said it’s the same factors from last year that held runners back this year, the heat and humidity along with when the race is compared to the Fourth of July holiday. Since the race was four days after the holiday, many people were already heading home and didn’t stay for the race.
The important numbers, Luss said, were that the race still had a wide disparity of medal winners. A 9-year-old boy took home a medal as did an 80-year-old woman. Couple that with the fact that the Rotary was still able to raise $10,000 for its scholarship fund, which is given to students graduating from Southampton High School every June, and the race was still very much a success.
“We do the best we can,” he said. “We’re not a professional outfit. We have a lot of volunteer help.”
As for the overall winner, Hayward vowed to be back and defend his title. “You will absolutely see me here next year trying to reclaim the title,” he said.
Sponsors included The Press News Group and 27east.com; Storms Motors, which provided the official pace car; architect John David Rose; Bridgehampton National Bank; Dermot Dolan, State Farm Agency; Emil Norsic & Sons, Inc.; Gubbins Running Ahead; Herrick Hardware; The Luss Group, Inc.; JT Personal Fitness; Kalbacher’s Auto and Marine Services; Dr. Karen A. Langone; Markowitz, Fenelon and Bank, LLP; Maryann Horwath; Southampton PBA; Riverhead Building Supply; Sabel & Oplinger, CPA, PC; Southampton Publick House; Suffolk County National Bank; Tim Blenk Tree Care, Inc and Bellringer Security.