Record-Smashing Races

Blessed with a perfect Thanksgiving Day weather-wise, a lot of families turned out.
Blessed with a perfect Thanksgiving Day weather-wise, a lot of families turned out. Jack Graves

    Blessed with a perfect day, the East Hampton Town Recreation Department and John Keeshan Real Estate Thanksgiving Day road races in Montauk attracted another record-smashing turnout.
    “We registered 639,” said the races’ timer, Bob Beattie. “Last year we had 500.”
    John Keeshan, who founded the event 35 years ago, said, “What better family day could there be? We made up 400 T-shirts and we ran out of them, and we ran out of numbers too. It’s not about longevity, though, it’s about these young people, the first-timers with their fathers and mothers. That’s what makes it so heartwarming and exciting — to see how people have taken to it. We don’t advertise this beyond Southampton, though I know we could get even more to come. But this has always been a local race, and I want to keep it that way. It’s a Montauk run.”
    The inaugural group, which ran “from the flagpole in town out to Third House and back — about five miles all told,” in 1976, said Keeshan, had included himself, John Conner, Ray Charron, the late Bob Aaron, Richie Shea, Andy Neidnig, Billy O’Donnell, George Watson, and Burke Koncelik.
    Four of the founders — Keeshan, Watson, O’Donnell, and Conner, who was a spectator — were at the Circle last Thursday.
    Watson, who used to preside over a series of October races to his Dock bar and restaurant, races in which he often competed, recently revived his road race, from the Shagwong to the Dock, a last-minute kind of thing that drew 40 competitors. Asked if he ran, the wry restaurateur, who placed fourth that day among the three-miler’s 60 to 69-year-old males, in 30 minutes and 21 seconds, said, “No, I didn’t run, I officiated. I’ve got a lot of excuses now.”
    O’Donnell, who placed sixth among the 50 to 59-year-old males in the six-miler — a division that was topped by Montauk’s Dan Farnham in 42:12 — said that he was “the only one who has run this 35 times out of 35.”
    That’s including the snow year, 1989, in which, said Keeshan, “We had nine inches of snow and all these people standing around in shorts.”
    O’Donnell, who plans on making it “50 out of 50,” had to admit that his 24-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, had beaten him. “That’s what happens when you teach them,” he said.
    When Watson excused himself because he was getting cold, a commiserator said, “By all means — you don’t want to get pneumonia.”
    Speaking of pneumonia, Kevin Barry, East Hampton High’s boys cross-country coach, said he had come down with it recently, after contracting bronchitis and plantar fasciitis.
    “How did the little guys do?” asked Barry, referring to Erik Engstrom and Randy Santiago, both of Springs, who are expected to make an impact on next year’s team even though they’ll be ninth graders. Santiago and Engstrom, it turned out, crossed the line together in 18:49, good for second and third place among the three-miler’s 11 to 13-year-old boys division. Jackson Rafferty, another eighth grader from Springs, who’s also expected to move up to the varsity next fall, was fourth, in 19:39. 
    A protégé of Barry’s at Mercy High School some years ago, Kiernan Kelly, 33, of Bridgehampton, won the three-miler, in 17:11. The women’s winner was Tina Frey, also 37, of New York City, in 19:05.
    The names of the six-miler’s winners, John Schilkowsky, 20, of Morganton, N.C., and Kira Garry, 18, of Montauk, did not appear on the initial list posted on Beattie’s van. Schilkowsky, who runs for Cornell, crossed the line in 32:35, and Garry, who runs for Yale (who thought she was fifth over all) finished in 36:06, a time that impressed Diane O’Donnell, East Hampton High’s girls cross-country coach. The runner-up was Schilkowsky’s Cornell teammate, Will Weinlandt of Amagansett.
    “It was the usual chaos,” Beattie said later. “We’re always bouncing back and forth here — chasing people with the wrong numbers, or people who say they’re running the three, then run the six, or vice versa. We’re hoping to have it straightened out on our Web site [] by Monday night.”
    On Saturday, Beattie was to time another Turkey Trot, a 5K in Sag Harbor that benefited the Old Whalers Community House Fund, a race with a field of “180-something” that apparently was more manageable. Chris Koegel, 28, of Malverne, won it, in 17:15. Sinead FitzGibbon, who was fifth over all, in 19:30, was the women’s winner.
    Thanks to Keeshan, the overall winners and age-group winners were presented after last Thursday’s race with frozen turkeys.
    Kyle Cashin, an ultra athlete for whom a six-miler is a walk in the park, and who topped the men’s 40 to 49 division, in 35:55, said, “One of us had to run because Caroline, my brother Ed’s wife, forgot to buy a turkey.”
    As it turned out, the Cashins wound up with two turkeys because Caroline Cashin topped the women’s 30 to 39-year-old group in the three-miler.    
    “You couldn’t ask for a better day — it’s so much fun,” said Kyle Cashin, who was a first-timer.
    Asked if he’d been in any ultra races or triathlons lately, he said, with a smile, “We have a 17-month-old son who’s taking up the time. I thought the Ironman was hard until I started to take care of J.T.!”
    Did he think his son would follow in his footsteps? “Well, Nicole was all state in track, so I think he’s got pretty good genes. . . . He’ll probably wind up playing the piano.”
    Cashin does have his sights set on a 200-mile relay race in Oregon, “from Mount Hood down to the ocean. You’re doing like 25-minute 10Ks in the beginning. It’s an epic thing to do. Eight people do it. I’d love it if Ed could do it, though it’s in August, his busy time of the year. Maybe I’ll do it with J.T. in a stroller.”