Florida Striders set another World Record

by Mike Marino

It started last year when we shattered the record for the fastest 100 x 10K relay. It was challenging and a logistical nightmare, but we raised over $6000 for the Donna Foundation to assist women with breast cancer, we got a lot of great press, it was a whole lot of fun, and it was really cool to be world record holders. The question immediately following that event was, “can we do again next year?” Well why not? Everyone was up for it, to include the Donna Foundation, Bishop Snyder High School, and a whole lot of runners. May as well have some more fun, raise money for charity again, and perhaps the one thing better than one world record would be two world records.

The planning started in April. We wanted to do a new record, a 100 x 5K relay. The attempt was approved, though we were given a time limit of 40 hours in order for it to be recognized as a record. The time limit meant we had to average a 24 minute 5K, something our club had the runners to do.

The recruiting of the runners resulted in a highly diverse group. We had the really fast as well as those who simply love running and wanted the opportunity to be part of a world record. We had the young, with two 9-years-olds, a 10-year-old and several high school students. We had veterans, with long time Strider 76-year-old Al Saffer being the eldest to step up to run. We had the usual suspects from the Jacksonville racing community; we had runners from out of town. We had a police officer, a firefighter, naval officers, and five guys from the Jacksonville Jaguars, including the head trainer and an assistant coach. All 100 runners were congratulated on their selection, and then reminded that it would take all 100 of them coming through for the attempt to be successful, and only one runner not doing their 5K for the entire thing to fail.

In order to avoid the Festival of Lights and a Jaguars home game, we scheduled the attempt to end on Saturday afternoon. This meant a 2:00 a.m. start on Friday morning. Keith Poythress and I were among the first to arrive at the Bishop Snyder track around 1:00 a.m. As it would turn out, he and I would be there for the entire event. Frank Frazier was there to help out at the start too, and he too would be at the track for many hours, to include all hours followed by “a.m.” for the entire event. It was a perfect night; cool, clear, ideal for running. The forecast was perfect too, with highs in the 60s and clear skies, which was incredible compared to the pouring rain, cold and wind we dealt with last year.

Our first runner, Charlie Hunsberger, was ready to go. Charlie had waited over a year for this, as he had to pull out of last year’s world record due to injury. Volunteers ready, cameras ready, timing ready, GO! Woohoo, go Charlie, yay, and… uh oh! One of the clocks didn’t start. CHARLIE!, come back! He didn’t hear us right away, and I tried to see if I could fix the one clock, but couldn’t. Charlie got warm-up lap, I got some good natured ribbing while getting the timing in order, and Charlie started again. We got through the initial exchanges without incident, though we found things were more challenging than last year, as it was much more fast paced. We adapted though, and focus went back on the runners. Al Saffer ran 5th, which was inspiring, at 76-years-old he was going for a world record by running at 3:30 a.m. Bill Krause gave a solid effort, recording a post-surgery PR.

At around 4:30a.m., a mist rolled in and brought a wet chill with it. It was cold, but we knew the forecast had the sun coming up soon to warm things up. A few hours later when the sun came up, it was blocked out by clouds. A quick check of the forecast found it had been revised. We were not going to have a nice day, as a front came in further south than expected. Intermittent rain would start, and we had to deal with miserable weather again. It was a wet cold too, with a chill you just couldn’t shake. People were trying their best to stay warm, being all bundled up. One runner, Amanda Napolitano, was wearing a scarf at the beginning of her run.

The running continued, and with some speed. Kaitlyn Iselborn, a member of Florida State’s women’s cross country and track teams, turned in the fastest woman’s time. Paul McRae blazed out the fastest individual time for the event, maintaining just over a five-minute pace. Bill Phillips would post the fastest masters time, which was also the third fastest individual time for the event. Lisa Adams ran the second fastest woman’s time.

We made it to the end of the school day, and then got a scare. The Bishop Snyder student scheduled to run right after school reportedly left for a family emergency. We had about 15 minutes to get someone on the track. The coach from Bishop Snyder sent the student scheduled to run second, though he seemed a little anxious by the limited time to warm-up. Luckily, Brian Schneider, an assistant trainer with the Jaguars, was there early, and when asked if he could be ready to go in 10 minutes, he calmly replied, “no problem.” We still had to find a replacement, but had more time. I got ready to run, but then the coach came through, bringing me another student from the cross country team. The kid came up to me all smiles, his braces gleaming, saying he could run. When I explained to him he had to finish no matter what, that 99 people were depending on him for a world record, his smile went away. He did maintain he was up to it though, so I told him to suit up.

The Bishop Snyder runners ran very well, putting up solid times. They along with a few of the runners from the Jaguars took us into the night. And with the night, Regina Sooey became the life of the party. She would man the stationary camera, filming all action, which is a requirement to document the record. She would also provide commentary, which wasn’t required, but hilarious. We’re not sure what was in her water bottle, but I know I want to have some the next time I go out. Regina would keep us laughing past midnight. All the while runners were stepping up with solid performances. Dan Adams ran a PR. Chris and Diana Twiggs took a little less than 40 minutes between them and got a kiss in during their baton exchange. Ron Porter took us into Saturday, giving the baton to Sue Miller, who ran the fastest woman’s masters time. Sue handed off the Ben Huron, who ran the second fastest individual time for the event.

We got through the early morning hours, and people started asking if Keith and I had gotten any sleep. I had gotten some in the concession stand and while in a chair in the tent. Keith hadn’t, as he manned the second exchange zone for just about the entire time.

Runners from the 26.2 with Donna came out for their training run Saturday morning and hung out to cheer us on. Tim Deegan ran his leg while Donna Deegan was getting footage and interviews for First Coast News. We were 85 runners into the event, and now it was time for our youngest runners to get the baton. Our 10-year-old, Cole Mandt, would come through with flying colors, finishing with a amazing sprint. The two 9-year-olds would come through as well, with Bryce Stalter putting up an impressive time and Vincent Sabatella giving a solid performance despite a spike in the temperature.

Now it was just a matter of finishing; one runner getting the baton to the next. Everyone kept coming through, and we made it to anchor, Donna Deegan. She would run steady and smooth, recording negative splits, and then breaking through the tape. We’d done it again – another world record. And just as Donna finished, the sun would come out, as if to shine on us for a great effort. Our official time – 37 hours, 12 minutes, 54 seconds. We raised more money than last year too, bringing in over $6400 to go to women with breast cancer. We got good press again, we had a lot of fun again, and someone asked the question again….can we do it again next year? We’ll see.

World Records for Mass Relays,
Photos of the Record Attempt,
Florida Striders Track Club,
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