By Ralph Epifanio
Andrew Epifanio entered the 2011 Easter Beach Run, a four mile run along The World's Most Famous Beach, with modest expectations of perhaps moving up a couple of spots from his 2010 finish (sixth), and hopefully improving on his four mile personal best (22:29 at last year's EBR). He accomplished both, perhaps less spectacularly than his more famous predecessors, but just as convincingly, none the less.
This historic race has, in its 44 years, featured such auspicious winners as Frank Shorter (NCAA 5,000 and 10,000 meter champion, four-time American Cross Country Champion, 1972 Olympic Marathon Champion, and the man whose accomplishments inspired a running revolution), Marty Liquori (the third American high school runner to break the four minute mile and, at 19, the youngest qualifier for the Olympic 1500 final), his best friend Barry Brown (a sub-four miler and two-time Olympic qualifier, who, though he never won the EBR, graced its field numerous times as one of the greatest Masters runners of all time, with records from the 8K to the marathon), David Reid (Canadian National 1500 and 5000 meter champion and metric mile record holder), and a who's who of local, national, and internationally ranked runners. You can now add to that a Stetson freshman with far less lofty credentials, but who lays claim to the same title.
Going out relaxed, and with a smile on his face, Andrew quickly found himself leading the other 617 runners. And, while fighting the energy-draining dry heat of early morning, he held that position for two sun-baked miles before Pittsburgh's Kevin Tramaglini caught up to him. At the half way point Tramaglini, who finished three places ahead of Epifanio last year (Kevin was 3rd in 2010, with a time of 22:01), took the lead.
"He (Tramaglini) caught up to me right around the turnaround (2 miles)," Andrew explained. "When we made the u-turn, our arcs were a little different, so he pulled ahead. I caught back up to him about 100 meters later."
Retaking the lead, Epifanio shrugged off several surges by Tramaglini, and worked hard to put some space between them.
"After I passed him, Kevin stuck with me. He really helped to push me and keep up my pace. It was nice to have him there. He started to drop back with about half a mile to go, and I just kicked it in from there."
From the perspective of the many people lining the finish line, it looked like Andrew had firm control of the situation. By the time he passed under the clock, he had an almost 100 meter lead, and was the 2011 Easter Beach Run Champion in 22:21. Although his time was an improvement of eight seconds over 2010, Epifanio felt especially drained from the effort.
"The race seemed a little longer than last year," explained Andrew. "I didn't think it should have been that much harder to run eight seconds faster."
That is entirely possible. Under the unpredictable conditions of beach running-tides coming in and out, which can cause significant changes in any beach's profile--it is nearly impossible to run a straight line.
"The people follow the bend of the tides," explained John Boyle, of Alta Vista Sports, who measured and timed the event. And while he and another member of his timing team measured it more than once, he added "There's just no way to certify it."
"I never came so close to blacking out in a race," said Epifanio. "Now I know what ‘tunnel vision' is like," the winner said wistfully. "Still, it was a great feeling to win today."
The first place finish is Andrew's seventh straight road race win, and eighth since January. He finished second overall in the other two races.
Asked about the rest of the Spring, Andrew said, "I might run one or two more races, but I'll be tapering off soon. It's been a long season, and I'll take a break before I start up again for the summer."