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Heat no deterrent at Massapequa Firecracker 5k

Runners break from the starting line during the

Runners break from the starting line during the 32nd Annual Firecracker 5K Run in Massapequa Park. (July 1, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

For those not content to merely run Monday in 90-degree heat in the Massapequa Road Runners Firecracker 5k, organizers arranged four bench-press racks under tents in Massapequa Park's Brady Park before the race started.

In race tradition, hundreds of men and women lined up to knock out reps. Runners lifted a portion of their body weight based on age and gender; each repetition shaved 10 seconds from their running time.

By these means Lew Bauer, 52, a chiropractor and fitness trainer from Massapequa, was able to knock nine minutes off his time after pressing 105 pounds 54 times.

Stanley Jacobs, 85, of Massapequa Park, no speedster after triple-bypass surgery some years ago, shaved two minutes and 40 seconds from his time. This probably would not put him in contention to win the race, he conceded, but there was one runner he marked himself against, a 91-year-old. Two years ago, he said, "I beat him by 20 seconds. Last year I lost to him by a minute-thirty. Last year I just didn't have the kick."

Race director Alex Flyntz introduced the Lift N Run competition 12 years ago in the interest of fairness. The gazelles in the field were outrunning the Clydesdales, he said. "You get people who simply cannot run as fast as the gazelles, because of their naturally born frame," he said. "This levels the playing field."

Hundreds of runners of the gazelle and Clydesdale variety turned out for the race. Even the gazelles were fierce.

Who did Abby Gonzalez, 64, a retired personal trainer from Dix Hills and former women's champ, think might challenge her? "Nobody."

"I absolutely cannot not compete, even if it's something fun like this," said Andrew Nies, 29, a contractor from Levittown. His legs bore recent scars from a New England obstacle race that employed barbed wire. "I will finish in the top 10. I will make sure of it."

Then there was Erich Veitch, 48, a builder from Huntington who pushed out 26 reps of 155 pounds. He was another former champ and noted that one of his wins had come after a six-month layoff due to a broken pelvis and ribs sustained in a fall from a wall. "It was one of my highest achievements in life," he said.

But it was Franklin Diaz, 28, a factory worker from Farmingdale, who crossed the finish line first, in 16 minutes and 18 seconds.

He had no interest in the Lift N Run. "I don't want my muscles tight," he said. He entered the race as training for the next Boston Marathon.

The heat had not bothered him a bit, he said. "I always train in the afternoons," he said. "Two weeks ago, I ran from Farmingdale to Hempstead and back, and then I did my regular training."

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