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Firefighter attempts to set Guineess World Record by running half-marathon in full gear


Scott Walsh
The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

Ryan Robeson knew there was one element, completely out of his control, that could hamper his attempt to set a Guinness world record for running the sixth annual Scranton Half Marathon in full firefighter gear.

The weather.

Sunday’s warm, humid temperatures made it uncomfortable for all the runners in the field, let alone someone wearing 35-50 pounds of protective equipment — boots, helmet, gloves, turnout coat and pants and a breathing apparatus.

Robeson reached the finish line in 3 hours, 36 minutes,

11 seconds. However, he needed to complete the 13.1-mile course in 3 hours, 30 minutes for Guinness to recognize it as a record.

“It’s very bittersweet to only be (a few) minutes off the mark,” said Robeson, a Scranton native who followed in the footsteps of his late father, Scranton Fire Department Capt. James Robeson,by becoming a firefighter. He recently relocated to York.

“I really gave it 100 percent. I don’t even know where I could have made up those minutes.”

When the race began at 9 a.m., the temperature was around

50 degrees with about 65 percent humidity. It only got warmer and more humid as the day progressed.

Almost immediately, Robeson felt the effects.

“Two and a half miles in, I was really overheated,” Robeson said. “That’s when I slowed down my pace.”

Roughly every mile, Robeson needed to replace his air cylinder and used 15 total.

Those 30-second changeovers proved to be a blessing. During that time, the crew that accompanied him — several firefighters, his wife Mary Christine and running mentor Danielle Riecj — also poured water and put ice packs down his back and kept him hydrated. That would invigorate and motivate him for the next mile.

“It was pretty incredible all the stuff that they were doing in that small window,” Robeson said.

“There definitely were some demons to fight through. I can’t say I didn’t think about it (quitting). Luckily, I had good people pushing me. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Over the final three miles, Robeson tried to pick up his pace because he knew he was close to the record time.

Just past the 3:30 mark, Robeson entered Scranton Memorial Stadium. Those who were there cheered and chanted his name, urging him on the rest of the way.

“It was amazing,” said Robeson, his voice trailing off with emotion and his eyes filling up with tears. “I just appreciate everybody’s support, everybody who stuck around. It was cool to see everybody cheering me on. I was really struggling coming in. I tried to pick it up for everybody, but it was pretty much all I had.”

Upon crossing the finish line, Robeson was swarmed by medical personnel, who quickly removed his gear and gave him water, Gatorade and cold towels.

Among those to greet him in the finish line area were his mother Linda and his grandmother Alice.

Also there were several members of the Scranton Fire Department, including Assistant Chief Jeff White.

“We’ve always been proud of him from Day 1 and we couldn’t be prouder,” White said. “He’s just an outstanding firefighter, person and individual. He’s set the bar higher for all of us.

“We lost him to York and we’re heartbroken. We’ll miss him dearly.”

York Fire Department Chief Chad Deardorff made the trip north to support Robeson.

Deardorff didn’t find out about Robeson’s record attempt until Thursday.

“Being a new guy in the department, he didn’t want to make a big deal about it,” Deardorff said. “But it is a big deal. We’re all proud of him.

“The dedication he showed is what I’m looking for in our department. I’m excited to have him start and get out on the street with our guys.”

Guinness might not recognize it as a record, but everyone at the finish line considered it one since Robeson is believed to be the first person to try this.

More importantly, Robeson said, his attempt raised money for two charities — Foundation 58, which helps families of firefighters and first responders suffering from cancer; and Operation Scranton United, the Scranton Fire Department’s annual winter coat giveaway for underprivileged Scranton School District students.

According to his website

ryansrecordrun.com, he well-exceeded his goal of $5,800.

Coming home

Penn State University Club Cross Country decided to skip next week’s National Intercollegiate Running Club Association (NIRCA) Half Marathon at Miami University (Ohio) and run the Scranton Half Marathon on Sunday.

According to club treasurer and sophomore Stephen Day, 35 runners made the trip from University Park. Sam Lapp was the club’s top finisher, placing eighth in 1:11:13.74.

Two members of the club who ran are from the area. Junior Joseph Wanat is a Lakeland graduate, while sophomore Molly Holmes is a Holy Redeemer graduate from Avoca.

“This was a really sentimental race for me,” said Holmes, who finished 249th overall in 1:43:24. “Around Mile 10 or 11, back in sixth grade, that was where I ran one of my first cross country races ever. And the track we finished on (inside Memorial Stadium) was where we ran districts. One of my old coaches ran the race; I saw him in the middle of the race. It was awesome being back, especially with our college friends.”

Wanat echoed Holmes’ sentiments. He found it coincidental that upon finishing, the team congregated in the same area where the medal stand is placed for the District 2 Track and Field Championships.

“Lakeland always ended up on the podium,” said Wanat, who placed 78th in 1:29:09. “I just find it funny that we plopped ourselves in the same spot after the race.

“Just to come back and see a bunch of people I know — coaches, family, friends — was nice.”

Half notes

Robeson wasn’t the only runner to don protective gear for the race. U.S. Army recruiter and Sergeant First Class Anthony Ezman from Clifford Twp. wore Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) Level 4 protective gear, which the military uses in a toxic environment and includes a suit, gloves, boots and mask. He also carried an Army flag with him. Ezman finished in 3:38:40 — two spots behind Robeson. … At Mile 5, Tim Gronski, a Pennsylvania State Trooper from Moosic, interrupted his race to propose to his girlfriend Alyssa. After she said yes, Gronski resumed his race and finished in 2:06:12. .. Holy Cross and Mount St. Mary’s graduate Shane Holcomb of Peckville was the top local finisher (13th) in 1:13:59.70. … Rob Aherns from Clarks Summit, the 2014 Scranton Half-Marathon champion, finished 14th in 1:14:18.13. Olyphant’s Kevin Borrelli, the 2015 race winner, was 27th in 1:18:50.22. … Next year’s Scranton Half Marathon is scheduled for March 29, 2020.


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