by Lon Cohen  |

Despite attracting just half of the registrants in 2018 who ran the year before, the 15K Run to the Port Jeff Brewing Company is on once again for 2019.

The race is scheduled for Sunday, May 19.

It’s billed as the “run you will love to hate,” a 15-kilometer route that winds through the village of Port Jefferson and encompasses both breathtaking vistas and a series of punishing hills.

But don’t worry. If you choose to enter this year, you’ll still be rewarded with a “party you will just love,” a post-race bash for all finishers at the brewery.

But you’ll have to earn it.

“The people who do this race love pain,” said Mike Polansky, president of the Greater Long Island Running Club. “This was deliberately designed to be the hardest course mile for mile on Long Island.”

From the first hill to the worst hill, the race translates into a challenging 9.5 miles with a total ascent of over 900 feet.

According to a race map on planaroute.com, the steepest hill comes within the first mile and the longest at around mile eight — with more in between.

Not an easy terrain to manage, but that’s the point.

“There are already too many flat, fast 5Ks on Long Island,” Polansky said. “This race was made to fill a void.”

Mike Philbrick who owns Port Jefferson Brewing Company and is a village resident. said that the race grew out of a Turkey trot he hosted annually at the brewery. While that race was low key, partnering with the running club helped to give the 15K a higher profile.

“Up to our run, the Cow Harbor race was known as the toughest run on Long Island,” Philbrick said. “It’s still young, but finishing our race is becoming a badge of honor among runners.”

He expects that word of mouth will continue to help make this race more popular within the Long Island running community.

In a survey sent out last year in response to the precipitous drop in registrants, people overwhelmingly told organizers to leave the race as-is. According to Philbrick, competition from other brewery runs, among other factors, contributed to the drop in attendance.

“This is not considered a training run so people will not use this race to prep for a marathon,” he said. “You have to specifically train for this one.”

Some runners did offer up suggestions on how to make the race more palatable and increase registration.

Jack Shapiro of Miller Place, who ran the race twice, suggested organizers include shorter distance runs within the larger race.

“They could include a 5K and a 10K along with the full 15K race,” he suggested. “I think more people would sign up if they had options.”

Shapiro liked running the race and said the after-party is a huge draw.

“The village needs events like this to promote itself,” he said.

Runners start at the Port Jefferson Brewing Company and immediately have to endure the climb up East Broadway toward Belle Terre, known to some as “Cardiac Hill.”

The route winds through the back roads of Port Jefferson, touching on a spectacular view of the Long Island Sound before you have to tackle what’s arguably the most challenging portion of the course.

The race ends on a downhill ride past the library on Thompson Street and Main Streets before crossing over the finish line back at the brewery.

A two hour and 15 minute race time is strictly enforced.

The race raised money for a variety of local charities over the years including funds to rebuild Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park in the village, affectionately known as “Rocketship Park” to locals because of a unique rocket ship play set from the 1970s.

The charities to benefit from this year’s run are still being worked out, but Philbrick stressed they will continue to be based in Port Jefferson.

Runners are encouraged to come for the challenge, but stay for the party that rocks for hours after the race ends.

“I invite anybody who is looking for a tough morning run followed by the best post-race party of the season to register for this race,” Polansky said.

2018 race photo by James Fergerson/Yellow House Images.

The 15K Run to the Port Jeff Brewing Company will be held at the Port Jeff Brewing Company at 22 Mill Creek Rd, Port Jefferson, on Sunday, May 19, 2019. Start time is 8:30am. For registration information and directions check the events calendar on the the Greater Long Island Running Club website.

More photos from 2018:

20 Photos: Scenes from the big 15K Port Jeff Brewery run