Vax to Flax

Vax to Flax is a tradition started many years ago when SoMAS was still the Marine Sciences Research Center (MSRC). The event is a foot race between a team of Faculty versus a team of Graduate Students, and others are invited to participate on bicycle or roller blades. The Faculty must create a team of at least 5 members, one who is female and the Graduate Students must create a team of at least 10 with two females.

Former faculty member Chuck Nittrouer started the tradition by setting up an extremely competitive and very highly organized event. The faculty trained seriously, including running the entire course several times in the weeks leading up to the race. The event started early so that most of the runners would cross the LIRR tracks before the morning train came in. Students were placed at the 25A crossing to stop traffic, which angered many of the local drivers. Local neighbors along the route, including SoMAS’s Cindy Lee, have been known to cheer on passerby. Over the years, many have competed in costume and there are many stories about practical jokes and other pranks played on competitors.

The winning team is determined by taking the average scores of the top faculty/staff and students that cross the finish line.  This includes the top five faculty, and the top ten students.  The team with the highest average score wins the bragging rights for the year.

The event is named after a Digital VAX computer in the SoMAS data center in Endeavour Hall and the Flax Pond Marine Laboratory maintained by SoMAS. In the 1990 MSRC Graduate Studies brochure, the Vax computing systems helped advertise the computing resources at the Center. SoMAS has long since retired the namesake Vax computing systems, although the Data Center still utilizes a power conditioning unit purchased at that time.

The original race course actually started at Flax Pond and finished at the Vax. At some point in the 1990s, the course reversed and started at SoMAS and traveled around the western edge of Circle Drive, crossed at the Stony Brook LIRR train station and proceeded north on Quaker Path / Mount Gray Road to the Flax Pond Marine Laboratory.

In 2011, Vax to Flax reverted back to the original course and started at Flax Pond. The race followed the same path as before, but now ended at SoMAS. This route took advantage of the ample parking at SoMAS for the after-race events.

In 2014, the Flax to Vax route was changed to the Vax to Vax, with the route now starting at SoMAS, circling the campus and returning back to SoMAS. With this route, everyone in the race could walk on sidewalks and avoid walking in the street. Quaker Path and Mount Gray Road do not have sidewalks, and when cars pass along the road it can be dangerous. Additionally, volunteers were needed to help direct traffic crossing 25A. With the route staying on campus, fewer volunteers were needed to organize the event and there were no concerns about parking/shuttling people from one location to another and back.

Every race ends with the barbeque hosted at the finish line, where everyone can enjoy food, beverages and games. The event is a very relaxed way for faculty and staff to gather.

In addition to bragging rights, the winners are memorialized with a virtual plaque on the SoMAS web site.

Flax Pond Marine Lab
Flax Pond Marine Lab
The "Vax" in the SoMAS Data Center, with Dr. Henry Bokuniewicz, George Carroll, and Stony Brook President John Marburger

The “Vax” in the SoMAS Data Center (left), with Dr. Henry Bokuniewicz, Stony Brook President John Marburger and George Carroll.

Flax to Vax Route, 2012

2012 Flax to Vax Route

2014 Vax to Vax Route

2014 Vax to Vax Route

Vax to Flax competitors, unknown year.
Vax to Flax competitors, unknown year.

The articles below chronicle the Vax to Flax races held over the years.

Vax to Flax 2019

Thank you to everyone who came out for this year's Flax to Vax Run/BBQ on Saturday April 27! This event is hosted by the SoMAS Graduate Student club and had a great turnout.  The Club Officers hope everyone had as much fun as they did! The results of the race: Top...

Vax to Flax 2018

Many thanks to those who participated and assisted with the 2018 Flax to Vax Race + BBQ on Saturday April 28th! The overall winner was student Tim Curtin with a time of 26:13. The faculty winner was Chris Gobler with a time of 26:24. The faculty "won" the...

Vax to Flax 2017

Many thanks to those who participated and assisted with the 2017 Flax to Vax Race + BBQ on Saturday. Heather Lynch and Kurt Bretsch won for the faculty and Mark Nepf and Ashley Cohen won for the students. Overall the top five faculty times beat the top ten student...

Vax to Flax 2016

The 2016 Vax to Flax Run was held on Saturday April 30th on a beautiful sunny day. The race course followed the Vax-to-Vax format (seen on the right) where the race starts at SoMAS and travels clockwise around Circle Drive to return back to SoMAS. Seven faculty and post docs raced against eleven students. As has been the recent tradition, the faculty times overall beat the student times.

Flax to Vax 2015

The Annual SoMAS tradition that puts Students against Faculty took place on Saturday, April 25th. The course this year followed the same path as last year, starting at SoMAS (former home of the Vax computer system) and circling around campus around Circle Drive to...

Faculty defeat students in 20-something Annual Flax-to-Vax Road Race

By Chris Gobler Since ~1990, SoMAS (formerly MSRC) has gone through an annual, spring rite of passage: The Flax-to-Vax road race. Through the years, it has been Flax-to-Vax, Vax-to-Flax, and this year, Vax-to-Vax, but it has always been fun. Participation has waned in...

Flax to Vax 2013

The Annual Run/Walk/Bike from SoMAS's Flax Pond Laboratory to the SoMAS South Campus location where we used to have a Vax computer system.  Photos by Kurt Bretsch and John Graham are available on Google Photos.

Flax to Vax 2012

Flax to Vax 2012 occurred on Saturday May 5! So, what is Flax to Vax?... - Run, walk, bike, rollerblade, etc. from Flax Pond to SoMAS! - Post-race, end of the year BBQ at SoMAS with food, drinks, and games! - Students vs Faculty: runners compete for the fastest times...

Vax to Flax 2011

Saturday’s Flax to Vax event was a success!!! We would like to commend the graduate students for organizing a wonderful event.  Below are some photos compliments of Kurt Bretsch. Chris Gobler smoked everyone in the race!!

Vax to Flax 2010

Students Win 2010 Vax to Flax Race! Students are the official winners of Vax to Flax 2010 (Faculty were disqualified for lack of participation) 1. Kurt Bretsch 34:07 -Top Male Faculty 2. Brad Furman 36:50 -Top Male Student 3. Demian Chapman 36:54 (F) 4. Maggi Mars...

Vax to Flax 2009

May 16, 2009 Results 1st: Jeronimo Pan (35:33) 2nd: Maggie Mars (39:13) 3rd: Joe Warren (40:12)    

Vax to Flax 2008

Vax to Flax 2008 photos by Ruth Coffey and Shannon Montanino

Vax to Flax 2007

May 5, 2007 Best Finishers (time) Male Faculty/Staff - Chris Gobler (35:05) Female Faculty/Staff - Lindsay Moore (38:09) Male Student - Aaron Beck (34:15) Female Student - Sheryl Bell (41:00) photos by 'Ruth Coffey', 'Nuria Protopopescu'

Vax to Flax 2006

May 6, 2006 photos by 'Teresa Mathews & Patrice Argant', 'Ann Zulkosky'

MSRC Students/Faculty Flex Muscles

This spring - in addition to the usual final exams, finishing theses, and graduation - many MSRC students, faculty and staff tested their mettle in a variety of sporting events around campus. The 16th Annual Roth Pond Regatta, held on April 29, was the first of these...

Vax to Flax 2005

May 14, 2005 photos by 'Ann Zulkosky', 'Yi Zheng'

VAX to Flax 2004

May 8, 2004 Best Times Male Faculty Pete Strutton (32:26) Female Faculty Zanna Chase (33:46) Male Student Aaron Beck (30:44) Female Student Megan Dantzler (37:11) As for the Student vs. Faculty competition, the Faculty won yet again. Thanks again everybody for making...

Vax to Flax 2003

May 4, 2003 Murphy's Law says if you move an event due to rain it will be a beautiful day, and if we had kept it as scheduled the rain would have come with a vengeance. Luckily both days were nice and the event was a success. Thank you to everyone who participated on...

Vax to Flax 2002

This year's annual Vax to Flax race took place on Saturday, May 4.  This annual tradition is a 4.6 mile (7.5 km) race from Endeavor (Vax) to Flax Pond. Participants can run, walk, or bike. People traveling to Flax on foot are considered part of a team (students or...

Vax to Flax 2001

The students won this year, but only because the faculty/staff team was disqualified due to lack of female participants. Technically, the average time for faculty/staff was faster. What is the Vax to Flax? Vax to Flax is the annual walk/run from MSRC, (Vax, the name...

1996 VAX To FLAX Official Results

The first official Vax to Flax was a success! The weather was cool and sunny. Bloody Mary's and bagels at the end kept the runner's motivated. The reverse course seemed to please most people-less hills and scenic Flax Pond. Student's won, but it was close (not...

Vax to Flax 1994

RacersMSRC students compete with faculty and staff in the annual five-mile Flax (Pond Laboratory) to VAX (computer facility at South Campus) race. The faculty and staff won this year's race. PicnicThe post-race picnic this spring was combined with the annual alumni...

Students Take Fourth Flax to Vax Challenge

Stony Brook, New York, April 27, 1992 Student runners were victorious for the first time in the fourth annual running of the Flax to Vax Challenge on a cool but sunny morning, Sunday. With an average time of 33 '00", the fastest-ten students outpaced the five...

There is no better example of the spirit of Vax to Flax than in the advertisements.  Below is a sample of the ads and flyers seen in previous races.

Vax to Flax competitors, unknown year.
Vax to Flax competitors, unknown year.
Vax to Flax competitors, unknown year.
Newsday Fake News

An anonymous paper published in Proceedings of the MSRC Mailroom B (Impact Factor 0.0000002) analyzed the 2001-2005 Vax to Flax results for a deeper look at the scoring method.  The paper is listed below.  The related data file is also available.

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