(To go directly to the Kenwood Footrace website and to register, click here) I have dozens of reasons why I like to get involved with the Empire Runner events but I have always had a special attachment to the Kenwood Footrace. Being a veteran runner of the 10K for many years, I never paid much attention to the 3K. After all real runners didn’t wimp out and run the short one, right? In 2008 after becoming race director I started paying more attention to the shorter less famed event. While many great local talents have and continue to dominate the 10K, there is no shortage of fast times for the 3K. Spectators line the streets for both events, cheering and showing their support. Flags waving and costumes abound during a big race that has managed to hold on to the small town charm, followed by a hometown parade and pancake breakfast. This is truly a special event that should be on everyone’s bucket list at least once. But beware, once you get involved its addictive! Come join us this year for another fun, family event. Race, walk, or volunteer, young or less young, we want you all. New this year for those of you veterans who remember the days of the pint glasses to the top 100. We are giving out stainless steel pint glasses to the top 100 10K finishers so don’t delay, sign up and start your training!
In this first installment of Empire Women All Stars, we chat with Julia Stamps of Santa Rosa HS, arguably one of the greatest HS XC runners in U.S. history. While there are many applicable titles for her – CA XC Champion, National Champion, Spring Lake course record holder, etc – the most fitting may be simply “Trail Lover”.
Hey Julia, thanks for taking the time to chat! There’s no question that Sonoma County has a great history of fast females, and many wonder why. Any thoughts?
We have Annadel State Park. How can you not get in shape running the trails of Annadel?! Also, we have a phenomenally supportive community. We’re not telling people not to run hard. Lots of others say don’t run hard, don’t over-train – they focus on over-training while forgetting that you need to train! I think the bar is set higher in our community in terms of what is good and what is not. Eventually the females just realized “oh wait; that’s totally attainable. So and so did it. I know her. She did that run. I did that run. I should be able to do it!”
You’ve clearly accomplished a ton during your prep career. In your mind, what are some highlights?
One is probably my freshman year when I qualified for the Junior World Cross Country Championships after I ruptured my appendix. I was facing adversity, going through not being able to run for several months, and then getting myself to qualify for the World Championships. Such an injury becomes a real pivotal point in anyone’s career, whether you’re going to give up or whether you’re going to focus on getting in shape and give it everything. And that was my first World’s experience, which was really quite entertaining Another would be Footlocker National Champs when I won my sophomore year. It was probably the strongest I’ve ever felt in my life. It just felt easy to click off the pace. Obviously it was a big moment. It was just an easy race, and really, really fun.
What would your competitors think if they heard winning a national title was easy?!
They weren’t all easy! I passed out the next 2 years in a row! Of course I gotta brag about the one that was easy. I don’t remember if I even finished or not the next two years. The tough ones make you appreciate the easy ones. My third highlight would be coming in 9th in the Junior World Championships in the 3,000m my junior year. I PR’d in the trials and then again in the finals. That was pretty exciting because at the time the U.S. wasn’t as competitive as it is now, so making finals was a big deal.
Well those are certainly some impressive highlights! To what would you attribute such success?
I love the park. I love Ananadel. It makes it easy to go out there for a 10 mile run; all those trails and beauty makes time go by fast. You have a connection between nature and yourself. I lived in Annadel growing up. If I wasn’t running I was hiking, if not hiking I was playing in streams, and if doing none of those I was bike riding. Weekends I would only come home to shower and sleep; the rest of my time was in the park. The park was my home. It’s easy when it’s fun and the park to me is fun. Also, I had phenomenal support having Danny (Aldridge) and Doug (Courtemache) as my coaches. They have a well-rounded perspective of the overall health of the athlete. Having coaches who see you as an individual and want the best for you as a person is key. That’s truly what we have in Sonoma County.
What advice would you give to all the current young runners who may be reading this?
Just love it. Love the sport. It’s a sport that if you love it then it’ll love you and you’ll have it for a lifetime. All you need is a pair of running shoes and you have the sport for the rest of your life. Love the sport and it will love you.
Julia Stamps at Santa Rosa High School: Spring Lake course record holder, former Woodward Park (state) course record holder (2nd all time as of this writing), Footlocker National champion, Three-Time State D1 champion, 3rd all time 800m, 1st all time 1,600m, 2nd all time 3,200m, Three time 3,200m state champion (2nd one), One time 1600m champion.
I have been a competitive runner for over 30 years. That in itself should signal that perhaps it is time to throw in the towel, retire, learn to cook, start a book club, anything other than race. It’s kind of like a gambling problem.
I run, it hurts and it’s slow(er). I try again: It still hurts and it’s still slow(er). Then one day I get a payoff. I have a great workout. I hit the times I used to hit and I actually feel good! So I continue and then the pattern repeats itself.
These payoffs get fewer and further between. I am almost broke (back to my gambling analogy) and ready to walk away, but then boom — payoff! Maybe not as fast as back when, but it sure feels good and I continue running with aches and pains and slower and slower; waiting and waiting for the next big payday.
I tell you this not for sympathy by any stretch, as none is deserved or needed. I tell you this because despite the clear fact that at 50 years old, I have reached and surpassed my running “Best By Date” and am learning to be OK with this fact. I am fairly new at learning to be OK with slowing down so forgive me if I act like a whiner.
I don’t want to be one of the people who talk about the “good old days” because I am still not convinced those days are 1) behind me, and 2) that they were any better than these days. The hour I spent running 10 years ago may have felt better and I could cover more ground in that hour than I can today. But that was only one hour of my day and I hope that one hour doesn’t define my entire day or represent me as a person. Sometimes I can’t help that it does, and so, as I become more accustomed to slower times, I need to work on making certain I become detached from the outcome of my runs.
That was until I turned 50. And then I was catapulted into caring again about the outcome of my runs and races. I had a whole new set of records and races to conquer. That is the beauty of cross country. I could race with my people — other old broads who can’t break the habit — and have a fighting chance of placing high.
I tell you it’s an addiction! So it was with great delight that last fall the Empire Runners put together a very strong senior women’s team to compete in the cross country season.
My training had new meaning and intensity. I was motivated to place high individually in the season and even more motivated to help our team place high. I became disciplined with my workouts and diet and for 12 weeks last summer and fall, I followed a training program featured in a running publication which was ironically designed by our biggest cross country rival, The Impalas!
The hard work paid off and I had a very successful season as did our team. I went undefeated in the cross country season, won the old gal division at the San Jose Rock n Roll half marathon, which qualified me for this year’s New York City Marathon.
I helped break the 50-plus mixed male and female record at The Valley Ford Relays and my advanced age allowed me a nice head-start on the Loop de Loop, which resulted in an overall win.
This 50 thing ain’t so bad. Sure, the Best by Date has come and gone. But that doesn’t mean you can throw me out just yet!
Hope to see you on the roads, trails and starting lines!
I hadn’t intended this to be a running destination vacation, but it was a nice reward at the end of a 2-week road trip. Hilda and I had been planning to do a driving and hiking trip to southern Utah for a while, so we blocked out our route and I began looking for interesting places to stay. I called the Desert Hills B&B in Moab after some favorable reviews on TripAdvisor to inquire about availability, and the owner asked, “are you coming for the half marathon that weekend?” I told her no, but my curiosity was piqued, so I checked out the website, found a lovely video of the start of the race down the Colorado River canyon, and I signed up. We flew to Las Vegas, rented an SUV and meandered our way 2000 miles in 15 days. We made good use of our vehicle, exploring back roads to visit slot canyons and petroglyphs, ending every day with the feeling that today had been a real adventure. As anyone who has a non-running partner knows, hiking, no matter how strenuous, is not the same as running. Although we hiked 7-10 miles a day at over 5000ft altitude, I felt that 2 weeks of that and no running was not a good idea for half marathon training. I managed to get in two 45-minute runs at Zion NP the first week, but our robust time schedule was not allowing much more. On Tuesday before the Saturday race, I had a major crisis when I struggled through an 8-mile workout in 1:22, over 10 mins per mile, which was a lot slower than my goal. After I calmed down, I realized that we were at 7500 ft. elevation, and later in the car I clocked the distance at 10 miles, which made it closer to 8:15/mile. Celebrating its 40th year, the Canyonlands Half Marathon at the end of March is the informal beginning of tourist season in Utah, coinciding with spring break. Moab was buzzing, every vehicle in town seemed to have a roof rack and/or to be towing an assortment of ATVs, Jeeps and mountain bikes. At the expo I got into a long conversation with the town’s tourism director, who moved to Moab from Benicia 35 years ago as the last uranium mines were closing. The remaining 6 families didn’t want to leave, and someone came up with the idea to promote mountain biking, and the rest, as they say, is history. Three other guests from the B&B were also running the half, and our hosts were very accommodating in having food available for us at 5:30 AM. The others were extra cautious about arrival time to the bus, over my objection, so we arrived very early to the park where we were to assemble, then boarded the first bus for the 13-mile drive up the canyon on Highway 128 to the start. The advantage of arriving so early was I had the pick of the best rock to camp out on, made more comfortable by the last minute addition of my REI inflatable camp pillow. I soon found myself in a lively discussion about Utah and its quirks, since it seemed like most people running were originally not from Utah, but many were recent non-Mormon transplants to Salt Lake City.
I had been told that this March race can often be very windy, but that was not the case today. It was still in the 40’s when we had to abandon our gear and head to the starting line, so we had a cold half hour anticipating the start and the predicted warmer morning ahead. My goal was to try to run 7:30 mile pace, so I found a 1:40 pace group and off we went. The scenery was as spectacular as advertised, red sandstone canyon following the meandering Colorado River, comfortable rolling hills, starting at 4200 ft elevation with a net drop of only 200 feet. The highway was closed to all traffic for the morning, so my 3000 friends and I had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the stunning views. Within 2 miles we were in sunshine and it warmed up quickly, so I was happy to have chosen my ER singlet, and later welcomed the road back into canyon shade. I somehow got a bit ahead of my pace group and dropped in with another pack, and was pleased to hit the 8 mile mark at exactly one hour. The only real hill on the course was at mile 9, but I handled it well, dropping off pace about 20 seconds, but still OK. After 11 miles of dramatic red canyons, the course headed south to the outskirts of Moab, and finished at the city park where we’d boarded buses hours earlier. Of course there was the usual pain, doubt, determination, pity, loathing, euphoria and self-analysis that accompanies the last stretch of a hard effort, but I was pleased with my 1:38:57 finish. I took it as a milestone finally marking the end of my one year of injury, my hip didn’t bother me and, even if it was only the 4% Utah variety, there was cold beer at the end.
I notice on your staff page on the Santa Rosa Junior College website it says your position is Chemistry Instructor & Department Chair, but your description is “Runner, singer and banjo player for The Orchid Killers.” Based on your statement it seems that your balancing your life. How does running contribute to this balance?
Running keeps me sane. It gets me outside and allows me to clear my head. When I am running a lot, it makes me feel more like myself, so I can get through all of the other things I want to do.
Does running free your mind, or do you end up thinking about your classes and chemistry problems during your runs?
I would say first, running allows me to zone out. Eventually I do come around to problem solving, but only after I’ve been out for a while. Every once in a while, I write a song while running.
What are your other reflections on running and work?
In teaching chemistry, running makes for some good analogies and examples. I teach a little bit of biochemistry, and I can offer first hand examples of glycogen depletion and hydrolysis of ATP. Running also helps teach the metric system. I would say runners (and swimmers) have an easier time converting between yards and meters.
Is the concentration required to solve chemistry problems similar to the concentration to playing the banjo? Similar or different?
At first I wanted to say it’s different, but then I realized the two have something in common. Chemistry is all about patterns. The better someone is at pattern recognition, the better they are at solving chemistry problems. Music is full of patterns, and playing the banjo (or any instrument really) is all about combining different figures together to make a pattern. Just like combining chemical substances to make something new.
You’re also a swimmer for the Santa Rosa Masters – how do you manage your time between school, the band, running, and swimming? And also being the Assistant XC coach at Montgomery High?
Work-life balance is very important to me, and I do enjoy a lot of extra-curricular activities. To answer your question – I just fit things in where I can. Running, swimming, and playing the banjo are my favorite things to do (in addition to teaching), and so I just fill up the spaces in my days with those activities. Coaching is a great way to run and teach at the same time, and there’s nothing like getting outside on a crisp afternoon in Fall, even if I have to go back to work afterwards.
The majority of Empire Runners do not swim competitively. Do you get the same sense of accomplishment from swimming as you do from running in races?
I love swimming and being in water. Truthfully, though, I am better at running, so I tend to gravitate toward running a little more. But I have been swimming with the Santa Rosa Masters and Coach Hermine Terhorst for 12 years, and I wouldn’t want to give it up. It’s great cross training, and Hermine’s philosophy involves a lot of core strength and alignment, which both make a huge difference in swimming and running.
What is your running philosophy?
I’m not sure if I have ever written down or explicitly thought about my running philosophy. I would say it’s something like “run with a smile on your face;” although, after looking at pictures of myself running, I realize that smile might sometimes be in my mind. Also, for me, running is a great way to see the world. Compared to walking and hiking you can see more in a shorter amount of time, and feel like you’re flying while you do it.
Backyard chickens – really?
I love having chickens! They make great pets, they eat all of your weeds and garden pests, and they turn them into delicious eggs. Chickens are also very entertaining. Sometimes we just go outside in the late afternoon and watch them scratch around.
What’s your favorite Bikram Yoga pose?
Triangle, I think. It’s one of the hard ones, but it is great for stretching out tight hips.
March 29, 2015
In 1993, fifteen self-proclaimed idiots doubled the trouble of the Annadel Loop course to complete the first annual Loop de Loop – you’ve got to be kidding trail race. This was originally intended to be a one-and-done mental health stress test, but so much fun was had not having fun that the event has gone on and on, over and over, year after year, ad nauseam. Famous people ran that first Loop de Loop, among them Doc, Mojo, Coach, Mad Dog, Iguanadon, Legendary Darryl, 409, and Dale the Last Man Standing Peterson (21 Loop de Loops and going strong). Rumor has it the first Loop de Loop was timed with a sun dial. For years the event was orchestrated by Doc’n’Mojo Productions. Despite a decline in the quality of management, the race continues to thrive.
The Loop de Loop offers handicap head starts based on a complex algorithm factoring age, gender, and contributions to the race directors’ retirement funds. Older people deserve every break they can get, including discounts at IHOP and movie theaters and powerful lobbyists persuading Congress not to waste money investing in the future. We get tired of younger, faster runners showing us up, so we concoct events such as the Loop de Loop to put youth in its place.
Cathy DuBay was smart enough in 1993 to steer clear of the Loop de Loop, but with age comes dementia tinged with desperation. Cathy, now age 50, showed up for this year’s 23rd annual Loop de Loop and absolutely kicked butt, running negative splits, finishing well over 2 minutes ahead of second-place Kate Papdopoulus (36), and leaving Downtown Kenny Brown (45, third, first male), Deanna Rossini (49, fourth), Adam Wolf (37, fifth), and everybody else…in the dust.
Without handicap starts, the results would have been different, but who cares? Well, some people might, so here are some stats: Fastest actual running time, Adam Wolf, 37, 1:40:35. Fastest female: Kate Papadopoulos, 36, 1:53:13. Youngest male: Julian Heaps, 18. Youngest female: Addie Salomon, 24. Oldest female: Diana Teeter, 61. Oldest male: Hans Schmid, 75. For times, check the 2 x 7-Mile Relay Results, and the 14-miler Results.
The 2 x 7 Relay
Last year, Bradford Bryon’s teammate naively assumed the course would be well-marked, missed a turn, and spoiled what might have been a team victory. This year, Bryon’s new teammate, Don Lindsey, inexplicably stayed on course and helped provide team “Starsky & Hutch” a well-deserved victory. Second place, weighing in collectively at 168 pounds with a combined age of 23, was team “168 Pounds,” starring Sarah and Job Skandera. Third was “StarBobas,” Ashlee and John Staroba.
Factoring out handicaps, the fastest team was “Smooth and Relaxed,” featuring Hugo Yescas, 36, and Andy Howard, 54. Sarah Skandera, age 11, was the youngest relay runner overall. Her brother, Nehemiah, running on team “Big Bear, Little Bear” with yet another brother, Abraham, was the youngest male runner. Nehemiah is 12. The oldest team, comprised of the oldest male and oldest female relay runners, was team “Notorious Grey Wolf” (Tori Meredith and Kevin Teuscher, 120 years).
The weather this year was miserably dry and sunny. Peter Tapia, the EMT, was delighted to have something to do, administering to at least 3 banged up bodies.
Co-directors Al Tagliaferri and Jerry Lyman threaten major changes next year.
Many thanks to our numerous club volunteers, the JC XC team, and Camelbak and Heart & Sole Sports for assorted swag.
Is there a better way to spend a summer evening? Outdoors, with your kids, getting in some exercise and soaking up the excitement of a race environment? We look forward to Summer Track Series every year.
My favorite part of track night is watching the kids line up. Their tiny bodies bump and jostle as Tori Meredith warmly sorts them into heats. The littlest ones first, some still mastering walking. Then the preschoolers. “Are you 4 or 5?” they ask each other before swapping positions. The 6-year-olds know the drill by now, and the 7-year-olds stand, casually stretching. Behind them are the bigger kids, the high-school track stars, the college-level athletes, the adult running fanatics, and the casual participants.
This is how our kids fall in love with running. By being a part of a running community.
My son George first started running the summer track series in the summer of 2013 when he was 3 ½. He ran the 100m smiling all the way. In the 200m, he learned how to stay in a lane. In the 400m, he discovered what it was to be winded. In the 800m, he walked a lot. But being a part of a running community means that you are judged based on your attitude, not on your times.
After George had run a few individual races, a group of three Montgomery high school kids approached him and asked if he’d be available to anchor their 4 x 400m relay team. George didn’t know what a relay team was, but he was definitely game. They walked him through the event and showed him how to hold a baton. And when it was his turn to run, they ran right alongside him the whole way, cheering him on even as he was being passed by all the other teams. As he crossed the finish line, the entire crowd applauded him.
That’s some community.
For the past several years, I have had to endure incessant and sometimes interminable stories of the famed Carlsbad 5000 by several fellow Empire club members – Bryon Porter, Brad Zanetti, Val Sel. Even the champions of few words, Larry Meredith and Dale Peterson, had something to say about it. Zen gardens, beer, beautiful weather, the Ocean, beer, the Elite runners. Did I mention beer?
I had registered for it last year at their behest, but was unable to go. ER sent its largest contingent in 2014. Stories abound. I feared I had missed something epic, much like the Boston experience when Larry turned 50 and dragged half the county to the shores of the East Coast before it was too late. It was with this in mind that I registered again in December, still not knowing if I would again be thwarted by something else more requisite of my presence. But this year is different, as I have since retired from full time work and have a bit more command of my waking hours – although one would be hard-pressed to observe such. At first, it appeared we might have an equally large contingent. But slowly the proverbial wheels came off. Val came down with injury so debilitating she could not run if she hoped to recover. This took her and her happy band of Dave and McKenna out. Dale passed this year for reasons I now forget. He had run the 25K version of Carlsbad – doing the 5K all day (5X) is a survivor’s trophy. But now he was out. Finally Doug Murdoch dropped for a work conflict (I think) – something I am sympathetic to but no longer threatened by.
Jill and I flew down on the preceding Friday – with Brad, Bev (Zanetti) and Larry. Bryan was already there. Jill and I took in the zoo, then dinner at a little place we found years ago while the others trundled off to Carlsbad to seek out hop-infested lair. Saturday was a low-key day. I got up early and drove to the course start to run a preview. I was glad I did – despite what little good it did. While flat, there are a couple of upgrades which take your legs out – as proved Sunday. We picked up my numbers, visited an aunt and joined all the rest for dinner. After dinner, I dragged (with little resistance) Larry, Brad and Bev to a gelato place. While standing in line, a young gal struck up a conversation with us. She was in town from Boulder for the race. Larry probed further. Come to find out she was quite a talent – wanted to break 17:00 and has trained with Collen De Reuck. We asked her to join us. More on her later.
The next day, I found myself standing at the starting line….in front. To my left was none other than Bernard Lagat. Bernard and I go way back. Bernard went to WSU. I went to WSU. Bernard runs. I run. Similarities fade at this point. We did meet at the Olympic Trials in 2012. Celebrating Kim Conley’s amazing 5000m qualification at a Eugene restaurant, a herd of us from Santa Rosa sat at our table digesting dinner and recounting for the umpteenth time Kim’s call to glory. In walks said Mr. Lagat with his wife and two kids in tow. We all stood to applaud. Several of us went up to him to congratulate him, snap a few gratuitous photos, etc. I mentioned I went to Wazzu. We did a secret handshake, he promised me he’d give me his gold medal and then he ushered himself and family to his table. It was a groupie moment.
So here at Carlsbad you can imagine my surprise at seeing him standing there…with me. “What are you doing here?” he asked me. “Well I’m racing, of course. Why?” I replied. “Well, you’re in the wrong race. This is the Elite race.” This is where I awoke in a drenching sweat. It was 1 am. I could only take this as a bad omen.
On the real Race Day morning at 6 am, Larry, Bryan and I piled in with Brad and headed to a secret parking spot. Jill and Bev took a more leisurely approach and left 15 minutes later. It was cool with little or no wind – perfect weather. I had been training with hopes of pushing 20 minutes. A race two weeks earlier had sobered me, but my training had gone well. Nevertheless, I was resolved not to go out too fast. My warmup went well. Caleb and Daniel Skandera spotted me and wished me well. Daniel was there to run his age group (he ran an amazing 19:25, as is told in a related story). At the starting line, I wished Bryan, Larry and Brad “Good Luck” and found what I thought was a good place. It was 7 am.
This is truly a wonderful experience, wonderful course, beautiful scenery – with the ocean and great weather. Besides what happened, it was awesome.
The first half-mile includes a little upgrade. I felt pushed as we approached the Mile mark – 6:37. Gad! I was already blowing it. As we approach a turn around, I could see Bryan about 20 seconds ahead. I never did see Brad (he was just slightly ahead of Bryan). Larry was a little behind me – still recovering from being out with injury. I leaned into the slight upgrade of the second mile before its slight downhill. I thought I was doing better, but timepieces don’t lie – I was not. A hearty yell from Bev and Jill spurred me on, but to no avail. With less than a mile to go, I faced what Brad had called “this nasty little uphill.” It took my legs out. My goals never made their way out of my mind. The final 300m is slightly downhill. I managed to hold my place, but couldn’t push ahead of anyone in front of me. I finished in 20:53 – well off my goal, but slightly better than my race the two week earlier – wait till next year. Brad finished in 20:28 with Bryan just 2 seconds back. Larry came in behind me.
We went back to the hotel to get cleaned up and have breakfast. Larry and Bryan stayed to save a place at the beer pen (finishers get a finishing medal and two free beers). When we came back for the beers and to see the elite race, whom did we see but the gal we met the night before at the gelato shop. Kristen Johansen had just won the Women’s Open race (not the Elite one). Her time was 17:08. We congratulated her and took some photos. What a treat to have met her the night before and here she was the winner.
When we made our way over to the beer pen, Larry was there as promised. We finagled our way through the lines and finally celebrated our race in style – with an IPA. As we enjoyed the live band and the sun and the beer, who comes by, but Kristen again. OK, she must have been stalking us. But now Larry could talk to her about her race too. We spent the rest of our time waiting for the Elite races near noon by drinking more beer and watching Larry dance to rock’n’roll. I feel a book – There Will Be Beer.
It was time to get serious and find a key spot to watch the Elite Women’s and Men’s races. The others were the experts. Jill and I just tried to keep up. The course we ran is goes out from one street to the ocean-loop once along the ocean promenade-then finishes on another street. The Elite race starts and finishes on the same spot and loops shorter but twice so everyone gets to see the runners-up to 4 times. It very close watching – a lot like what you see in the Tour de France on the hill climbs. They do a great job of course management. Everyone is cheerful, helpful and makes it fun and safe. I’ve not seen a lot of elite racing up so close. It’s worth that experience alone. You watch the trailing men and women in these races stumble and sputter far behind the leaders only realizing their running at phenomenal speeds.
The women’s race was a three women contest, but quickly turned into the Genzebe Dibaba show. Her pursuit of a WR fell short by 2 seconds – 14:48. Deena Kastor, now 40, missed the Master’s WR by 17 seconds, finishing in 16:08.
The Men’s race was just as exciting. Lawi Lelang managed 1st in 13:32 – slow by Elite standards. Bernard Lagat missed his goal of a Master’s WR coming through in 13:41 (3rd). The WR is 13:24. But his time was nearly a minute off the course master’s record. If he had let me stay in my dream a little longer, perhaps I could have paced him to the WR.
This was a blast to run, to see, and mostly to enjoy with this group. Maybe we can assemble a larger group for next year. I highly recommend it. It’s not too early to mark your calendars – Sunday, April 3, 2016.
It was 8:00 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning near the corner of Parktrail Drive and Summerfield Road. Only when familiar faces abandoned their car heaters to join the growing huddle of runners and greet each other was I reminded of why I pulled myself out of bed on a weekend morning. Not long after we were off running, onto the fire road, over the bridge by the owls’ trees, up Canyon and then off into the Annadel Hills near Lake Ilsanjo. Tony Passantino, Brad Zanetti, Frank Cuneo and I found ourselves running with each other for much of the time and let our conversation gravitate towards the exciting adventures we’ve had – or plan on having in far off places like Spain or the remote wilderness of the Sierra Nevada – specifically the Camino de Santiago and the John Muir Trail. Maybe it was the sense of possibility that comes along with sharing hopes and dreams with others or maybe because it was Easter, but that morning reinvigorated my zest for life. I think my running mates would have agreed. After eight miles we found ourselves back at our cars well-excercised but with smiles on our faces. Before parting ways, however, Frank produced a loaf of Portuguese Sweet Bread from his car for us to share, a childhood treat of mine. It was the perfect way to sweeten an already wonderful morning and remind us of the joys of breaking bread with companions.
Nineteen-eighty, a time in running when scratching a line on the road would draw a hundred people just to see why the line was there. Then the race would begin. In the mid-70’s, a local event might be $8.00 and include a t-shirt, many of which adorn t-shirt quilts today. Empire Runner water stops often were card tables with cups and a jug of water or two of water, sometimes self-serve. Qualifying for Boston was 2:50 for men under 40, 3:00 for 40 and over and for all women.
In 1980, there were 5,417 entrants (’95 – 9,416, ’14 – 35,755). For this year, the event was capped at 30,000 including 6,000 non-qualified runners. Nineteen-Eighty was perfect for Spring Break but not for running a long way down the road. Since the run traditionally started at noon, with the boom of a cannon in Hopkinson, the sun was already high in the cloudless sky and held no promise of a cooperating temperature. One aid station was a single National Guard soldier, a couple of tables and a ‘water buffalo’ truck with its three inch spigot for filling cups. Offers of water and orange slices may have been festive for the spectators to offer but were life savers to the runners.
About ten miles into the race, I bonked. Passing too many aid stations, due to crowding and being too confident from the start, did me in, and I still had a way to go. Most of the journey was just a slog without any key memories other than seeing the Pru in the distance (with it seeming to stay in the distance) and then a couple of turns to the finish. My wife collected me at the finish and escorted (dragged) me to the hotel room of Ken and Shirley Howe where I spent many minutes hugging the toilet bowl feeling the effects of dehydration and exhaustion. Welcome to the finish line! Rosie Ruiz had finished almost an hour before me and was not even winded!
In 1980 I was 35. Thirty-five years later I am running the Boston Marathon for the second time. Same course but a whole different world and event. Qualifying times exist in five year groups from age 18 to ‘over 80’. Qualifying times run from 3:05 to 5:25 for the fastest male division to the oldest female division. There is a ‘rolling’ registration period in which faster qualifying times can ultimately bump slower times. A significant number of non-qualified registrations can be awarded to runners who do fund raising for specific charities. (In the New York Marathon, the charitable donation is $2,620!)
The BAA (Boston Athletic Associate) is in nearly constant contact with entrants with everything from training tips to travel plans and security requirements. (The bombing in 2013 certainly changed event planning!) Along with everyone else, I have received an event passport with maps, time tables and do’s and don’t’s. Also a 22 page official program booklet and an official merchandise catalog. Big events must be very expensive to produce because sponsorship logos adorn every page.
Online comments about this year’s event have been interesting to follow. Boston, along with New York and Chicago, seem to be the ‘big three’ of American marathons with lots of people wanting to collect all three. With run-walking becoming more and more popular, entry fields have swelled. “Getting in” has become a huge challenge. Lotteries, fund-raising, qualifying times and awareness of opening of registration have to be part of one’s master plan.
Is Boston still the premier marathon event with its history and qualifying standards? Or is it merely a marathon that is run in the Boston area? Opinions abound. The 1970 standard was 4:00 hours, men only. 1971, 3:30, men only and a faster qualifying time to keep the run at 1000 entrants – “A good size to keep the course from becoming too congested.” – per a race organizer. 1972, first time women could be official entrants, but everyone qualified with a 3:30 time. 1980, most stringent qualifying time but additional age groups were added for men and women. 1990 through 2012, 3:10 qualifying time but 18 age groups with increasing times. 2013 to present, 3:05 with 22 age groups.
It will still be an exciting event from the expo to visiting friends to trying new restaurants to getting to the starting line and, with dignity, to the finish. Once the run begins, I won’t know age groups from ox carts or qualifiers from non-qualifiers. We’ll run to do our best. With my now-established pattern of attendance, I need to plan for 2050, Boston Marathon #154. I’ll be 105 years old, but the qualifying time should be slower than it is this year.
I arrived in Boston about a week before Patriot’s Day. Those days are a story for another day.
On the day of the big event, we were up at 5:15 for a drive from Lee, NH to Hopkinton. The weather forecasts were increasingly grim. Rain, heavy at times, strong winds pretty much all day from Hopkinton to Boston. During the drive, we had heavy weather, lots of rain falling and lots of water being thrown up by the cars and trucks on the road.
The arrival in Hopkinton was easy with volunteers and police officers ready and able to give directions. I was dropped off about two hours before my wave was to move to the start line. (My wife, Sandi and good friend, Bill Bryon, then drove to a train station for their ride to Boston. We would take the train back to New Hampshire later in the day.) I got in line for a shuttle into town. With no bags to check, I was ushered to the front of the line and immediately got on a school bus for the 10 minute ride to the Athletes’ Village.
My outfit for the day, from the outside in, was a Goodwill purchase ‘Portsmouth LaCrosse’ team pull-over and a pair of jeans ($12), long sleeve pull-over, t-shirt, long sleeve pull-over, tights, shorts, hat, gloves, shoes and wool socks. My plan was to shed as the day proceeded. Except for the gloves, I kept my attire for the entire run. Well, actually not the Goodwill outfit. That was deposited in one of the many collection bags. Maybe I can find it again next year!
The Athletes’ Village was the enclosed area of the high school sports fields. Again, there was easy entry, passing smiling security guards and on to a big open field. A light and scattered rain was falling. One side of the gym was lined with runners sitting against the wall; others were walking around, but most were under three large open tents huddled against the wind and rain.
Organization of the Village was superb – many potties rimming the edge of the field, jumbo-tron screen with race information, loud and clear PA system with an announcer who kept us informed without over-using the mic. Food and drink galore – coffee, Gatorade, water, bagels, bananas, Clif Bars, Shot Blocks, and gels in never-ending quantities. The area was fairly litter-free, but it will always bother me that some people simply leave things behind rather than walk a few paces to one of the many obvious trash cans.
Easy conversation with fellow runners, especially under the tent where crowding encouraged chatting, always initially about the current weather and what might come. I talked with runners from Canada, Cincinnati, Ventura, New York and Finland. Some were first timers, others repeat offenders. There are fifteen or twenty ‘streakers’ – those who have run 25 or more consecutive Boston Marathons!
I lined up for a pre-race potty stop, perhaps 20 people in line, thinking I had plenty of time before the village exit. I measured my progress against two ladies who had started in the line next to mine. They arrived at their potty door two people ahead of me. Someone else’s line always moves more quickly! A rule of nature. I deposited my outer clothing for its trip back to Goodwill and followed my wave of 7000 down the hill to the start.
All along the .7 mile walk we were greeted by volunteers collecting discardable clothing. The local ‘clothes banks’ did very well by the Boston Marathon. Police in various uniforms were ever present. Neighbors on their porches waved and cheered us on. All this and we had not even run a step!
Once onto the main street (I guess it was the main street because with the crowd, I could not see above the shoulders of those around me!), we were ushered to our starting group by numbers held on long sticks. Everyone was calm and cheerful with no pushing or squirming forward to get an advantage. Gees, it’s a marathon, there’s no need get an extra foot or two! A light rain was falling.
My group was still a block or so from the actual start and we moved forward as those ahead of us were sent on their way. We managed a walking start as our starting gun sounded. At this point, about 14,000 runners were already on the road. Since the road slopes down and is fairly straight, all we could see were bobbing shuffling heads. And that was the view for many miles to come.
Many Hopkinton residents sent us on our way with hearty cheers and the knowledge that their day was just about over and they could return to the daily life of a small New England town. Probably within another half hour, the last runner would be on his way and the clean-up and tear-down could begin.
The course is really pretty easy and in the early Spring not yet very colorful. But the crowds and history of the event make up for any deficiencies. The weather may have reduced the number of spectators a bit but is still pretty exciting to be cheered on and on and on. For a bit I felt like a well-known local. Many people shouted encouragement to “Mike”. A tall man passed me a little later with his name, Mike, plastered on the front of his shirt. My rooting section quickly evaporated.
With my GPS watch coaching my pace, I settled into race mode and was very consistent for many miles. I walked through most aid stations and pleased with how my layering was keeping me comfortable. Oh, the litter of clothing – caps, gloves, shirts, pants! Hopefully no one discarded items too soon.
My training for the marathon was lacking in long runs. One 16 miler, several 12 to 14 and a lot of 7 to 10’s. Alternating hamstring and Achilles problems put me behind the typical schedule. My plan (hope) was to run a conservative race and finish in no more than four hours. The plan worked well for 21 miles and then my pace began to slow as I looked forward more and more to the next aid station where I could take a walking break. Toward the end I took out my camera to take some pics but really more to do some walking. But I crossed the finished line with what looked like a running step and only 2 minutes off my 4 hours.
The finish line was another example of fabulous organization with dozens of volunteers directing runners to food, drink, wheel chairs and meeting places. We were wrapped in hooded ‘heat retention cape’s, given wonderful finishers’ medals, treated to food and drink, and congratulated for our effort. I was content to know I had warm clothes and friends close at hand.
Sandi and Bill and my nephew, Cole, who goes to school in Boston, texted me as to where to go – a short walk to a lunch counter diner with a view of the finish line. After changing into clean dry clothes, I settled in to recount my exploits.
Later we walked a short distance to a commuter train station for the beginning of our trip back to New Hampshire. Next, a wait in an Amtrack station allowed me to fill up donut holes before the hour ride back to our car and the final leg of our trip home. Actually, we stopped at a terrific pizzeria for a couple of slices and pints. And then we went home.
Two days later our trip wound down as we were dropped off at Logan Airport. It was fun to see all the marathon shirts and jackets in the terminal. All runners greeted each other with congratulations and comments about the weather and the course. Everyone was in great spirits and convinced they would return next year.
Maybe a new set of ‘streakers’ has been formed.