This Sunday we awoke to about 3 inches of snow on the ground and heavy snow falling with much more to follow. Even in a snowstorm 13 runners made there way to Brueggers for the Sunday Long Run. We reviewed the routes and the many options that could be taken along the way to tailor the distance to your willingness to endure the elements. Demi took the first option, and I’m sure there were many more that made the same decision in absentia, her run was across Main St to the Melrose YMCA for a jaunt on the treadmill. The rest of us headed out in the storm up Main St to West Wyoming.
In an attempt to keep track of people the best I could I started out at the front of the pack running with a new visitor to the Sunday Long Run, John. John is a strong runner with years of experience, a self-professed “thick Irishman” who would not give up his space along the side of the road while I kept moving from roadside to sidewalk trying to figure out where I felt safest. There was enough snow on the sidewalk to cover our shoetops, with unsure footing underneath from choppy ice from last week’s storm hidden underneath. The roadside was slushy snow, much more manageable for a runner but not so much for a car as the plows were just making there way out into the storm.
At Grimsby’s we picked up Lois who had braved the storm, driving all the way from New Hampshire, but arrived a little late. She hopped in to the pack and followed us to the Fellsway East hills. Here’s where things got interesting. John pulled ahead having the advantage of his superior speed and his Yak Trax. Brian Gilroy caught up to me as we ascended the second long hill of this stretch. Coming down the hill was an old man in a big car who thought it necessary to let out a succession of beeps to let us know that an icy road in the middle of the snow storm was no place for a runner, but apparently is the right place for an old man with an attitude. All of us were aware of him now as he passed the frint pack and stopped beeping. A second later he passed the middle pack and beeped beeped beeped a little more furiously. Then again as he passed the back of the back. The Mad Beeper had introduced himself to the Sunday Long Run group, I sure hope our new friend made his way to his very important destination.
We turned at the rotary at Highland Ave, greated the guy under his tent selling newspapers who seemed completely unphased by the weather, and headed up to water stop 1 where Rick would be waiting for us. The effects of trying to accompany John began to take its toll, and with snow accumulating on my glasses, John and Brian faded into the snowy distance even quicker. Ed pulled up next to me and as we dodged the parade of plows intent on clearing out the complete width of Highland Ave we hoped in out of snowbanks all the way to the water stop.
I stayed at the water stop to make sure all runners arrived safely and headed out to their next destination correctly. Brian and Ed left as another John and Ginny pulled in. And another John, BarryC, Christina, and Jose followed in behind them. A plow stopped in the middle of the street and asked “Can I ask you guys a question? How many of you are out here? What race is this?”, about a dozen, not a race. “Then what are you people doing out here!!!”. He laughed at us as he pulled away, which was much more pleasant than the plow driver coming the other way who made it obvious he resented us being in the streets, slowing down his progress, delaying his late morning of sitting under a bridge somewhere in his plow.
The rule of the day seemed to be that if your name was John you headed down Woodland Ave to run 7 miles for the day, otherwise you turned left on Elm to loop the backside of Spot Pond. As they headed out Suzanne, Lois and Pam pulled in. Liz pulled up to let us know she would not be running today, being on the saner side of the crazy runner line. With everyone accounted for we Suzanne, Lois, Pam and I headed down Elm St while Rick moved the water stop over to the Stone Zoo parking lot. Somewhere on Elm St a muscular guy in a cutoff t-shirt shoveled his driveway. I didn’t see him, but according to Ginny he was quite a sight. To keep warm I set off ahead of this pack up Slacker’s Hill towards the Sheepfold. I could see the footprints from the pack ahead of us and could tell I was getting closer to them as the prints became more defined. Heading over Rte 93 and through the South St parking lot of Spot Pond I could see Barry, Jose, and Christina, plus the argyle pattern of Ginny’s Yak Tracks were well defined in the snow so I knew she wasn’t much further ahead. I caught the three as we headed toward the zoo, where Ginny was already sipping Gatordade with Rick.
I let them head out ahead of me while I waited to see that the rest of the runners were coming, again with the intention of catching up to them at some point. The stretch from the zoo to the hockey rink, runners were forced out into the street. About 7 inches of snow had accumulated on the sidewalks, and although they were runnable, our wet sneakers were starting to make our feet too cold. Lois and Pam headed back down Pond St by Grimsbys for about an 8 mile run, the rest pushed forward to the hockey rink. A pack of plows cleared the opposite side of the road so I headed up there to run, where I could see the expressions on people’s faces when they spotted the crazy snow covered runner coming at them. Turning up North Border Rd Rick pulled over to offer more water. I was more concerned that he might be stuck in the snow bank than my own hydration, but all was ok. Back onto the hills of the Fellsway East where an elderly woman panicked at the sight of runners in the road and slammed on her brakes on the downhill, sending her skidding into the path ahead of the runners. Luckily she was well ahead of us and nobody was hurt. She drove about 1 MPH after that until all runners had passed her. Back past Grimsbys some chose to turn down Wyoming to bring the adventure to a slighty quicker end. Ginny, Jose, Christina, and I formed a pack of four making our way to the Melrose Middle School knoll for our last water stop. Rick was quite a trooper dealing with the snow storm to keep us hydrated. With Gatorade fueling our last mile we headed up to Main St.
Ginny and I pulled ahead on Main St, running on the side of the road. Suddenly we heard a big bang behind us. Peaking back I saw a plow heading down the street. A few seconds later I heard the big bang again, this time right over my shoulder. This is when I realized these were on purpose, a signal to us runners that we were about to get scooped up by a massive plow blade. Hopping over a large snow bank into the foot of fluffy snow on the side walk we found safety as the big plow scraped the side of the street.
Pulling into Brueggers, a snowy mess, our 12.5 miles were done. Brian came in having added extra miles on for about 16, wearing a bushy mustache seemingly made completely of ice. With frosen hair, sweaty icicles, soaked clothed and soggy sneakers, 13 of us made it through what hopefully was the messiest long run of this winter… but it is still early in the season. I told everyone they could add 10% to the distance they had run today, the degree of difficulty warranted it.