For all the weather hurdles mother nature has thrown our way this winter, she really treated us to a glorious day for a 20 miler.Â Starting out at 8:15 the clouds were cleared from overnight rain, the streets were damp but manageable, the sidewalks clear of snow for the most part, and the temperatures hovered in the mid 40s.Â Runner’s, 23 in all, were raring to get out their in their tights or shorts, long sleeves, maybe a jacket, and hit the road for today’s test, six sections of 3 to 4 miles each with a decent hill or two in just about each of them.
Section 1: Main St to West Wyoming, stretching out the legs, feeling out the run, heading to the first hill of the day, a short but sweet scamper from the LynnFells Parkway up to Spot Pond. Following the road past the Stone Zoo, past Friendly’s and over to water stop 1 at Forest St at the overpass of I93 where Rick, Liz and I awaited. JohnM and JohnK were first to come in followed by Joe. Judi passed by with a big smile and wave and then the masses rolled in: Brian, Ed, Carol, Jen, Don, Ginny, Nick, Christina, Jose, Erin, Demi, Lois, Nancy, Pam, and Matt… each getting a plastic cup and a Sharpie to mark for reuse when weÂ returned there later in the day.
Section 2: Refueled the group headed out again, with Liz and I joining in. Down Forest St and onto Highland Ave in Winchester where several hills lay waiting for us. Lois and I stuck together chatting through the rollercoaster hills, keeping Jen and Don nearby and Ginny and Nick in sight up ahead. At that point my plan for the day was hatched, run with Lois until I had a mile left, then sprint to catch Nick and Ginny. Water stop 2 had a big crowd congrating with Lauren and Barry serving as hosts. The crowd was so big we infuriated a Comcast service van driver for drifting too far out into the street. Oh well, he’ll get over it.
Section 3: Nick and Ginny had a pretty good head start this time, and with a bunch of people taking advantage of the restrooms at the Dunkin Donuts along the trip it was just Lois and I running along the Mystic Lakes. The weather was warming up but a wind whipped up as we turned onto Mystic Valley Parkway, running along a pathway and crossing over by a track we knew Nancy’s car was coming soon but the trees obscured the view delaying the joy of our upcoming break until we spotted Ginny and Nick finishing up theirs.
Section 4: Lois admitted our run at my pace was tiring her legs but she forged on like a trooper. Down Washington Street we could see Ginny on the sidewalk and Nick in the street and I sized up their lead, calculating a sprint up Forest St and I could catch them. As we made the turn I told Lois “No lollygagging!” and off I went in pursuit of the runners ahead. With the warm temps and the melting snow my sprint went through puddles and I could feel the cold wet spraying on my calves and hamstings. If I were running alone I would never do this, but with Nick and Ginny growing bigger with each step I knew I was running well. With breath heaving and wheezing, across the Highland Ave intersection and climping up the steep hill I approached with words of encouragement to follow me up the hill. “Aw, he’s stopping at his car!” was Nick’s reply, which was true until he said it. I took it as a challenge that this would not be my last water stop of the day.
What a water stop it was though. Rick had hung all our Gatorade cups out to dry in the sun like the day’s laundry. With a lot of time on his hands as he waited for our return they were even lined up alphabetically for easy access. Ginny’s was prepacked with a Hammergel to remind her to eat during her run. And for the record Lois didn’t lollygag, she came blasting up the hill right behind us.
Section 5: Back over to Friendly’s, where more runners also visited the fine restrooms, we turned right onto Main St in Stoneham (the third Main St of the day) and rolled through the hills on the backside of the pond. I believe this spot was noteworthy for many, for the first time in a 2009 Sunday Long Run runners stripped off that outer layer and ran in short sleeves! Spring had arrived, probably just temporarily but it was here!!! On the last downhill approaching the turn onto Elm I picked up the pace in my second pursuit of Nick and Ginny on the day. To my surprise, and maybe she didn’t notice it, Lois picked it up to and stuck with me as we approached the corner… then smartened up and ran her own race up the hill. I caught Nick, sore knee and all, then Ginny, sore stomach and all. Ok, on a good day they probably wouldn’t have allowed me to do that twice in a run but that’s all I got.
Section 6: I stopped at Lois’ car, 13.5 good miles under my belt. Lois stopped too, 16.5 under hers. We sent Nick and Ginny off to finish their 20, although Nick returned shortly with worries about his balky knee. Evidence of Joe, Judi, Brian, Ed, and Carol’s visits sat in Lois’ car in the form of a stack of plastic cups. A short time later Lauren and Barry passed by on their way to finish 14 miles. Jose, Christina, Demi, Jen and Don stopped in good spirits before tackling the last of their 20 miles. Nancy finished up with us, also completing 16.5. From there we drove back to Brueggers passing the crew as the impressively tackled some tough hills late in the game, good practice for what Boston has in store.
It was good to see the strength and stamina in the faces and strides of each runner today. Despite some physical challenges that make this tough (nobody said training is easy) mentally everyone looked determined to tackle the challenge they put before themselves. Inspiring! Impressive!
( Section 7: I took my son James out for 3 more miles this afternoon. I just couldn’t help but get a little more out of this beautiful day)