It’s not too late to register for Saturday morning’s (9 a.m.) start of the classic John and Jessie Kelley/Ocean Beach Road Race. That’s one of the many wonderful things about this FREE race; you can register race day morning on site. Click here for more details.
Don't miss the last two (Aug. 9 & 16), also-free Tuesday evening fun runs at the Dog Watch Cafe in Stonington. Run a fun 5K, have a beer on the dock, then head to the new Dog Watch BBQ in Mystic for a casual outdoor meal. (That's what I often do.)
On August 23, you can run the same course from a different start/finish, and get an official time and place in The Battle of Stonington 5K. For more details, click here.
It's not to soon to find a partner for the Sept. 24 Two For The Road 10k Relay. The former Mixed Doubles 10k Relay has morphed into a slightly different format to make it easier for runners to enjoy this unique, fun-filled event. (The first runner on your team runs 5K, and then “hands” off to the second runner, who also runs 5K.). Now you can run with anyone, your own gender or not. Divisions include: Married, Open, Siblings, and Parent-Child. Each division also includes Mixed (Male-Female), Male-Male, and Female-Female categories, as well as age groups. "Pick a partner. Young or old. Male or female. It's all good." For more details, click here.
Here are some other area fun runs, in addition to Dog Watch, Tuesdays.
Wed: Billy Wilson’s, Norwich, year round; Tom McCoy, Misquamicut, through Aug. 24; Black Sheep, Niantic, https://www.facebook.com/nianticfunrun/
Thurs: Sneekers, Groton, year round; Norwich Rec Runs, through end of August
A quick note about several upcoming 5Ks in Mystic. You can still enter this Saturday morning's Hare Hop 5K, organized by Kelley's Pace in Olde Mistick Village.
Just show up on site by 7am for the 8am start. The course is a USATF certified 5K. For more info, call Kelley's Pace at 860 536 8175.
Two weeks later, it's time for the second annual Mystic Irish 5K, presented by the Town of Groton Rec Dept. The flat, fast course runs along River Road in Mystic. It's basically a shorter version of the Tarzan Brown course, with the turnaround just north of the Interstate 95 overpass.
The Mystic Irish 5K begins at 10am on Saturday morning, March 19, on Pearl Street near downtown Mystic. Online registration is still available here, The Rec Dept always accepts day of registration entries as well. Just be sure to arrive by 9am for race-day registration.
The biggest group by far was the 35-40 participants running in honor of Billy Craig, once a Mystic resident and sister to long-time Mystic runner Diane Craig. It was hard to miss the group, which sported both matching blue t-shirts (“Will Run For Beer,” after a ratty old shirt Billy often enjoyed wearing, according to Diane) and their impressive age-range, from youngsters to the senior set.
Craig died last June, at just 54, victim to a fast-spreading lung cancer. Six months before that, with no hint of any disease, he participated in the Jan. 1, 2015, run-swim, as he often did. “He wasn’t a serious runner, just a fun-loving guy who liked to laugh and live,” Diane remembers. “He was so easy to be around. He made everyone relax and hang loose. We knew we wanted to remember him on New Year’s day, and all his friends and family rallied around.”
Local running maestro Jim Roy went to Fitch High with Billy, was one of his closest friends, and flew to Florida to care for him last spring. “I was friends with Billy Craig for 42 years,” says Roy. “Billy was a social runner who had a magnetic personality. He never missed an opportunity to have fun!”
January 1 is a good day to mark the milestones--highs and lows--of the previous year, whether we do so quietly, or with a brew and a screaming plunge into icy waters. Life is big enough--and yet paradoxically often too short--to allow for all approaches.--by Amby Burfoot
Happy New Year to all! Below--a few upcoming events.
The annual Jan. 1 run and swim begins at noon Jan. 1 at the Kelley Statue in downtown Mystic, next to Mystic Pizza. Runners will run (and walk) very slowly to Esker Point Beach, pausing every mile or so to reunite the throng. Costumes and noisemakers (and good behavior) encouraged.
No mess, no registration, no fees, just fun. Swimming not required. (But, hey, the water is warm this year. Why not enjoy a dip?)
As warm as the weather has been, it still ain’t summer, and there’s no Tuesday evening Dog Watch run through Stonington Borough. However, there is an every-Tuesday-evening run in Mystic, from the Harp & Hound. A casual group called TRALP (The Running And Libation Professionals) leaves H & H about 5:30 pm, runs up River Road for 15 to 25 minutes (set your own distance and pace), turns around, and then regroups at 6:15 at H & H for a libation or two.
Kelley’s Pace is sponsoring two races in the next two plus months. The Frostbite Five Mile on Jan. 9 and the Hare Hop 5K on March 5. The New London Day carried a nice article, here. More info at KelleysPaceMystic.com
Runners who complete both of these Kelley's Pace races, plus the annual first-Saturday-in-August Ocean Beach/ Kelley 11.6-miler, will receive a special medal honoring their accomplishment.
The second annual Mystic Irish 5K Road Race, sponsored by Groton Rec, takes place in downtown Mystic on Saturday, March 19--the day before the well-known Mystic St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Register here.
The Mystic Half Marathon is sure to be the hottest ticket in town again this year, so don't waste time. Enter now, train later. Race date this year is May 15. Registration here.
Have a safe and run-filled year. See you on the roads.
A year or two ago, I suggested to the Manchester Road Race committee that they adopt a wonderful race-number tradition used by the famous Comrades Marathon in South Africa. At Comrades runners get a specially-colored number after they have completed 10 Comrades, then a new color at 20, another at 25, and so on.
This tradition honors a race's most valuable participants--the ones who keep returning each year. It also motivates other runners to stick with it so they might become members of the "club" at some point.
Best of all, it emphasizes distance running's most important ethic--that we stick with it. We're not one-hit wonders; we keep on keeping on. Even as we get older and slower. Right?
Much to my surprise, I learned several days that Manchester has actually begun a "Perennial Performer" program this year. Those of us who have run 50 or more Manchesters (men) or 40 (women) have received special red-white-and-blue race numbers.
Believe me, these numbers are going to be treasured mementos for those of us lucky (and tough, obstinate, crazy, obsessed) enough to receive them. I have kept only one or two of my prior Manchester numbers, but I'll be saving all of my tri-color numbers, you can be sure of that.
Here's a Manchester Road Race web page where you can read more about the Perennial Performers. I like to call us The 50/40 Club. I hope you'll set your sights on joining us. We'd love to have more company.
Here's a simple list of current 50/40 Club members. You don't need to have a streak. After all, champions have bad races/bad years, but don't let that stop them. They get back in the game again as soon as they can. Perfection is the enemy. Better to aim for pig-headed determination.
* Charley Dyson, 59 finishes, (No longer competing but let's hope the new number brings him back.)
* Charlie Robbins, 56, deceased: 2006 (Doc's daughter Barrie has 30+ Manchester finishes.)
* Amby Burfoot, 52
* John Salcius, 52,
* Dennis McCormack, 50
* Beth Shluger, 41
* Janit Roymako, 41
* Cindi Dykstra, 41
* Linda Beizer, 40
On Sunday afternoon, the Tarzan Brown 5.5 Mile Road Race will celebrate its 40th out-and-back running on Mystic’s scenic River Road. You’ll find the full list of 39 male and female winners at the bottom of this post. (Thanks to Bill Billing for his invaluable research assistance.)
The first Tarzan Brown race was held on November 7, 1976, just two weeks after the most important race in the history of running--the inaugural 5-boro New York City Marathon, which helped launch a world wide running boom. TB race creator Mark DeGange, a local running aficionado, thought the area should have a local race to commemorate the memory of two-time Boston Marathon (1936 & 1939) winner Ellison “Tarzan” Brown.
Brown, a member of the Narragansett indian tribe, lived in Charleston, RI, just outside Westerly, and ran for the U.S. in the 1936 Olympic Marathon in Berlin. He’s also possibly the only runner ever to have won organized marathons on successive days. In 1936, Brown won the Port Chester NY Marathon in 2:36:58 on Saturday, Oct. 11. The next day he broke the tape at the Boscawen-Concord-Manchester NH Marathon in 2:45:52.
Finally, Brown played a role in the naming of the Boston Marathon’s infamous “Heartbreak Hill.” In the 1936 Boston, John A. Kelley (not to be confused with our local John J. Kelley) chased Brown for many miles before finally catching him on Heartbreak Hill. Kelley had won the previous year, and now appeared certain of a repeat victory. However, Brown refused to falter, repassing Kelley several times and beating him to the finish. Famous Boston Globe marathon writer, Jerry Nason, described the loss as “breaking Kelley’s heart.”
The first Tarzan Brown race included three Boston Marathon winners among its runners--John A. Kelley, John J. Kelley, and Amby Burfoot. “Old John,” 69, ran 37:07 for first place in the 60+ division. “Young John,” 45, finished in 29:16 to win the 40+ division. Burfoot, 30, finished six seconds behind Wayne Jacob’s winning effort.
Another Boston winner, Les Pawson, served as the official race starter, and Brown’s widow, Ethel, watched from the sidelines. Brown was killed when struck by a vehicle outside a Westerly bar in August, 1975.
Jacob would go on to win eight more TB titles over an impressive 21 years. Carla Dossett Thompson and Marie McMahon Davenport share the lead for most women’s wins with five apiece.
The first Tarzan Brown race had 166 finishers. The race reached a pinnacle of 1400+ entrants and 1186 finishers in 1994, just after it was featured in a Runner’s World magazine story by local runner-writer Steve Fagin. In recent years, the event has held steady at about 500-600 runners.
The original 5.5-mile* course, including a short trail loop in Old Mystic, remained the same for the first 35 years or so. The last handful of years, due to flooding and other issues, the course has turned back on itself just before Rt. 27 in Old Mystic. The changes make it difficult to determine a course record. It seems likely that Joe LeMay’s 26:08 in 1998 is the men’s course record for the full 5.5 miles. In his racing career, LeMay established a marathon best of 2:13:55.
Marie Davenport likely ran .1 or .2 miles less than 5.5 when she burned a 29:49 in 2011. Nonetheless, it represented a superb performance, as she finished fourth overall (only three men ahead of her). Davenport has run a 15:09 road 5K and a 2:33:59 marathon, turned 40 earlier this year, and lives in Guilford. The 1996 TB women’s winner, Christine McNamara, ran 2:28:18 five months later in the 1997 London Marathon.
Race organizers, the Ocean Community (Mystic) YMCA, intend to implement a new start/finish Sunday afternoon. It will be considerably closer to Mystic’s Main St., and has been certified to make the course an accurate 5.5 miles. The turnaround remains just before Rt. 27 in Old Mystic.
* The original TB course was wheel-measured as 5.464 miles, including the Old Mystic trail. That would have made it about 58 meters shorter (roughly 20 seconds for many midpackers) than the new, certified course.
Lots of fun and great performances at the Mixed Doubles 10K Relay. Here are a few of them, with pix. Especially impressed by a new combined-ages record of 161 active years by Anne Pierson and Jan Macgregor. (All photos by Kate Bradley, Groton Rec Dept.)
Also defending the honor of 70+ runners, Phyillis and Jonathan Yuen in the 140+ division.
Youngest team (and possibly the cutest), under 40: Walker and Mackin
First Mother & Son: Kievman and Kievman
First Father & Daughter: Power and Power
First Brother & sister: Hallissey and Buttermore
Overall winners, fastest team: Ports and Barker
Thanks for supporting the Mixed Doubles 10K Relay. Hope to see you again next year.
Final news and instructions for Saturday's Mixed Doubles 10K Relay race are now available here. You can still register on site at Esker Point Beach from 2:30 to 3:45 Saturday afternoon. The race starts at 4 pm. Women run first this year.
The Fisherman Restaurant will again open its patio (closed the last six months) for the Awards party. The restaurant is hoping to reopen, after substantial renovations, in the next several weeks.
Recently I enjoyed a wonderful tour of the Groton ARC headquarters, and then of ARC's aquaponics operation and farm stand in Ledyard. I'll also be participating in the Strides Road Race in Waterford (Camp Harkness) on Sunday, Oct. 4. You can register here.
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You can still register for the October 10 Hartford Marathon, or the popular half marathon and other races. Go here.
Registration is open for the big Thanksgiving Day race in Manchester. Go here.
The second annual running of the Mixed Doubles 10K Relay is coming to Esker Point Beach in Groton on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 26, at 4 pm. This unique, fun-filled event partners one male and one female runner. They then run the event as a relay team.
Women run first this year. They'll cover a flat, fast, scenic 5K loop of Groton Long Point and Noank, and then "hand off" to their male partner, who will run the same loop.
Teams score by their combined ages in the usual Open Division (any male and female runner) but also in Mother-Son, Father-Daughter, and Brother-Sister divisions. Members of the first 100 teams to enter will each receive a free race t-shirt.
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The Mixed Doubles 10k Relay is organized by the Groton Park and Recreation Department, with partial funds going to the Groton Parks Foundation. Timing by SNERRO. The 5k course is not certified, but is very close to an accurate 5K.
If there’s a better road-race series in the country than the DogWatch/Battle of Stonington 5K series, I can’t imagine what it would be. This year’s final round of the annual June to mid-August races takes place at 6 pm next Tuesday evening, Aug. 18, with the 18th running of the Battle of Stonington 5K. It's a an event that shouldn’t be missed.
You can register at the Stonington Town Green at 5 pm next Tuesday, but you’ll save a few dollars and ease your last-minute hassles by signing up online. You can visit either the Facebook page or the Race Website to get a link to the online registration.
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The beauty of the races is their community support, especially from the Dog Watch cafe. The Dog Watch not only provides the start/finish line, and the organizational skills of Heather and Stephen Bessette, but also gives all runners a free popsicle stick. The popsicle stick can be redeemed for an actual popsicle or a drink, including a free beer for adults, on the Dog Watch’s lovely waterside deck, which faces the setting sun.
The Battle of Stonington 5K charges a modest entry fee, brings in an official race timer, and awards prizes to top finishers. It also serves as a fund-raiser for the Stonington Free Library, on the Green. Plus, you still get that redeemable popsicle stick.
The 5K runs got their start the year after Heather Bessette’s siblings opened the Dog Watch Cafe. She and Steve had recently moved back from Florida, where they enjoyed participating in a fun run organized by a local bar. “I told my family that my only request was that the Dog Watch should do something similar,” recalls Heather, a one-time 2:47 marathoner.
The first couple of years, everything was very informal, with an average turnout of 20 to 40 runners per week. The third year, things took off in a big way, and since then the runs have grown to as many as 400 participants. “The fun runs are recognized throughout the community now,” says Heather. “People who used to be annoyed and honking their horns at us are now watching their grand kids run the races. The high school and college kids use the races as their summer speed work.”
Best of all, the races seem to represent a win-win-win situation. They’re good for local runners, obviously. It’s hard to argue with no entry fee, a fun course, and a free beverage. They’re good for the Dog Watch, which picks up a few extra patrons on an otherwise slowish Tuesday night. And they seem to benefit other businesses in the Stonington borough as well.
“We’ve heard from other restaurants that they’re getting some of the business that the Dog Watch can’t handle,” notes Stephen Bessette.
This year the Dime Savings Bank became a co-sponsor, paying for the required event insurance.
“Sometimes I feel like a mother hen with all my pre-race announcements,” notes Heather. “But it’s really a thrill to stand there and see everyone who has come, especially the young kids.”--by Amby Burfoot