Another weekend, another sunny and beautiful yet windy February day on the Cape & Islands, and another notch in the win column. While these wins aren’t exactly world-class, I could still get used to this. And this one was on a return engagement, number three, our very own Three-Peat. Now, it’s not quite the award you get just for showing up, but admittedly it wasn’t far from it. Nevertheless, our team performance gave me a big grin.
If it’s late February, it must have been Hyannis Marathon, Half-Marathon, and Marathon Relay time, that weekend when the otherwise flat-lining winter economy of Cape Cod briefly comes alive thanks to five-thousand-plus tights-clad runners. If the locals weren’t so desperate for a dollar, or at least something to stave off the boredom, they might question the collective sanity of these people. For the most part, these aren’t the hard-core types I wrote of last week. The marathoners here are largely the statistical average. The winning times don’t tend to make the news. And most of them don’t insist it’s only a training run for Boston. Indeed, most of them – about eighty percent – don’t do the marathon at all, rather the half, which is the big draw. This is not the Type A crowd, yet they’re still out in force at a time when the weather is usually just plain lousy.
This year’s edition loomed a bit ominously since race organizers expanded the field significantly and had no problem filling the slots. I feared that what had been a crowded host hotel might become unbearable. My bad. I hadn’t noticed that they killed off the ten kilometer event, simplifying things, and the crowds weighed in pretty much at the same level as before. Fear averted.
Bring on Alfred E. Newman. What, me worry? This was, after all, a fun event. Nothing more than our winter outing & bash for my local club (I have to be clear now that there’s two, so last weekend was a “Red” weekend, racing for Greater Boston, while this weekend was “Green”, racing for Highland City, life gets so confusing!). Captain Dan didn’t see it that way. To him, this was the big prize. To me? Well, if we win? Super! If we don’t? Whatever! It’s all good fun. In that agonizing runner way, of course, where pain equals fun.
Mr. Newman ruled the day. No worries. A walk off, more or less. Much to our surprise, last year’s count of merely five men’s masters teams shrunk to a paltry three. So winning that category wasn’t exactly a Red Badge of Courage. But the field did grow to one hundred and ten finishing teams, mostly in the open divisions – them thar young’uns – and while such a statistic wasn’t published, the truth is that four old guys from Marlborough and Hudson finished fourth amongst all the teams, and only two seconds out of third. Not bad for budding geezers.
My leg was a different world compared to last year. By the time I set out last year, the course was littered with relay teams and full marathoners on their second lap. This year, with Pat stepping in for what had been our slowest leg, I was launched into loneliness. With the wind propelling my first two sub-six-minute miles, I passed two full marathoners and was passed by one young relay runner, who put fifty yards on me but never opened it beyond that. And that was it. Five more miles, mostly into the wind – and brutally into the wind for the final push down the beach road. Completely lonely, making it a tough mental battle to hold the pace, though I managed to equal my ten-kilometer personal best pace set out in Seattle, averaging not too far above flat sixes. That loneliness seemed like a good omen for a hoped-for win, but I’d failed to pay attention to which teams had come through the exchange before Pat’s arrival, so I just didn’t know, couldn’t back off, no slacking allowed.
The most important part of this event, once the win was secured, is undoubtedly the treasured hand-painted quahogs, among the cooler trophies on the New England circuit. This year I came armed, Sharpie ready to hand over to the event’s honored guest, Joan Benoit Samuelson, to christen our prizes. And then there were three…