VOLUNTEERS: Larry Decker, Judy Bowden, Sarah Claridge, Bob McFarland, Director Doug Bowden
by Dr. Tom Bulger (a regular guy)
Rituals are endemic to human beings. (Jon Atwell - if you ever opened up a dictionary, you'd be agog at some of the words you'd find there: endemic, ineluctably, and so forth. So go to the dollar store and buy a paperback Webster's.) Rituals mark significant events in both individual and collective lives, ranging from celebrations (such as weddings) to mournings (funerals). There are also ceremonies that are mixed blessings depending on one's point of view and age, such as reunions and birthdays.
Just such a mixed blessing ritual in the HMRRC community is the Hour Run. Every year, a determined (or is the more appropriate adjective "demented"?) group of hard-core runners assemble in the sweltering summer heat to test themselves for sixty minutes on a track, this year's location (as in the past few years) being the Schenectady High School track. Over the years, the Hour Run has developed a small but extremely loyal constituency. One of the appeals of the race is that it's like a soap opera, with a central cast of characters facing changing circumstances. In the recent past, a core group keeps showing up to the race: the Willow Street regulars (Pete and Ray Newkirk, Ken Skinner, Sarah Claridge, Candice Poiss) and irregulars (that would be you, Ed Neiles) are there; Martha DiGrazia, who seems to be at every race, along with the ever-patient Ralph Feinstein; Bob Oates, Vince Juliano, Lori Christina, B.J. Sotile, Steve Sweeney, John Haley, and Jim Moore; Dale Broomhead, who is usually accompanied by Jay Bryce (but not this year, more on that later); Pat Fitzgerald, who at 71 years young, has been the senior citizen of the Hour Run the past few years.
But I want to reserve special commendations for those runners who were at the Hour Run the first year I ran the race (1985) and were still at it this year. In 1985, the race was at the University at Albany track, directed by Dick Shirey. I finished third in the race with 9.3 miles; right behind me was Wade Stockman in fourth. Wade turned in a very credible performance in this year's race, finishing far ahead of me. Also at the 1985 race was Charlie Matlock, who is arguably the most faithful racer of the Hour Run. The other person at the Hour Run in 1985 who was there again this year was Annie Stockman. Back in 1985, she worked the race, this year she ran it and turned in seven miles.
Also, as an added note from this race, this was the first year I wrote the Pacesetter . I wish to quote one portion of this article, just so Ed Neiles can see that my Hour Run strategy hasn't changed much over the years: "My strategy was to talk to as many runners I passed (or who passed me) as possible. No doubt many of the people I bothered thought I was rude. They were close, but it was not entirely my fault." I take credit for many people over the years running faster and further, just so they wouldn't have to listen to me talk on the track. (Every time I got near Ed during the run this year, he sped up.) We all serve in our own various ways.
Speaking of serving, enormous thanks must go out to the race director Doug Bowden and his staff of volunteers. When Dick Shirey stepped down as Hour Run race czar many years ago, Doug took it over and has done a fine job. He has surrounded himself with an able staff: Larry Decker, who handles registration (get well Larry, go see Dr. Brody); Sarah Claridge, who walked off the track after running 40 minutes to prepare the refreshments for the other finishers; Bob McFarland, who makes the water stop an adventure (more on this later); and Judy Bowden, who does her best in keeping Bob under control (read "Mission Impossible").
Two of the people I expected to see at the race, who had cajoled me to meet them at the race, never even showed. Jay Bryce (Dale Broomhead's training partner) had told me he would be there. I went with the intention of harassing Jay every lap I could, since Jay had started the battle by giving me a one-finger salute as I cheered him on at the Delmar Dash. I had plans to salute him appropriately every time I saw him, but he wasn't around. I asked Dale what happened to Jay, and Dale said he wasn't sure if Jay had yet another block party to go to that night (Jay's neighborhood sounds like it has as much action as the French quarter of New Orleans), or if Jay was boycotting in protest at the lack of cheerleaders. (Two years ago, as the Hour Run took place, the Schenectady High cheerleaders were practicing in the adjoining field; last year, they weren't there, and Jay complained bitterly.)
That is why when Dale ran by me when I was on or off the track (I stopped after 40 minutes due to a sore right foot), I displaced all the abuse I had saved up for Jay onto Dale. The women's Hour Run winner, Megan Leitzinger, ran behind Dale and Dave Stadlander for a number of laps; so I exhorted her to "break" Dale on the last few laps. Megan did pull away, running a fine race, finishing 6th overall.
The other person I expected to see was Jim Armenia. Jim had told me he was going to try to get his name on the 10 mile club list, and I was going to give him as much advice and encouragement as I could. As it turned out, Jim made the wise decision to save his race for the Famrun 5-K the following Saturday, which he won in a fine finish and time. Jim realized that the night of the Hour Run was not conducive to reaching 10 miles, with the hot and humid weather.
Jim was right; no one ran 10 miles in this year's Hour Run, the first time that has happened in a long time. The top five runners (Jim Sweeney, Chad Davey, Jason Cebula, Mike Cebula, and Frank Steciuk) all gave the 10 mile club a good run, but they didn't quite make it. Still, their efforts were outstanding, given the difficulty of the evening.
One difficulty they had to overcome was the water stop, where Bob McFarland was allegedly working. As anyone who has run the Hour Run knows, with Bob at this table the water stop resembles Hoover Dam (no water gets by). This is because Bob is so busy recounting old running and war stories (as Julie Wuerdeman said, "The Chief is yapping") that he's too preoccupied to help the thirsty runners. This year was no exception. First, we had to listen to Bob argue with Dwight Wilson, who maintains that years ago, Bob elbowed him out of the way at the Stockadeathon (I have no problem believing this story). Then Bob started to recount his glory days of running, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. (Now I know why dinosaurs are extinct; they died from listening to McFarland.) Then we had to listen to Bob recount his ancient 10-K victory over some of his running compatriots. To prove his point, he has a yellowed list of results that looks like it was inscribed on papyrus. With all this commotion going on at the water stop, it's a wonder anyone finished the race, and no wonder that no one reached 10 miles.
This is not to say there wasn't plenty of water available. On one lap, Sarah Claridge got a cup of water (probably from Judy, not Bob) and proceeded to douse Pete Newkirk with its contents. The individual who enjoyed the (water)melon the most was Hamlet, Vince Juliano's and Emily Bryants' Labrador, who after the race was over helped himself to a few licks. (Note to Emily: Vince and I had Hamlet under control at the Subaru Classic in Buffalo.)
It's a tough crowd that hangs out at the Hour Run. But it's also a fun crowd, which is why the same faces keep appearing year in and year out. If you've never done the Hour Run, try it next year. I guarantee you'll like it. For the regulars, see you all next year. (That is both a promise and a threat, Ed Neiles.)