In Step at the 2022 Firecracker 4-Miler

by Writer and Photographer Benita Zahn

History repeats itself in odd ways. I always joke that my folks had a mixed marriage: mom was from Brooklyn and dad from the Bronx. Different teams, different New York accents, a different way of viewing the world. I’m also in a mixed marriage: I’m a runner married to a walker (Bob Stulmaker), however, when it comes to race day it seems we’ve both learned from each other. 

The evening before the July 4th Firecracker 4 race in Saratoga my husband, Bob Stulmaker, asks, “The race tomorrow, is that a 5K?” “No” I respond, it’s a 4 miler.”

“Nothing to it,” he responds and gets a glint in his eyes, much like I do when I know I’ve successfully tackled a long distance. “I’ve done the Falmouth Road Race.” That’s a 7.1-mile course. “I figure I’m out doing my regular 4 miler” he continued, “but when I see someone ahead of me, I set my sights on them and plan to pass them.”

My husband
The Walker

The guy I used to have to wait for when we went for a walk.  

But that was then, and this is now, some 6 years after he upped his game and now, with a replaced knee, he moves almost as fast as some runners. On average he walks at a 15 minute/mile pace. For me to keep up I have a to take a few stutter running steps. Even his friends, who run or used to run, have a tough time staying in step with him.  

But I like his attitude toward race day.

Out for a regular 4 miler, albeit with a bit of an edge.

It’s something I take to heart, as I’m just getting back into running. The pandemic had me taking part in those One NY Challenges and running started to feel like a job. So, like the hubs, I walked. But you can’t keep a runner down and slowly, I’ve started picking up the pace. Now I run with some walk breaks. As race day approached, I started thinking more about ‘the time’ than the event. So, I took a page from my husband, looking at the race as a 4 miler with friends. He worked in Saratoga for 30 years so he would have many friends in the pack and along the course. I knew some of the same people but there are so many others at a race you can engage in. His attitude reminded me to pay attention to those I met as the miles ticked by like Pat and his 10-year-old daughter Riley from Saratoga. They interspersed running with walking and I could hear Pat encouraging his daughter, soliciting how she felt, nudging a bit but not pushing hard. It would make for a 4th of July I can’t imagine either will forget, especially as they crossed the finish line together with smiles as bright as the sunshine.

I also could take a moment to pause during my warmup and chat with a woman and her son who had come in first in his heat of the kids run. The grin on his face as he told me how well he’d done told me he’d caught the running bug and he’s only going into third grade. That’s a payoff of a community run like this: encouraging the next generation of runners.  

And don’t forget Dhru who traveled from Toronto to toe the line. He was there to spend time with family, he shared, and to run this race. He’d waited 2 years, thank you Covid, to join the pack and he wasn’t disappointed.  

Sure, the garage bands along the way are sweet. The ice pops about a half mile from the finish were a great pick me up to tackle the final hill and it’s always a treat reconnecting with friends including the fabulous triathlete Danny Arnold along with ADK Magazine publisher Darryl Caron.

                                   Danny Arnold, Benita, Darryl Caron

But in the end my husband the walker has it right: enjoy a race but don’t lollygag- there’s always someone you can pass. After all, isn’t that what propels us.  

    Notice the reflection in Chris Orapello's sunglasses

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