Cambridge Summer Classic 5K 2017

The Cambridge Summer Classic 5K is a new addition to the Cambridge Classic 5K road race series. I believe that 2017 was the second running of the Cambridge Summer Classic 5K road race. For me, it was a first, and not one I’ll soon forget!

Cambridge Summer Classic 5K road race 2017, Cambridge RacesThe Summer Classic 5K was held on Wednesday evening at 6:30. The start and party area were the same as the other Cambridge Classics, but this race took a different route. Usually we head west on Sidney Street, for this race we headed east towards Mass Ave.

I walked over from my office in Kendall Square and met my running buddy and Melrose Running Club President, Don Keren. He had managed to get a parking spot on Sidney Street in front of Star Market. I didn’t even know there was a Star Market over there!

It’s about a one mile walk from my office to the race area. It was a nice afternoon with temps in the 70’s so I felt fine walking around in my running gear. I had picked up my bib and shirt the night before, so I wasn’t in a hurry to get over there.

The Gang’s not Here

I met Don around 5:40 and we walked to the team area. Normally I run with “Team Slow and Thirsties” and we have a good sized group. Often I recruit a few friends and we get a table with a pop-up tent.

For this race no one responded that they were going. When Don and I got to the usual spot there was a table and tent, but our team name was not taped to the table.

We decided to claim squatter’s rights and took up residence. Slowly another group who failed to meet the 20 runner minimum showed up and we decided to band together. They were a fun group and we had a good time swapping stories and talking about the weather.

We watched the crew from Brooklyn Brewing distribute beers to team tables. We didn’t have a team or number, so they never stopped for us.

While hanging out, Diane Hughes from Melrose walked over to say hi. She was running with a group from BU, so couldn’t sign up with us also.

The forecast wasn’t good and the crowd seemed small. The ski was gray and occasionally there was that wind that harkens a storm. It was nice and warm and everyone was calm.

Don took off to use the facilities and I hung out with our new friends. I didn’t see anyone else I knew. I looked up and saw a purple Melrose shirt and thought we had another runner, and then I saw it was Don coming back to the table!

Around 6:15 we headed for the corrals. For a small crowd, it was pretty tight getting out to Sidney Street. When we got to the street we turned left and the crowd seemed small. Then I realized we were in front of the start line.

We crossed the barricades and walked down the sidewalk to get to a place to start. The start was packed. As we walked along we saw Peter Fopiano waving to us.

As we made our way through the crowd the race director, Paul Clark was walking down the street with a bull horn. He was announcing 5 minutes to start and that they were not going to delay the start. We weren’t even in a corral yet.

Nervously, I checked my bib for a timing chip. It was there.

Running Cambridge Summer Classic 5K

Andy Nagelin, Don Keren, Cambridge Summer Classic Road RaceThe crowd seemed bigger now that we were jammed into our starting spot. We saw one of our fellow squatters in the crowd and waved to each other. We couldn’t really hear much. I got my watch started and the race began almost exactly on time at 6:30PM EST.

We walked about 100 yards to the start and then began a light jog in a crushing heard of runners. All the way out Sidney Street to Mass Ave it was shoulder to shoulder. How no one ever seems to trip and fall is truly amazing.

As we approached Mass Ave a cop was there blowing his whistle and yelling at us or anyone who somehow failed to see the mass of humanity rounding the corner.

Don and I were trading the lead making our way through the crowd. No one was moving very fast and we seemed to be just falling into people. I certainly was not running a competitive pace, but I felt like I was the wind moving through the trees.

Cambridge Summer Classic 5K, Cambridge runningWe had half of Mass Ave so it gave us some room to run. Our next turn was a right onto Albany Street.

This part of Cambridge is cool because there are businesses and MIT buildings and labs all over the place. People have been doing amazing work in this neighborhood for years. Off of Mass Ave the buildings are more industrial  than decorative. Shit gets done here.

Albany had cars parked on it and is not a wide avenue. Don and I were still making our way through the crowd.

We took a right onto Erie Street on which I have never been. A few runners mentioned this was a new run for them as well. A little change is nice once in a while.

Erie quickly connected with Sidney Street and just before our left turn, mile one chimed in at 8:46. Not bad, all things considered.

Fool in the Rain

I don’t recall when the first raindrop hit or when the first lightening lit up the ski or the first thunder rumbled in my chest. But somewhere down Sidney Street all hell broke loose.

The ski was torn open by lightening and all the moisture in the three-hundred miles of atmosphere above us seemed to come down all at once.

It went from a few drops to deluge in seconds. In no time I was soaked through.

Even in our obvious peril, I didn’t hear a word of fear or complaint.  We were about half-way into the race. What were we supposed to do, turn around?

The composure of the crowd was really remarkable. Some people slowed down and a few people would occasionally go onto the sidewalk to walk. Bless them! Nothing worse than a walker, except a walker when it’s dark and rainy on congested streets.

We were running through residential neighborhoods, so there were cars on both sides of the street and on some roads, traffic. Everyone was extremely cool.

We ran to the end of Sidney and took a right onto Waverly Street for a short distance and then took another right onto Brookline Street. This is a larger street that comes off of Memorial Drive and is normally a busy street.

After a few blocks we took a left onto Putnam Avenue. We ran about seven blocks down Putnam. The thunder and lightening were amazing. Once in a while we would see a huge flash and instantly a thunder clap.

This thing was right on top of us.

At some point we passed a church that was under renovation. They had scaffolding on the building and part of the street was blocked off. I noticed a lightening rod on the steeple and mentioned it to a guy next to me.

We would have been killed instantly if lightening struck that building. Either from the voltage or all of the scaffolding and brick being blasted onto us. As our feet landed in deep puddles we had a chuckle.

“What a way to go” he said. I agreed. Who wants to die in a bed when you can be killed by a lightening strike on a 5K run. It would be so fitting.

The rain was relentless. I was thoroughly soaked and the street was on inch of moving water under our feet. Your feet just disappeared into the water and you hoped your ankle would not twist in a hole.

By this time Don and I had lost contact. Each of us had been making our way though the crowd and I had moved ahead a little bit. When I looked back to see him all I saw were faces in the dark rain.

After Putnam we took a right onto Pleasant Street. If I had seen the sign I’m sure I would have laughed out loud. Nothing pleasant going on here! Just after our turn, mile two came in at 8:24.

I didn’t look at my watch at the time. I was to busy navigating the crowd and trying not to break an ankle in a pot hole.

Pleasant went on for quite a few blocks and merged into River Street, another busy Cambridge road leading to a bridge over The Charles River.

We took a right onto Franklin and then onto Pearl Street. I have never run on these streets as far as I know. It would have been cool to be able to actually look around.

Pearl went on for seven blocks back down to Erie Street.

Most of us just wanted the race to end. It’s one thing to be tired and hot at the end of a race, but we were soaked and and taking a chance. With all of the rain there was 0% chance of over-heating. In a way it was pleasant.

Erie took us back out to Brookline Ave and I wasn’t really sure where the turn for the finish was. We ran another seven blocks up Brookline Ave to Franklin where we took the turn to the finish.

Don KerenThe rain was still coming down in buckets. I could see the finish clock but could not see what it said.

I kicked in everything I had to pass a few people and crossed the line at 28:14.

Even with the rain I needed a bottle of water. I hung out looking for Don, but the rain was unforgiving.

After a few minutes I started to make my way to the tent. The crowd was small still and I easily made my way to shelter.

Apre Cambridge Summer Classic 5K Road Race

I was one of the first to make it to our shelter.

Cambridge Summer Classic 5K, Brooklyn BrewingAs I walked over to the beer table the cups looked like they were alive. The rain was coming down so hard that beer and foam were dancing and bouncing out of the cups. So much was bouncing out of the cups that over time, there was beer running down the sidewalk!

I hung out with my new friends, had many enjoyable conversations and enjoyed the bounty of Brooklyn Lager available to all.

After the party I walked back to Kendall Square. As I walked along one person walked with me for a bit and we had a casual chat. Then a second person walked with me and asked me all about the race and running. We had a pretty extensive conversation.

It was fun to talk to strangers who saw a strange guy in a purple shirt walking as fast as he could in the rain. I’m sure that from a distance I fit right into Cambridge. They seemed curious about what the hell I was doing, but were intelligent, asked good questions and made good company.

When I wasn’t talking to strangers, I enjoyed looking around and enjoying the fabulous neighborhood that is East Cambridge. The weather was wet, but warm. I was totally soaked so a little more rain didn’t even phase me.

The whole greater Kendall Square area is amazing. MIT is a big presence but so are many high tech names like Google, Broad Institute, Genzyme and InterSystems.

It’s an exciting high-energy neighborhood. I’ve had several occasions to walk around the area well into the evening. There are always people out and I always feel safe.

Run well my Friends,




Author: OmniRunner

9X Boston Marathon finisher, 17X marathons total. Sharing my love for running and the fun adventures and lessons that come with it. Helping non-profits increase fundraising and new runners celebrate their First 5K.

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