Virtual Boston Marathon 2020

With all that is going on in this world, not being able to run races IRL is nothing to complain about.

All of us are seeking some normalcy in our lives and running with people gives runners that feeling. There is peace in idle chit chat while running down the street.

Like most races, The Boston Marathon turned into the Virtual Boston Marathon 2020.

Any runner who had a Boston Marathon bib could participate in the Virtual Boston Marathon 2020.

The Melrose Running Club had six runners with a bib who decided to run the Virtual Boston Marathon 2020.

They started training in January like any other year and then hoped the race would not be cancelled.

Then the race was postponed and turned into a virtual race for the first time in Boston Marathon history.

While the club suspended Sunday Long Runs, they continued to organize Sunday Long Runs and other training runs to prepare for their race.

I didn’t have a bib for the 2020 Marathon, so I ran as a bandit for the first time! I also did not train to run a marathon.

It Takes a Village

Starting at Mile 2, The Boston Marathon has water stops at every mile. This year the crew had to arrange their own water stops and bathroom stops.

Maria Cavero was the team captain and master mind behind putting together the course.

Yvonne Liu-Constant put together the first draft of the course and then Maria found ways to avoid as many hills as possible!

Several miles had virtually no elevation gain and most had only 20-30 feet of elevation gain.

Together, Yvonne and Maria found people’s homes, parks and other spots where we could stop and re-charge.

Volunteers and Guardian Angels

The crew reached out for volunteers for the water stops and to provide on-course support.

They put together seven water stops and a crew of about twenty volunteers. On paper it was about twelve volunteers but many more turned out to help and provide support.

I think the volunteers were as excited to be there as the runners were!

Unlike Boston, we stopped at each water stop. There was no big clock on Boylston Street waiting for us. This year, everyone was just looking to run 26 miles and 385 yards.

It was very chill and less of a “dammed the torpedoes”  vibe.

For most of the run there were three guys on bikes riding with us. They were in helmets, sun glasses and masks so I’m not sure who they were!

These guardian angels rode with the last person on the team, took photos and stopped traffic for us!

These guys stood in the middle of Alewife Brook Parkway, aka Rt. 16, into Cambridge and stopped traffic!

With authority they turned their bikes sideways on the median strip, held up their hands and shook cow bells! Drivers actually stopped for them.

They did this countless times so that we could cross busy roads with minimal hindrance.

This bandit would like to thank everyone who took time out of their Saturday to come out and run a water stop or stand in the middle of a road for us.

Running the Virtual Boston Marathon 2020

I was going to go to the start of this run but upon reviewing the map, I realized they were passing within a half mile of my house. So why drive to Melrose?

Over the past few months my weekly miles have rarely hit twenty miles. I’m not qualified to run a 5K. Running more than a four mile training run takes an act of will power.

I didn’t plan on running 26 miles, 385 yards so I told them I would meet them on the corner down from my house.

I figured they were running 10 minute miles. I left my house at 7:20 and thought I’d meet some of them on the corner.

When I got to the corner of Spring and Central Streets I didn’t see anyone. I decided to run down to the first water stop.

No one was there, so I decided to run around the neighborhood to make up some miles and warm up a bit.

 

Virtual Boston Marathon 2020, Water Stop One, Medford I run in this area at least once a week, so I knew exactly where I was.

I ran from the water stop to The Fellsway, all the way back and up to Main Street. At Haynes Square I hit 2 miles.

I ran down Central Street to the water stop and in a few minutes Kristi and Bobby Taylor showed up. In no time they had everything set up and some of the cyclist began to show up.

It was great to catch up with Bobby and Kristi who have both started new jobs recently and have a new dog.

Boston Marathon Runners approaching Water Stop OneSoon we saw runners in the distance heading down Central Street towards us. This commonplace street corner began to feel exciting.

Some people came out of their houses to see what all the commotion was and everyone seemed happy to see us.

As everyone showed up we began to take over the intersection. Drivers were really good about waiting for people to step out of the way. And we tried to be good in keeping people out of traffic.

The runners had black and white bibs which did not stand out. The drivers had no idea that they were witnessing part of the 20020 Boston Marathon. These folks were decent to us just because that’s what people do.

Boston Marathon 2020, Water Stop One

After everyone was ready to go we headed down Park Street to Riverside and ran through Medford Square.

Medford Square is always busy and has six roads entering or exiting the square. A classic New England intersection.

I was running with Haecha Donnelly and one of our guardian angels helped us get through the square.

We ran up High Street and crossed The Mystic river on a little foot bridge that I’ve never been over.

Then we crossed Mystic Valley Parkway, another hairy crossing and headed towards Whole Foods to cross this road again into Arlington.

I started running with Jackie Ecker along The Parkway. As we crossed one of the streets a young women was clapping and cheering for us and Jackie took a spill!

She fell to the sidewalk in an a “Superman pose” with her hands up and to the sides. In that moment before she moved, I was worried.

I helped her up and she seemed fine. She had a cut on her knee, elbow and small cuts on her hands. She got up and kept on running. No big deal.

Everyone except her was worried.

We ran on a boardwalk next to the Alewife Brook. This was really cool and a place I’d never been to before. The brook was clear of brush and trash and the area looked to be set up as a flood plain.

Our next turn was a right onto Broadway in Arlington and to our second water stop.

Since I was a guest I only took water.

We headed back down Broadway and turned onto River Street towards Medford.

Another area had never run in. People were doing yoga in the park and enjoying the river.

Then we got to one of my favorite places to run in Medford.

Magical Mystic Valley Parkway

We crossed High Street and ran through the rotary onto Mystic Valley Parkway. Our guardian angel was able to stop the few cars in the rotary and we crossed safely.

As we ran down the Parkway we passed two groups of people who were waiting for their Boston Marathon runners to arrive!

It was like being in Framingham or Newton except we were in Medford. They all waved and cheered us on and it was fantastic.

The Parkway is shaded and cool as the sun began to beat down on us.

I hit mile 9 just before we turned off of The Parkway. While the pace was modest compared to how I would normally run a marathon, my total lack of training was beginning catch up to be.

When I’m training for a marathon The Parkway in one of my long run routes.

Magical Mystic Valley Run 2014.

The Second Half of My Run

We took a slightly different route through Winchester than my normal route. And it was nice to see something different.

As we passed people on the trail they waved and cheered us on. Most wore masks and I assume they were all smiling.

In Winchester we had water stop three on the lawn of a church. There were spouses and kids with signs. It was great to see all of their excitement.

Boston Marathon 2020, Wichester

At this stop I took a gel and a Nuun tablet for my water bottle.

After this stop we had the familiar slog up Washington Street. It’s not a bad hill, but it always comes half way or more into a run.

For me Washington Street was miles eleven and twelve to our next turn.

I had been feeling it for a few miles. I had the energy but my left knee had been acting up and now my hips were beginning to ache. The hips are a sure sign of lack of training and stretching.

When I signed up for this gig I planned to run 13.1 miles at the most. Now I was headed for 13 and we were miles from any end.

I began to think about catching a ride with someone at the next water stop.

For the past few miles I had been running with Jose Viveiros. He was training for a marathon in Jackson Hole, MT in three weeks. This was one of his taper runs!

Jose was feeling it too and we began to make plans to bail.

Heading for the End of The Road

I knew where we were but wasn’t sure how to connect the dot of where we wanted to go.

We were going to Maria’s house where Jose had his car. To make sure we didn’t end up running forty miles I fired up Google Maps for the win!

With verbal cues for each turn Jose and and I set out from the Winchester water stop and did the old walk/run routine.

We were both beat.

But as we went he kept telling me about Jackson Hole and another race out west.

He is working on running a marathon in all 50 states and now is a good time to do it. Airfare and hotels are fairly cheap. And getting a reservation is pretty easy.

He almost had me talked into it, but the last few  miles had a few hills that made it clear that I was not ready for a marathon in two weeks.

We ran the flats and down hills and walked the up hills. At this point it was about getting to the end for both of us.

As we crossed The Fellsway in Melrose neither of us had been to Maria’s house from this direction. I had never been there at all. Jose assured me that we were in the right neighborhood.

Then we finally turned the last corner and saw her house with 26.2 miles balloons and the chalk finish line.

There’s a picture of us crossing somewhere.

We hung out for a while and chatted with Jeanne and Lesley about the run.

My run came in at 16.05 miles at a pace of 12:49. That’s about 10 more miles than I ran in total the week before.

Definitely not in marathon shape!

Jose gave me a ride home and he headed off to Somerville to pick up some food for the after party.

Boston Marathon Finish line 2020
The Crew celebrating their Boston Marathon finish

As a bandit I didn’t want to crash their party. Plus I had to get to the Post Office.

It was great to run with a group of people. We all wore masks for most of the run and no one complained.

The few IRL (In Real Life)  races I have seen all allow runners to take off their masks once they are on the course.

Whenever we were near people it was “shields up!” But sometimes we pulled them down while running, and of course at water stops.

Over all I think we were pretty careful.

Congrats to the ladies for finishing the 124th Boston Marathon!

Run well my Friends,

Andy

July 2020 Run Down

July is a hot month. The pandemic has forced all of my races to go virtual which isn’t quite as much fun but I am committed to supporting the causes these races support.

My July 2020 Run Down

Jennifer Tinney 4th of July Virtual 5 Miller

Most years I run the Jennifer Tinney 5 Miler in Boxford, MA. The race is in memory of a young teacher who was viciously attached and killed by one of her students in their school. I can still remember the news stories.

My wife and sister are teachers. In addition to being a senseless killing, it hit very close to home.

Like all of my races, I ran this one from my front door. The temperature was no more than 75° F but the humidity was high.

Jennifer Tinney 5 Miler 2020 VirtualI did the big loop from my house, across The Mystic to Somerville and back again.

It’s a convenient run and it seems fairly popular for runners and walkers. The Mystic River State Reservation always seems to have a lot of people enjoying the outdoors.

The worse part is crossing Rt. 16/Mystic Valley Parkway. It’s three lanes in each direction and most people are on their way somewhere.

I finished in 43:16 at an 8:38 pace.

For the rest of the week I didn’t run at all.

Margarita Virtual Half Marathon

On July 10th I ran the Margarita Virtual Half Marathon.

For this race I ran from my house into Kendall Square where I work.

Running to work has been of interest to me for a few years. Often I see one or two people running to or from work and I have often wondered how the logistics work. You have to shower at work and somehow get your clothes to work without them looking like you just picked them up off of the floor.

The roads for this run are usually very busy. The route I take is one of the Margarita Half Marathon, virtual halfmajor commuter routes into Boston and Cambridge.

I’ve been hit three times in my car over ten years on this route.

I got started just before 9AM which is never a good idea for a runner in July.

The temperature was 73° F when I left my home and it was 83° F by the time I got to Kendall Square.

It was so hot that I had to stop at Starbucks for an iced coffee. By the time I was finishing my drink, all of the ice had melted in less than 12 minutes!

While the goal was to complete a half marathon, my plan was to investigate the route into Kendall Square. My plan was to get to mile six and turn around.

My time was 2:32:37 at an 11:39 pace.

I typically run a two-hour or better half. It was a hot day and I ran during peak heat hours. And as opposed to running on a closed course with water stops, I had dozens of intersections and had to do some walking.

Tuesday Night Neighborhood Run

My next run a was a neighborhood run of 3.2 miles. After flaming out during my urban half, I knew I needed to try and run more consistently.

I ran hard and managed an 8:15 pace up and down the streets in my neighborhood.

July 2020 Run Down, COVID Hair

Gotta love COVID hair! I think it’s been seven months since my last hair cut.

And this hair is matted down from wearing a hat and sweating!

I was happy to have gotten out during the week for a quick run.

 

 

Yankee Homecoming 10 Miler

On July 17th I ran The Yankee Homecoming 10 Miler. This is a mid week race in Newburyport, so I’ve never been able to run it.

It seems silly now to think I could not have taken a half day from work and run this race in the past. Is work so important that nothing else matters between 8AM and 5PM?

I ran this one on one of my Friday vacation days. The weather was mild so I didn’t leave the house until 12:13 PM. The temperature was only 63° F and the humidity was mild.

For this run I took The Fellsway into Melrose. I didn’t have any cut in stone plan, but I knew where I was going and when I needed to turn around.

I ran the hills on the Fellsway in both directions. Definitely not required, but I kind of enjoyed it. Nothing like a good workout!

In Melrose I ran down Main Street and made a stop at Starbucks for an Iced Coffee. The place was deserted! No problem social distancing in there.

My time was 1:32:26 at a pace of 9:13. Not bad for a longer run and 414 feet of elevation gain.

Tuesday night Club Run!

Several members of the MRC Board have been doing a lot of work to get our Tuesday night Club Runs back.

With the state-wide social distancing rules and slight variations in each town, it has been a challenge. There are 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts and each has their own Board of Health who can make their own rules and their own interpretations of State rules.

In these situations, you realize the value of a more centralized government structure.

We met in front of Melrose High, 02176! There were about a dozen of us. We sent out small groups by pace and I was in the first group. I planned on under 9 minute rules, which didn’t seem overly ambitious.

We were kind of the catch-all group like the 80+ age group at a race.

I had a comfortable 3.22 mile run with Marty Hergert at a 10:22 pace.

It was nice to talk to someone during a run.

Juneau Half Marathon

I left my house at 7:15 AM for this run and it was already 76° F.

Juneau Virtual Half Marathon 2020, Dunkin, July Run DownI brought my full running belt with two water bottles and a gel. It turned out to be not enough.

On the way home and I stopped at Dunkin Donuts on The Jerry Jingle Highway in Melrose for an iced coffee and blue berry glazed donut.

I ran pretty much the same route that I ran for the Yankee Homecoming but managed to go from 414 feet in elevation gain to 2,339 feet. Almost six times the hills just by adding four fairly flat miles?

This was just before Garmin went dark. I’ll have to compare this run to another on a similar run, but it seems way off to me.

This was another hot run. It was 76° F when I left my house. I tried to run in the shade as much as possible, but it was still warm. Thus the stop at Dunkins.

Juneau Half Marathon 2020 VirtualFor this run I ran the Fellsway Hills in both direction and run out Main Street in Melrose. At Crystal Pond I hit 7 miles and turned around.

I hoped that I could find enough short cuts on the way back to get close to 13.1 miles. It was too hot to run long.

Except for a slight variation in the last mile, I ran the same route out and back.

When I got to 13.1 miles I noted the time and used that to report my results for the race.

Not that it matters but I told Juneau I ran 2:21 and change. Unfortunately, that time included my pit stop at Dunkin Donuts and into the woods.

Juneau Half Marathon 2020 Virtual, AlaskaMy total time for the run was 2:22:08 at a 10:09 pace. But that was for 14 miles! My actual 13.1 mile time was closer to 2:13.

The Juneau Marathon and Half Marathon folks were kind enough to send me a shirt and medal.

It is a great medal and I love the shirt. Hopefully next year we can get a crew from Melrose to go out to Alaska and run the marathon!

Tuesday night Club Run Take 2!

This week we had about 20 people show up! Again I was in the fastest group. But all of us run vastly different paces and distances.

I ran 5.77 miles on most of the longer of our summer routes. It was nice to be out on the summer course again and see what has changed.

One thing that I noticed is that it is starting to get dark around 8pm now! Noooo!

It was a good solo run and I felt better seeing people and hanging out for a bit.

Cambridge Summer Classic 5K Virt 2020

I ran this race on Friday July 31st. It seemed like a great way to end the month.

Thursday evening I went into Cambridge to pick up my shirt, super heavy duty Solo cup, coozie and sun glasses.

I had dropped my daughter at work and was early for the pick up. Paul Clark and his son were still setting up.  They actually pulled in behind me.

On any other afternoon I would have worried about getting a parking ticket. But it looked like 6AM on a Sunday morning.

We talked for a few minutes and I offered to help set up but they said they were all set.

I got out the door at 6:40 PM on Friday after supper.  While I just ran the streets in my neighborhood, I decided to run it like a race.

I wore my light weight Saucony racers and took off.  My first mile was 7:54 and my average pace was 8:09.

Not a bad way to end the month.

For July my total miles were 57.46. I just missed topping April by a half mile. July was my second shortest month after May’s 41.14.

August 2019 I ran almost 85 miles. So far I’m up to 2.86 towards beating that!

How is your COVID summer running going?

Are you still motivated to train even though all races are going virtual?

Run well and Stay Health my Friends!

Andy

 

 

Great Bay Half Marathon 2020 Virtual Edition

I ran The Great Bay Half Marathon in my own back yard this year. Like so many other races, Great Bay went virtual for 2020.

I’ve run The Great Bay Half Marathon four times.

It’s usually held about a week before the Boston Marathon and when I have a bib for Boston I don’t run Great Bay.

Tapering is supposed to be about cutting back and recuperating, it’s not good a time to run a challenging half marathon.

This year I didn’t have a bib for Boston so I signed up for Great Bay. I love the course, seeing all of my friends and the great party afterwards.

Great Bay Half Marathon 2020

Like almost every race since February, The Great Bay Half Marathon went virtual for 2020.

I had to make up my own course and run the race by my self, totally un-supported.

I went through my Garmin Connect dashboard and found a loop that I could make a 13.1 mile course.

Great Bay Health Marathon 2020 Virtual, Virtual Half

This is a short run across Medford to The Mystic Valley Parkway.

The Parkway is a nice run along the Mystic Lakes with several parks and lots of activity.

It’s particularly popular with cyclist.

When I woke up around 6:30 AM it was already 66° and I knew we were headed for the 80s.

As such I didn’t waste much time getting ready to go. All of my gear was laid out and I was out the door just after 7:00 AM.

The sun was up and the temperature was now 68°.

As I ran down my street I could feel all kinds of aches and pains. I’ve been running less and my legs seem to be feeling worse. Go figure.

I knew that much of this would go away after the first mile and tried to relax and go slow.

The first two miles were 9:16 and 9:03. In West Medford I had to stop for the Commuter Rail train.  I forgot to stop my watch and mile three came in at 10:32.

Great Bay Half Marathon 2020 Virtual, Commuter Rail, West Medford

Mystic Valley Parkway

About a half mile after the rail road crossing I came to the rotary where the Mystic Valley Parkway begins.

Mystic Valley Parkway Sign, Great Bay HalfStrait through the rotary is Arlington and to the right was my designated course up the Parkway.

When I stopped to take this photo just before 8:00 the temperature was already 73° . I was glad to know that most of this parkway is well shaded.

In Massachusetts masks are still required if you cannot maintain social distancing.

It’s impossible to avoid people and I know that I’m going to be close to people at some point during my runs.

It’s amazing how many people won’t give any room to pass on the side walk even with traffic. Am I supposed to run into cars and trucks?

For me, the possibility of death is better than near certainty!

Around mile four I took my Honey Stinger gel. I brought two just in case since it has been a while since I’ve run this distance.

These two miles up The Parkway were fairly comfortable. My aches and pains were gone for the most part. My left knee still bothered me but not enough to cause concern.

Mile 4: 9:03, Mile 5: 9:20

Winchester and Stoneham

Miles six and seven through Winchester were also fairly comfortable. I had been sweating basically since I left my house.

This section of my course had very little shade and it must have been close to 80°. One water bottle was empty and I had taken a drink from my second one.

My mind drifted back to Death Valley. There I learned to drink less than half of your water on the outbound leg of your hike.

I was more than halfway through my run, but I knew there were hills and more fully exposed road coming up.

I took a salt pill and a small drink.

With the Corona Virus pandemic, Dunkin Donut’s has closed all of their bathrooms. So no pit stops to take on or get rid of water.

I don’t take salt very often and I hoped that it wouldn’t make me sick.

But I was sweating heavily and knew I needed the sodium and potassium in that pill.

I passed our usual water stop on Eugene Drive and crossed Rt. 93 into Stoneham.

It was nice knowing that I was well over half way and still felt okay.

When I got to Main Street, my instinct told me to cross and go strait. But for this run I needed to turn right and head south on Main Street/Rt 28.

If I went strait, I’d end up in Melrose and have way too many more miles to run.

After about a half mile I arrived at the intersection of Main Street and South St/North Board Road just up the road from The Stone Zoo.

I stopped my watch and waited for a break in the traffic. I hate pressing the crossing light button. I can get across the road in 5 seconds, but those lights last much longer. Often I get across before the light even changes.

I continued strait on Main Street/Rt. 28 along the back side of Spot Pond. This was another two miles of almost no shade at all.

At mile 10 I had to walk a bit. I was hot and running low on water. With no water stops ahead of me I had to be careful.

Miles seven through eleven were between 9:34 and 10:12.

On the Home Stretch

Just before Mile Eleven I passed my normal turn onto Elm Street. This would have taken me over to Highland Avenue and added a mile or so to my run.

I kept running strait down Rt. 28 towards Roosevelt Circle. This is a busy entrance to Rt. 93 and for local traffic. Fortunately there is a sidewalk and traffic wasn’t heavy yet.

My kids went to the St. Francis Parish School and I was now in an area I knew quite well.

As I passed St. Francis Street I thought about all of the mornings I went up that road to drop the girls off for school in the morning.  Good memories.

The sidewalk along this stretch of road has been heaved by frost and tree roots. I had to watch my step and considered running in the road.

But this section of road is like a speed way on the way to Rt. 93. So I kept my head down and my feet high.

At the intersection of the Fellsway West and Fulton Street the walk light was on! I ran the diagonal across six lanes of traffic for a beautifully executed crossing. That intersection must be 200′ across diagonally.

About half way down the Fells to Rt. 60 I hit mile 12 at 9:35. Not bad.

American Runs on Dunkin!

I was on my way to Haynes Square in Medford. There is a Dunkin Donut’s there and I decided to run to the Dunkin’s for a large iced coffee.

I was dehydrated and I knew that ice cold beverage would taste so good. And since there weren’t any water stops for the half marathon, I owed it to myself to have one good water stop!

I pulled up my mask and walked into Dunkin’s. There were only two people in front of me and I stopped my watch.

It only took about two minutes to place my order and be on my way.

I drank about a quarter of the coffee before I even crossed Rt. 60! I’ve run with an iced coffee several times and it’s much easier to do if it’s not full.

I slow jogged down Spring Street towards my home which was lass than a mile away.

Great Bay 2020, Dunkin DonutsI’m sure I was a sight to see, but hey, America Runs on Dunkin! Call me Captain America, I’ve got an iced coffee!

Just after I turned onto my street I hit mile thirteen at 11:21. Not bad for a guy drinking an iced coffee!

I jogged the next 0.12 miles at a pace of 10:09.

It felt good  to be home.

Running in the heat is really draining. While I prefer heat over cold the heat does seem to take more out of me now. Some of that is probably age and some is probably my fitness level.

Virtual Great Bay Half Results

This definitely was my slowest Great Bay Half Marathon by well over ten minutes.

The real course has a total elevation gain of 424 Ft. while the course I ran only had a gain of 323 Ft. But it’s also about 20° cooler in New Hampshire in April!

It was good to get a solid long run in and the virtual race got me out there.

Have you run many virtual races this year? Have you run a virtual half or a full marathon?

Here are two recaps from from New Hampshire.

Great Bay Half Marathon 2015

Great Bay Half 2013

Run well my Friends,

Andy

Super Sunday 2020

What a great day for the Super Sunday 2020 5 miler and 5K.

It was usually warm for February 2nd and we even had some sun! I tell people this race is always cold and some times it’s god damned cold! This year was as good as it get’s in February in Cambridge.

I’ve been running this race since 2015 and they have always had teams. It’s a great way to drive registrations and it’s a lot of fun to run with a group of friends.

Super Sunday 2020, VIP Tent RowLast year the Melrose Running Club had 31 runners. In 2020 we had 40 run the 5 miler and 9 more run the 5K. We had 11 more non-club members join our team, so we had a total of 60 people!

We got a VIP tent for the second year in a row. Special thank go to our Team Captain, Judy Dolan. Judy worked hard last year to get us a tent and this year took it to another level in getting 60 people to sign up!

Judy also brought hot coffee, pastries and chocolates. Last year she wrote a note for each runner, but with 60 runners, she just couldn’t do it this year. Can you blame her?

I think everyone had a great time and even with the “nice” weather, we enjoyed the shelter of the VIP tent.

Running the Super Sunday 2020 5 Miler

Along with 39 of my fellow MRC runners, I chose to run the 5 miler. I ran the 5K in 2015 but have enjoyed the longer race each year since.

Athenaeum Street is always a wind tunnel. This part of Kendall Square is only a few hundred yards from The Charles river. So there is always a cold breeze blowing down these side streets.

This year was as good as it had ever been. They start the 5K ten minutes after the 5 miler and my first year I had to wait in a freezing howl off of the river. Maybe that’s why I switched to the 5 miler!

There was a huge crowd and I could hear understand a word that the race director, Alain, said. Apparently he asked the crowd to step back because the crowd started pushing us back.

In 2019 we ran towards Third Street, but this year we ran towards First Street which is towards Boston. No big deal, but a bunch of runners had lined up on the front side of the starting line.

Super Sunday 2020 start and finish areaWe didn’t really hear the start either, but we strained our eyes and saw the front of the pack start to move and in just a minute or two all of us were crossing the line and starting our watches.

It was pretty crowded but even the first turn went well. I didn’t have a full head of steam yet so there wasn’t much slowing needed to negotiate the corner.

Then we turned onto Binney Street which must be six lanes across. A wider road than much of the Boston Marathon route.

It was great to look around and see purple MRC shirts of all varieties. Last year the club bought 100 winter hats and I could see them all over the place.

I always love running through the intersection of Binney and Third Street. Each night I drive through this intersection and during the race I get through the intersection faster than driving!

Third Street in Cambridge is a total mess. This part of Cambridge has been under construction for at least the past ten years. If the city is waiting to fix the roads, it could be ten more years.

Super Sunday 2020 5 mile course mapThis road beats the shit out of my car and as a runner you need to watch where your feet land. I’ve replaced my shocks, I can’t replace an ankle.

From Third we took a right onto Broadway for our long slog out to The Harvard Art Museum where we took a sharp right onto Cambridge Street for the long slog back.

I’ve been on Cambridge Street many times, but I always feel disoriented when I’m running down this street.

About the Super Sunday 5 Mile Course

East Cambridge is a very flat area. The two “hills” had an elevation gain of 27 and 20 feet! The 20 footer came in the last mile of the race and I actually got to pass a few people.

Binney Street is nice and wide and Broadway and Cambridge street are pretty wide also. By the time we got to Broadway the crowd had thinned enough that the narrower road did not feel crowded.

As we ran west on Broadway the crowd continued to thin. At the first water stop, I was actually able to get a cup of water and they only had about five people manning the table. I’m not too proud to grab some water on a short course. I know I need it to run the way I do.

It was fun to run out Broadway and actually be able to look at the shops and restaurants. In a car you have to focus on cars, bikes, pedestrians and lights. It can be exhausting.

The Harvard Art Museum is quite the impressive modern building. They have an exhibit of Japanese art and I thought my youngest daughter might be interested in seeing that.

As I was admiring that building and reading the sign for the exhibit all of a sudden our turn was there!

I had been running with Marty Hergert and Pam Walcott. We kept trading places but at the turn we were close by.

We were now half way and headed toward mile three. This is where the folks who stick to 5Ks start to run our of gas. I knew that over the next two miles I’d be passing some of these people. All I had to do was maintain my pace.

Just keep pushing.

My first three miles were 8:02, 8:13 and 8:07.

I was working but everything was working. Nothing hurt and my breathing was pretty good.

I wasn’t breaking any land speed records, but I was doing pretty good for a guy running less than 25 miles a week.

As we ran along I tried to take in the scenery. Cambridge Street is in pretty good condition, so I didn’t have to pay strict attention to my feet.

I don’t recall much of this part of the race but I do recall enjoying the ability to actually see things.

As we headed down the hill at the end of Cambridge Street I was ready. I had pushed the last half mile and was ready for the final kick.

As we turned onto Athenaeum Street I could see the finish line! And there was a small crowd cheering us on.

I was with a good sized group of runners. So when we got to the finish line it was impossible to line up for the photographer.

Garmin had me at 41 minutes even. How unusual is that? My total distance was 5.08 for a pace of 8:04.

My official time was 40:47 at five miles exactly for an 8:11 pace. My 5 mile PR is 36:46 back in 2015 at the Harpoon Brewery Five Miler.

A Rockin Party

Our tent was packed. We had a huge crew and friends from other clubs kept dropping by. Like bees there was a constant flow of runners in and out of the group in search of beer. We’d go get some and head back to the tent.

Twice the race brought us three Za pizzas. They were nice and hot and really hit the spot. I missed the first delivery, but managed to get two delicious, hot slices on the second round.

I was riding with someone else, so I was on a mission to enjoy my self. And that is what I did.

The band was so good, I thought they were playing an Aerosmith tape over the PA. Even when I stopped to listen closely, they still were spot on.

Melrose Running Club at 2020 Super Sunday Race

With such a large crew there were people I hadn’t seen in a while and many new club members. It was really a great time.

When we went to leave the parking garage, we found out that it was free! We had no idea and it felt like such a bonus on top of a great race and great time.

If you’ve never run this race, I encourage you to try it next year. It’s well organized, the swag, food, band and beer are all great.

2020 Results

2020 Photos

Run well my Friends!

Andy

Great Stew Chase 15K 2020

It’s amazing to think that The Great Stew Chase 15K has been around for 46 years!

Several times over the years the race has changed a bit. Their web site doesn’t gave a lot of details, but in 2002 they started using the current Lynn/Peabody course and in 2010 they started using the current turn around spot.

Twice the race was postponed due to weather. It is a January race in Massachusetts, so you have to expect that once in a while.

When the race was postponed, participation dropped off substantially.

In the late 90’s into the 2000s the race drew between 200 and 300 runners with a high of 376 runners in 1998.

Since 2010 the Great Stew Chase has had more than 300 runners only once, in 2014. In 2018 and 2019 the race drew less than 200 runners.

I don’t have official numbers for 2020 yet, but I believe that the count was around 150 runners.

I can make a few educated guesses as to why participation is declining.

First, it is a 15K. This is an unusual distance, half-way between a 10K and Half Marathon. It’s too long for people who enjoy running 5Ks and are reluctant to make the leap to 15K.

It’s also too short for people who are training for Boston. At this stage in most training plans, runners need around 15 miles on a Sunday.

Second, the race takes place in January in Massachusetts. It’s not unusual to have ice and snow on the ground and cold winter air blowing in your face.

Third, this race is known for it’s hills. They are not really that bad, but it seems that’s what people hear and remember about the race. The total elevation gain for this race is about 250 feet with the greatest gain of 86 feet in mile 5.

This is the mile we make the turn around and people are starting to feel the race.

Who runs The Great Stew Chase 15K?

2020 marks my 4th running of this north shore race. From my experience, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of who runs this race.

When I first showed up in 2017 I was surprised to see tables full of local running clubs. Each club had a table or two. There were a few unaffiliated runners, but 75% wore club colors.

I’ve come to understand that this is a club oriented event which is fairly unusual. Many races now encourage building teams to get perks like a pop-up tent, but I don’t think Stew’s does this officially.

There are no awards for the largest team or any recognition at all for team size.

Maybe because this is an unusual distance it takes a club to encourage runners to come out? Maybe it’s been a club race for years?

All I can tell you is that there are about six or seven clubs who bring most of the runners to this race.

There are a lot of young hot shots who run this race and do well. There are also lots of older runners who do very well and would be competitive in lower age brackets.

Besides belonging to a club, I think many runners who show up are real runners.

By that I mean people who train in any weather and may have run in high school or college. This is what they do. Some people golf, these people run in any conditions and love it.

This hard core group of runners looks for the challenging races and runs races all twelve months of the year.

When I look around the table at the Melrose Running Club crew, that is what I see. Some of us ran while in school, but most of us came to running later in life and this is what we do.

Less than 10% of our club runs this race, so it is pretty much the hard core runners who show up.

Enthusiasm for running has ebbed over the past five years. There was a surge after the Boston Marathon bombing, but that surge has crested.

Participation in many races has declined and some races have faded away.

While many casual runners now stay home, the hard core runners still turn out in all conditions for races like The Great Stew Chase 15K.

So I believe it is the core of the running community that continues to come out and support races in January that might have an unusual distance.

Melrose Running Club at Great Stew Chase 15K

Great Stew Chase 15K 2020, Melrose Running ClubWe had twenty runners this year. This is our lowest turn out over the past four years, but it was mostly our hard core runners. People with grit and goals.

The people who ran this year had a good time even if the course kicked their asses. We’re funny that way.

Lynda Field and Mike Sikkema both won their age group and Marianne Chmielewski placed second in her age group.

Many others placed in the top five of their age group.

Paul Locke, Marty Hergert, Regina Curran and Linda Giesecke all set new PRs for the 15K.

I was just over a minute away from setting a new PR and really thought I had it. My early miles were good and I kept pushing on each hill.

When ever I felt like letting up I kept telling my self that this is the hill that will make the difference. If you let up here you will miss your PR by seconds.

My watch showed my average pace at 8:29 which would beat my PR of 8:33. But I ran 9.53 miles on a 9.3 mile course, and that made all the difference. Oh well.

Overall it was a great day. We had great weather, a challenging course and great people to hang out with.

What’s not to love?

Run well my Friends!

Andy

2020 Hangover Classic

Nothing like a 10K to get the year off to a great start!

I’ve run the Hangover Classic seven times now?

It’s been much colder and much warmer, but this year was pretty good. Temps were in the 30’s and there wasn’t too much wind. The sky was clear so when we had sun and no wind it was quite nice.

This race is so flat that my Garmin didn’t register any elevation gain at all! I know there were a few rises in the road. One time I could hear the guy behind me groan as the road rose to meet our feet. It was almost funny.

2020 Hangover Classic 10K Exactly

Have you ever run an exact distance for a race?

I’ve run a few that were short, including a 5K that was 2.8 miles. I won’t mention any names but the management company has been in the game for years.

I’ve also run a few races that were long. The Bill Rodgers Jingle Bell Run was 3.4 miles and they posted it as such. They had to re-route the race due to construction in Somerville.

It’s easy to over run a marathon and I usually come in around 26.5 or so. Over 26.2 miles, that’s not too bad.

It’s never exact, but sometimes…

My distance for the Hangover Classic was exactly 6.2 miles! I’ve never run the distance exactly.

I started my watch right on the line and stopped it just a few feet after crossing.

So they measured exactly and placed the start/finish exactly where it needed to be. A perfect execution.

I can’t take too much credit for running the correct distance. There aren’t too many opportunities to get lost and few turns to take long.

Except for the first mile and the turn around at mile three, all you had to do was run strait down the road. Piece cake. Cake by the Ocean!

While the race was uneventful I did run a first, the exact race distance.

Running the Hangover Classic

I got to the race nice and early and had a chance to talk to the timing folks. We had a few laughs and then I had to let them get back to work.

The sun kept my car warm and I read a newspaper. I enjoy reading words on paper, but never seem to have the time anymore.

Since I was 100 yards from the start I waited until 11:20 to head for the start.

The Atlantic wind blew down Broadway and made me anxious to start running.

As I looked around, the crowd looked a little thin. Maybe it was my imagination, but there seemed to be more runners in previous years.

We started on time and I was in the first third of the crowd. I found it easy to navigate the few turns and quickly got up to speed.

By the time we wound through the neighborhood and hit mile one I had an 8:06 mile under my belt.

I hadn’t run in a week and was only shooting for 9 minute miles. I told myself that the first mile is the easy one and the last one can be a bitch.

As we headed out onto Route 1A I consciously tried to slow. I’d get behind someone and try to stay a few feet behind them.

But, inevitably I would end up passing. My legs were just surging and at times it felt like the wind was pushing me along.

We’re not talking blazing speed here, but my goal was nine-minute miles. Mile two came in at 8:17.

By this point in the race my legs were stretched out and I just had to decide what I wanted to do.

Around 2.4 miles the leaders started passing us on their way back to the finish. The first five were close but there was a gap between them and the next runners.

I started counting runners and the first woman was 20th at this point.

Just before mile three we took a right to loop through a neighborhood for the turn. We hit mile 3 on the loop and my mile was 8:24. Getting closer!

As we made the turn I thanked the volunteers at both corners. They must have been a little chilly.

Now we had the long slog back to the finish. Most of it was right down Route 1A and I settled in.

There were a few walkers in both directions.

I had been counting runners since the leaders passed us. I had estimated that there were at least 100 in front of me and probably 150 behind me.

As people passed me I had to do a little math.

Mile 4: 8:13, Mile 5: 8:24, Mile 6: 8:31

I didn’t really plan to kick and kind of felt I had left it all out there. This is the end of lazy season after all.

When I saw the six-mile sign on the ground I knew I had 0.2 to go and kicked it in. When I saw the three-mile sign I knew I had 0.1 to go.

As we made the turn and approached the finish I could not believe that the clock said 51:30, tick tock. I kicked in what I had left and managed an official finish of 51:28.1.

Not a blazing time, but not bad for a guy who’s spent most of the past ten days with a beer in one hand and a remote in the other!

I came in 108 out of 288 10K runners, so my estimates were pretty close. They had 10-year age brackets and I came in 24 out of 52.

FULL RESULTS

2020 is off to a good start and I’m really looking forward to a great year of running and of life!

Run well my Friends and Happy New Year!

Andy