Melrose Running Club Virtual Relay

We finally got to run with our friends and stay safe. All this on a beautiful November day.

Like all runners, members of the Melrose Running Club have really missed in real life (IRL) races.

Due to State and Local Public Health Department rules, we suspended all club runs in March. Mid summer we started Tuesday night runs for members only with strict rules and pre-registration.

Everyone missed getting together on Tuesday nights and we all really missed racing. Virtual races are just not the same thing.

Melrose Running Club Virtual Relay

While the weather is still good and with all precautions observed, Jim Carson organized the Melrose Running Club Virtual Relay.

Jim manages our Sunday Long Run program and was elected Club President in October.

With an eye towards safe club activities where we can get together and do what we love, Jim organized this relay as one of his first acts as President.

Here are some photos taken by several club members including Bobby Taylor, Jim Carson, Mary O’Connell, Jose Viveiros. Some photos I wasn’t sure who took them so thank you to everyone.

These were all poached off of Facebook and are in no particular order.

I did minimal editing and please feel free to save any that you like. My apologies if I missed anyone.

Andy Nagelin at Straw Point on 2nd lap Valerie Smith, MRC Relay Thuy Dang Thuy Dang, Joe Terranova MRC Relay at Flynn Rink MRC Relay, Dawn at Spot Pond MRC Relay, Straw Point Park Nicole Jacob Nick Kollett at the hand off area Mike Sikkema at the Hand off point MRC Relay directions MRC Relay, Andy's 3 loop map Mike Sikkema passing Stone Zoo Mary O'Connell and Thuy Dang at Straw Point hand off Marian Sales passing Stone Zoo Maria Cavera at Flynn Rink hand off area MRC Relay, let the sun shine Kristi Taylor leaving Stone Zoo start Kristi Taylor at Straw Point Julie Smith Galvin at Straw Point Captain Jose at Straw Point Joe Terranova passing Stone Zoo on 2nd lap Captain Jim Carson passing Stone Zoo on final lap Jessica Crispin leaving start area at Stone Zoo Jessica Crispin at Flynn Rink Jose finishing at Flynn Rink Captain Jose managing the team Jeff Rushton passing Stone Zoo on 1st lap Haecha Donnelly at Flynn Rink Start Derm Cahill passing Stone Zoo MRC Relay Andy Nagelin at Straw Point on 3rd lap, melrose-running-club-virtual-relay

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!


Melrose Fire Fighters Father’s Day 5K 2019

Melrose Fire Fighters Father’s Day 5K was another fun family event, and we even out ran the rain!

The Melrose Fire Fighters Father’s Day 5K is a great family event for runners of all ages and capabilities!

The Kid’s Fun Run began at 9:00 and there must have been thirty kids. That’s a really good turn out and shows how much of a family event this is.

We stood across from the fire station and cheered them on as they ran by. Some had great looks of determination on their faces and were clearly taking this race seriously. It was great to see all of those future Melrose Running Club members striding by.

Running the Melrose Fire Fighters Father’s Day 5K

Melrose Running Club, Melrose Fire Fighters Father's Day 5K

Just before 9:30 the race director gave us directions and thanked us for coming. Then he walked back through the crowd about 50 feet and gave the instructions again. Then the Greater Boston Fire Fighters band marched through the space with staccato drums and waling bagpipes.

With the clanging of a fire bell we were off like a fire company to a call.

This being Melrose, we hit the first incline about 100 feet after the start line. Garmin only shows 3 feet of elevation gain for the entire first mile. It seemed like we had more than that right out of the gate! Oh well.

The Club runs most of this course for some of our Sunday Long Runs, so most of us are very familiar with these roads.

The race started at the top of Melrose Common on 6th Street and wound down Swains Pond Avenue and swung around Swains Pond.

We hit mile one just after the pond. I didn’t feel great but my muscle strain wasn’t bothering me and nothing else hurt. That’s about as good as it gets! Mile one came in at 7:32.

The air was warm and humid and the sun was peeking at us from behind mostly cloudy skies. It felt like the summer race I’ve been waiting for.

As we ran down Swains Pond Avenue towards Lebanon Street I kept pouring it on. I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to keep up this pace or if my heart would blow up, but I kept on going.

At the first water stop I took a cup. I figured I wouldn’t be able to get near the table, but it was a piece of cake. They even gave me a full paper cup.

I did a marathon grab, pinched the cup and managed to get two gulps and soak my shorts! All this without breaking my stride or drowning my self! Sometimes it just works.

There were a few people out cheering us on and people in their cars were patient. I didn’t hear a single honk or holler.

Lebanon Street runs along the backside of Pine Banks Cemetery. I half expected to see the police band in there, I don’t know why. Strange things go through your head when you’re running.

Just before the intersection with Sylvan Street my watch hit mile two at 7:31. I was holding up pretty good but began to slip into bargain mode.

Did I want to beat a 24 minute time or not? Could I beat a 24 minute finish? Of course I could. All I had to do was run.

So I kept running.

About a half mile after Sylvan Street we took a right onto Grove Street. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if someone pasted another “o” on the sign to make it “Groove” Street? All kinds of craziness in the noggin today! I guess I was in my groove.

“Groove” street had more incline as we approached the turn onto Larrabee Street at the bottom of Melrose Common.

We ran past The Common and took a right onto 1st Street for a bit more hill and then another right onto 6th Street for a bit more hill.

As we approached the finish the road flattened out and a guy behind me kicked and pushed past me. From where I was I could see that the clock still had a 23 on it and I was only about 100 meters away.

I managed to keep up my efforts and had an official finish of 23:37. I beat last week’s pace by 24 seconds on a much hillier course.

Melrose Running Club at The Race

The Melrose Fire Fighters Father’s Day 5K is the June Melrose Running Club Race of the Month. We had 34 runners participate this month for our best turn out so far this year!

Not only did we turn out, but we did pretty well also.

Mike Sikkema was the first place male runner at 18:14 and was the only male older than 40 in the men’s top 10!

Andrea Twomey was the fifth place female runner at 23:27. We traded places on the course a few times, but she ran the hills a little better than I did.

Andrea was also first place in her age group.

Cynthia Berger was first in her age group.

Judy Dolan and Jeff Rushton were second in their age groups.

Kristi Taylor, Diarmuid Cahill and I were third in our age groups.


On top of that The Melrose Running Club was the largest team this year and won the American Flag award! The flag is hand crafted from old fire hoses and is pretty cool! It also weighs about 100lbs.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there. I hope you had a great weekend.


American Flag, Melrose Fire Fighters 5K
Melrose Firefighters Fathers Day 5K 2019 American Flag


Great Stew Chase 2019

Great Stew Chase 2019 was the 45th running of this classic 15K. The 3rd oldest 15K in the USA. Great weather for a great run in Lynn, MA.

The Great Stew Chase 2019 15K was run on January 27th in Lynn, MA. 2019 marks the 45th running of this classic race.

Billed as the 3rd oldest 15K in America, the race has seen better years.

In 2017 there were 262 finishers, 2018 there were 198 finishers. For 2019 there were 172 finishers.

This race has traditionally been a running club oriented race. There are usually about six local clubs who make up the bulk of the runners. This year I would say that 90% of the runners were with a local club.

To keep the tradition alive it is important for the local running clubs to encourage their members to participate. The race director mentioned the declining numbers and the need to increase them to keep the race viable.

Great Stew Chase 2019

This year The Melrose Running Club had 22 runners, which is down from 29 runners in 2017, but about the same as last year. This late in January you never know what conditions you may end up running in. In 2015 the race was postponed to March due to snow.

Great Stew Chase 2019, 15K Race, Melrose Running Club

We had some new faces this year, which is always great to see. Dave Bryson and Marty Hergert are Marty Hergert, Great Stew Chase 2019two of our newer members who decided to brave the cold for a January 15K!

I ran with Durm Cahill like I did last year. In 2018 I had knee problems and took it pretty slow. Durm stayed with me even though I’m sure he could have run much faster.

This year I had been feeling pretty good until about a week ago. My right foot has been bothering me. I think it’s a combination of too much treadmill running and wearing old shoes. I’ll be making some changes.

The first two miles we ran too fast, 8:06 and 7:53. My goal was 9 minute miles so I tried to slow us down. Shortly after mile two Durm had to stop running due to a calf cramp. I asked if he was okay and and he told me to go on and he would catch up.

Running The Great Stew Chase 15K

Running on my own didn’t make pacing any easier. Each time someone passed me I had to resist the urge to speed up. I kept telling myself that a 9 minute pace would give me a PR. All I wanted was to finish with a PR. They are rare these days and I didn’t have a single PR in 2018.

The course is mostly rolling hills. Nothing too aggressive. Then at Mile four we approach the I-95 overpass. For mile four we gained 42 feet in elevation and my mile came in at 8:20. Not bad.

Mile five goes over the I-95 bridge and ends after our hill climb up to our turn around point. After the turn the hills are pretty much over. Mile five came in at 8:47. My slowest mile but also the hilliest mile.

I slowed down to get a cup of water off of the table and handed my cup to a volunteer. As I ran back out to the main road I saw several MRC runners. A few people called out my name but my glasses were so dark I couldn’t tell who they were!

Back on the main road we ran mostly downhill until we reached the I-95 overpass. Going up this hill was a bit more challenging now that my legs were tired.

We were now more than half way. Mile six chimed in at almost the exact spot where we hit mile 4. Mile six had 60 feet of decline and Garmin didn’t register any elevation gain. But I know we ran up some hills!

My watch was hitting the miles before the mile markers. Just after the mile six sign, I glanced at my watch and saw that we were at the 10K mark. I was running at an average pace of about 8:20.

We had 5K to go and I hoped I could keep my 10K pace going to the end.

Finishing The Chase

At this point in the race my legs were tired and my right foot hurt. I contemplated walking and tried to calculate my finish time based on my time so far and how fast I thought I could walk. Neither the math nor my guess were very good. I decided to keep running.

The only thing that hurt was my foot. I’ve run in much more pain and with much less juice left. Why would I give up?

Most people who run this race are competitive. The race seems to draw the die-hard runners. At this point in the race we were very well sorted. No one was passing anyone.

Mile seven had us running back through Centennial Park. I used to work in this area and there isn’t much to see. Mile seven chimed in at 8:32. Only two and a half miles or so to go.

How many miles is 15K? It turns out it’s 9.3 miles. But I was hitting the miles before the markers and I wasn’t sure if it was 9.3 or 9.5. But I was pretty sure I was going to run long.

Mile eight chimed in at 8:41 with only 26 feet of elevation gain. I was fading.

I decided to push as hard as I could for the last mile or so. I knew that I was close to a PR and didn’t want to miss it by 15 seconds. I didn’t want to miss it period.

That last 1.3 miles winds back through the neighborhood off of Rt. 129. There were some hills, pot holes and sloped road. If I ran at a bad angle it put too much pressure on my right foot. At this point in the race it was really sore.

I managed to avoid branches and pot holes and kept on pushing.

When we got out onto Rt. 129 I knew we were close and didn’t want anyone to pass me in the last few hundred yards.

I pushed through and mile nine came in at 8:40. My last 0.53 mile came in at an 8:01 pace. As I approached the finish area I saw John Mulroy and Katherine Kulig walking off their race.

Approaching the finish I saw the clock was close to 1:19. I didn’t have anything to kick in so I just tried to maintain my pace.

My finish time was 1:19:37 for an 8:33 pace. I was 90th overall and 12 out of 16 in my age group. It’s a tough crowd!

Garmin had my distance at 9.53 miles and a pace of 8:22.

Mary O’Connell and I scored course PRs for the day. This was Mary’s second PR for 2019 and it’s only January! Lot’s of other MRC runners achieved a course PR but I think it was because it was their first time running the race. I’ll update this if I hear differently.

Apre Chase

Due to the smaller crowd, there was plenty of room. The MRC was seated at two table on either side of the hall. Going over to say hi was a good excuse to mingle a bit.

I thought the soup was pretty good and enjoyed the roll and cookie. I could have eaten several of those cookies!

When the awards came around, The MRC did pretty well.

Katherine Kulig came in 3rd in her age group. She had a baby last year and this was her longest run in a year.

Michael Sikkema came in second in his age group and Audie Bridges placed third in his. They received a Great Stew Chase blanket. Definitely preferable to a trophy! Audie had already left and I’m not sure if they will mail the blanket to him.

As soon as the awards were over we all headed for home and hot showers.

Great Stew Chase 2019 FULL RESULTS

2018 Great Stew Chase Recap

Run well my Friends,


Melrose Wakefield Healthcare Stride for Healthy Communities 5K

A great day for the Melrose Wakefield Healthcare Stride for Healthy Communities 5K. Race re-cap.

Melrose Wakefield Healthcare held their Stride for Healthy Communities 5K on Saturday, September 29th.

The race started on the Lower Common at Church Street at Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield.

The Melrose Running Club is a community sponsor of this Wakefield 5K race. This year we had about half a dozen volunteers and about half a dozen runners participate. Most of us pulled double duty and had twice the fun!

Dan Slattery, MRC Club President, was the point man this year and pulled together the crew of volunteers and runners. This is the Club’s second year as the community sponsor and our participation continues to grow.

Melrose Wakefield Healthcare Stride for Healthy Communities 5K

I pulled into the parking lot around 7AM. It was still a little cool so I had three layers on including my running jacket. I was manning the bib pickup table and wandered over and meet the crew.

One of the people I met was born in Limestone Maine! We had a good conversation about Maine, Mainers and our idiosyncrasies. We’ve both been away for many years so we have some perspective and fondness for our home state.

Most of the volunteers are nurses in the Melrose Wakefield Healthcare System. What an organized and motivated team! Our little team gelled quickly and we had fun talking and working together. Things went unbelievably smoothly. We had the usual and expected issues and no one missed a beat smoothing things along. You’d think we did this every weekend!

Melrose Running Club, Melrose Wakefield Healthcare Stride for Healthy Communities 5K

The Melrose Running Club all stopped by to say hello and headed out for their assignments. We manned the tables, the water stop and were course marshals.

Running The Healthy Strides 5K

About quarter of nine I noticed most of my friends were either doing a warm up jog or stretching. By now the box of bibs was mostly empty and our job was mostly over.

I did some stretching at the table and then took off my jacket, stuffed it into my drop bag and jogged to the start area. Thuy Dang and Mary O’Connell were waiting for the start and we talked about the MRC Racing Series. Neither one of them was too excited about running the Howling Wolf Half on October 28th. But I’m not adding a November race!

The lady from High 5 ‘Em made some announcements that I couldn’t really hear. Just after 9:00 we were off. I wasn’t expecting it, but as I crossed the start line I saw a timing mat. They said a “shot gun start” which I thought meant they yelled go and we went. No timing at the start. Not that I mind, but I was ready to run outside of the cones!

As I crossed the mat I started my watch and the race. There were only about 100 runners and we had one side of the street. As we crossed Church Street we went down to the side of the road and sidewalk. The crowd had thinned enough by the drop down to leave plenty of room for all.

I was running the Smuttynose Rockfest Half the next day so I tried to back off from my usual 5K pace. My goal pace was around 9:00 minutes but I knew that would be a challenge to keep.

I tried to settle into a comfortable pace and before long I was passing people! At times I’d try to settle in behind someone and back off my pace a bit. But after a bit I’d be almost in their shoes and would have to pass.

As I ran that first mile I thought how anyone can run a fast first mile. And that my first mile would feel easy and fast. I had to keep it cool or I’d pay on Sunday.

As we ran down North Avenue we had the nice wide bike lane, probably 6 feet wide. I really did think about my pace. But I wasn’t breathing hard and my legs weren’t getting tired.

We hit mile one near the entrance to the hotel on the lake and my pace was 8:36. Slower than I could have run that mile but faster than I should have run that mile!

Soon we made the turn onto Quannapowitt Parkway. Traffic was light and many of us ran in the street. The bright sunshine warmed the air into the low 70’s and it actually felt a bit warm!

As the Parkway turned left to go around the office building, we went strait down the sidewalk to the path around the lake. There were some walkers on the path and we were a little more crowded than before.

Instead of cutting through the park we ran out to Lowell Street to square the corner to make a full 5K course. There were a few people cheering us on as we ran by the park.

After the park the sidewalk narrows and the street is too busy to run in. So we got crowded a bit. When we turned onto Main Street, Wakefield, we had to run on the sidewalk.

This area is popular with both runners and walkers. Most people out walking seemed to be oblivious that there was a race going on. I certainly wasn’t the first person to yell “To The Right!” as I approached. People with dogs seemed to pay more attention and kept their dogs out of our way.

We hit Mile Two just before we turned off of Lowell Street onto Main Street. My mile pace was 8:38. There wasn’t any hill at all on this mile, so I had successfully managed to slow my pace.

Runners were pretty well spaced out now. I was running behind a woman and we kept pace together pretty well for about a quarter of a mile and then she seemed to slow down.

When I got to a spot where I could get onto the dirt path between the sidewalk and street I passed her. We were now at about 2.5 miles and I knew I could run this thing in.

As we got close to the turn into the Lower Common I got onto the dirt path between the sidewalk and the lake. Dan Slattery was there holding a big pointing hand sign. I yelled out “nice way to lend a hand!”

Coming off of the sidewalk there is a crushed stone path that goes down a short hill. My footing felt sure on the smooth path, so I ran down the little hill.

I could see the finish line and was running strong. I couldn’t hear anyone behind me but I still thought someone was going to blow past me.

My time at the finish was 26:15 for an average pace of 8:33. I’m sure I’ll pay for this during the half marathon.

Apre Healthy Strides 5K

They had plenty of water in kiddie pools at the finish. A great idea. The bank who was sponsoring even had their name on the label. Pretty cool.

As I drank my water I chatted with other runners and my friend Liz Emerald. She thought the course was short and asked me what I had for a distance. I had 3.07 miles. Just 0.03 miles short. About 158 feet short.

She seemed upset. I reminded her that The Olympic Committee was not here awarding medals today. She didn’t seem to appreciate the humor.

I don’t get too worked up about 0.05 miles or less of a deviation. I can screw up an accurate 5K distance on my own.If I run 3.15 miles, I’m okay with that. I can find the extra 264 feet all on my own.

Most races are measured with a high degree of accuracy. I’m pretty sure that this is an USATF Certified 5K also. If the race is off by 50 feet and I’m off by 100 feet you end up with 3.07 miles.

As I turned to head to the vendor tables and pick up my gear I looked around for a recycle barrel for the water bottles. None to be found!

A race run by a healthcare organization and no recycling? JRM Hauling and Recycling had a table so I headed in their direction. On the way I stopped to chat with my friends from Ameriprise. They thought recycling would be a good idea at a race also. Erica took my bottle and headed for the JRM booth.

By the time I got there she was in a conversation with the two ladies from JRM. They said that no one provided a barrel for them to use. I was puzzled by that response.

I told them they should have a large barrel that they take to all of their events. They could put all of their display items in the barrel for easy transport and then use the barrel to collect plastic bottles.

I hate to be critical, but this should not have been a novel idea. They are a waste disposal and recycling company.

We did have a good conversation about the challenges to recycling. Between the low cost for some materials, the decreasing use of glass and how some condo complexes do not want to pay anything extra to add recycling to their disposal options. It was a discouraging conversation.

Healthy Stride 5K Awards

Team MRC gathered in front of the awards area. None of us expected to win anything but here we were crowding the pedestals.

I managed to maneuver us off to the side a bit. Soon the person from High 5 Em announced they were doing awards and a crowd gathered around us.

Lisa Tysall won first place in her age group and finished 13th overall. Rose Fisher, the Race Director, won 3rd place in her age group and came in 29th overall. I won third place in my age group and was 21st overall. I purposely did not run my fastest at this race and getting an award was a total surprise.

Lisa Tysall, Melrose Wakefield Healthcare Stride for Healthy Communities 5K 2018
Lisa Tysall AG 1st Place

I felt odd getting 3rd in my age group, but he guy who came in 4th place walked with his wife. So I didn’t feel like I kept someone else from placing.

As people started to leave I spoke with Steph Lawson about some running club business that the board has been discussing. She had an awesome idea. When our club President, Dan Slattery, wandered over I let Steph explain her simple, elegant solution to him.

Like the solution to a complex mathematical problem, her solution was truly simple and elegant. Stay tuned!


Run well my Friends and enjoy the fall running season!


Blue Cross Blue Shield Island Run 2018

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Island Run 5 Miler and 5K were a great time and a great way to see Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts held their fifth annual Island Run on September 22nd. The race took place on Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor.

To get to this race we had to be on the Provincetown II ferry by 9:00 AM. There was no other way to get to Spectacle Island unless you had your own boat!

I left my house just after 7AM and was on the waterfront by 7:30. My GPS had 200 Seaport Blvd punched in, but that took me to the Fish Pier. There is a parking lot at the end of the pier without any space numbers or meters, so it might have been free parking or my car might have been missing when I returned after the race.

I thought I found a parking spot on Seaport Blvd, but it turns out the meters are only good for two hours! I reluctantly parked in the MassPort garage and figured it would cost me $32 to park for four or five hours. As I cursed BCBS of MA and MassPort it dawned on me why a lot more people from the club didn’t sign up for the race: parking is a bitch is South Boston!

It was a short walk over to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and then to the bib pickup area. Besides expensive parking, my only complaint is lack of signs directing runners to the bib pick up/boarding area.

I’ve been to the area several times but I’ve never taken a boat. I had no idea where the boats left from. Fortunately I saw some people in BCBS of MA volunteer t-shirts and headed in their direction.

There weren’t a lot of people there yet so I was able to check in quickly, get my bib and get onto the boat. No one else I knew was there yet so I walked around the ship to see where everything was. It’s a pretty good sized ship!

The Crew Arrives

Slowly Melrose Running Club runners began to arrive. Eventually all seven of us were on board and ready to cast off. We were sitting on one of the upper decks and just below the deck where the DJ was.

Melrose Running Club, Blue Cross Blue Shield Island Run 2018
Courtesy Andrea Kerton

When they fired up the tunes we decided it was time to head below decks so we could hear each other. It’s tough getting old!

My friends Lisa Hines and Cheryl Lynn from Team Slow and Thirsties also showed up! I wasn’t expecting them. Most of our team has been dealing with one injury or another over the past year and haven’t been doing much running.

BCBS Island Run 2018, Team Slow and Thirsties, Spectacle Island

Everyone had fun talking and taking in Boston Harbor as we headed for Spectacle Island.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Island Run 2018

We docked around 9:30 and everyone disembarked and headed towards the start area. As we walked down the pier we saw the finish line and timing mats. It seemed odd to finish on a concrete pier.

As we headed for the Visitor’s Center we saw a sign that said bathrooms were available on the ship. Fortunately there were bathrooms in the Visitor Center but apparently they were too small for a large crowd.

There was a large tent next to the Visitor’s Center and I figured we would have the post race party there. But no one was in there setting up and the place was empty.

It seems like the island was shut down or in the process of shutting down for the season. The facilities probably were not capable of handling several hundred runners drinking beer and peeing all afternoon!

The food was served as we headed back to the boat after the race and each runner received two beers after we were on the boat.

It was a smart way to get everyone on board and control drinking. If you wanted food and drink after the race, get on the boat. And since the ride back was only about 20 minutes, it limited beer drinking time to about an hour, depending on when you finished the race.

Good planning, but I was hoping to enjoy a beer on the beach. I guess that would be public drinking since The Harbor Islands are a National Park.

Running The Island Run 2018

The 5 Miler was supposed to start at 10:00 and the 5K at 10:25. Things were about 6 minutes behind schedule, so the 5 Milers began at 10:06 and the 5K runners at 10:31. No big deal.

Alain Ferry, our Race Director, made some announcements from inside the Visitors Center, I think. We could hear him but he said he couldn’t see us from wherever he was. Soon he came running to the start line with his microphone head set on. He told us about the time delay and turned things over to the timers who had us started in no time.

I was near the front of the pack but had no intentions of running a World Record. Matt Kerton and I wished each other a good race and I told him I’d see him at the finish.

We started out on a nice flat stone dust path. I thought how much better this type of surface is than pavement which always has pot holes. It’s easy to fix holes or washouts on a stone dust path.

Since it was a nice smooth surface I began to look around at the scenery as I made my way along. It wasn’t very long before I almost twisted my ankle in a washout rut. At that point I decided to spend more time looking at my feet and a few feet in front of me and gave up on sight seeing!

At about 1K we hit our first hill. We went from Sea Level to 49 feet in about a quarter-mile. It was a gravel path but I rose up on my toes, dug in and took the hill.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Island Run 2018 course map

Running on a loose surface is different than pavement. Even without pot holes to contend with, there are ruts and loose footing to deal with.

I soon figured out that the island side of the path was generally smoother than the ocean side of the path. I guessed this was due to run off picking up velocity and moving more gravel as it moved over the smooth path. Who knows?

There were a lot of switchbacks and hairpin turns on this course. It was the only way to get a five mile course on this tiny island!

At about 0.8 miles we hit our second hill and went from 16 feet to 67 feet above Sea Level in a tenth of a mile. It was still early in the race, but it hit people.

Shortly after Mile 1 we ran through the start area near the dock. It was fun to have some people cheering us on. The 5K runners had not started yet.

My first mile was 8:32 and I felt pretty good about that. Faster than I wanted to run this race at and I’m sure to pay for it on the Sunday Long Run!

Our highest and longest climb started at about 2.64 miles and rose from 0 feet to 79 feet in less than a quarter of a mile. This was a long grassy hill. It was challenging to run because most of us were beginning to feel some fatigue and the grass was in bunches and not mowed. It looked like a tractor had gone over the path a few times. But it was fun!

Finishing The Island Run 2018

Just before Mile 4 we descended from 79 feet to 0 feet above Sea Level. It felt good to be going down hill and the path was pretty good. I took advantage of the conditions and passed a few people.

Mile 4 chimed in at 8:30 and I only had a mile to go! Most of the last mile was fairly flat or low hills. I was able to open it up a bit and managed an 8:00 mile. It felt good to run that pace outside.

As we came down the path to the finish area I passed one runner who seemed to be struggling. As we ran down the pier I tried to over take a much younger guy who had passed me a mile or so earlier. I tried.

I managed to run 5.07 miles and had a Garmin time of 42:43 and average pace of 8:25. My official time was 42:40 for a pace of 8:33.

Finishing on the pier wasn’t so bad. It was a flat,stable surface and it was the finish!

I saw Matt Kerton on the other side of the barricade and he yelled out my name. I walked down to the BodyArmor people who were providing post race drinks for us.

Their drinks are pretty good. I like them because they are not sugary and you can taste a little salt. These are not a drink to have with dinner or while sitting at your desk at work. They really hit the spot after a race.

I hung out with Matt and Dave Register near the finish line for about 10 minutes. I believe that Dave ran under 40 minutes, but I need to check that.

I saw Lisa Hines finish strongly but didn’t see anyone else we know finish. Standing on the pier in the harbor breeze I was getting cold and decided to head in. Matt was waiting for his wife Andrea to finish. So he and Dave stayed at the finish line.

Apre BCBS Island Run 2018

Before we boarded the ferry, boloco was providing borrittos to everyone. They were a little small for people finishing a race, but they were tasty! A friend described them as large cigars.

Before we went up the gang plank we each received two beer tickets. I went to the deck where bag check was and redeemed a coupon at the bar after I got my bag.

Mayflower Brewing was providing cans of Mayflower IPA. With IBUs clocking in at 77 it was a little much even for an IPA guy like me. Several of my friends don’t like IPAs so they didn’t really enjoy the ale. Daily Ration at 25 IBUs may have had a broader appeal to this crowd. Daily Ration also has 4.5 % ABV versus 6.1% for the IPA.

I was offered an extra beer ticket but the two I had seemed to be enough.

On the ride back to Boston I sat with Cheryl and Lisa and we got all caught up with each other’s lives. Like we always do. Matt and Andrea Kerton sat with us for a while also.

Before we knew it we were at the dock and it was time to go.

As we left the ship Alain Ferry was there giving everyone high fives and hugs. You get the feeling he really appreciates people showing up for his races!

When I got to the garage I hopped in my car, found my ticket and headed for the exit. Then I saw a sign that said to pay the ticket at a hotel kiosk! I was in a freaking MassPort garage. Where the hell was the hotel? And I had to go all the way to the lobby?

Fortunately there was a machine in the vestibule for the elevator and stairs. I scanned my ticket and it was only a $25 charge! What a deal. I figured at least $32 and probably $38. Either way, it’s way cheaper than a parking ticket in Boston and I didn’t have to worry about my car getting towed.

Running is the Great Elixir

My little My First 5K medals business had a challenging week. I lost my largest customer and another customer complained they did not get the engraving they requested. I don’t even offer engraving, so I had to make that clearer on the site.

I hate it when customers are not thrilled with the My First 5K medal, and loosing my biggest customer is a big set back. In addition to being bummed out, the week made me question why I do this.

Running this race and spending time with friends gave me a bit of a renewal. Everyone there loves running. For some of those runners the Island 5K may have been their first 5K and I bet they had as much fun as I did.

Why would I give up trying to encourage people to run their first 5K? For some people it may be just that little something they need to lace up and train.

And no one can tell me that kids don’t love to get a medal at a race. Especially a nice one.

So if my medal helps mom or dad get their child to join them for a 5K race, it’s worth the bumps in the road along the way.

A person I work with died last week. He had been over weight and had some health issues. Running wont make anyone live forever or avoid health conditions, ask Dave McGillivray.

But if someone is concerned about their weight or health in general, helping them incorporate running into their fitness plan is worth it.

It’s never easy, but a fun run and time with friends helped build my spirits back up.

Run well my Friends!