In the past several months, while watching, documenting or participating in road racing events in the greater Capital Area, I have found myself feeling deeply grateful and inspired.
In September, 326 runners participated in the State Employees Federal Credit Union Labor Day 5k, with a newly certified course and staging area. In that group were 13 runners who were 75 years of age and up, and 6 runners who were 80 years of age and up. These runners in the 80-plus category: Richard Eckhardt, Joseph Kelly, Robert McFarland, Wade and Anne Stockman, and Kenneth Orner stepped to the line and, as usual, gave it their best effort. This incredible group of runners demonstrates what a person can accomplish who has had accessible opportunities for healthful exercise and friendly, motivating, competition. This event couldn’t go off if there weren’t dozens of Club volunteers and the indefatigable efforts of SEFCU’s Jolene Wait and her team of SEFCU volunteers.
I had the opportunity to participate in the Hudson Mohawk Road Runner’s Club’s Hannaford Half Marathon, which took place along side of the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon. Each race achieved a record number of finishers. The races each finish at the Corning Preserve Park in a music and sport festival atmosphere. The relatively compact city park seemed to expand to welcome more athletes as they finished and as their families met them. Music, finisher information, awards, food and drink, medical and athlete recovery services were all easily available in an area in which it was also comfortable for runners to talk with friends and family about the race.
In all of the races in which I’ve watched or run, I have never seen a more intimate or welcoming finish area. In the final two tenths of a mile after runners have passed the boat launch and Mike McLean, there are family, friends and welcoming strangers along both sides of the eight-foot wide bike path cheering them on right to the finish line where their names are announced.
The weather on the day of the race was perfect save for a breeze a runner might’ve felt at about mile five or eighteen, depending on the race they were running. This breeze didn’t cool the competition as some of the course records were challenged or broken. This was just Lady Luck shining her favor on us all: We’ve had good weather for racing this fall. However, most of the other factors that a runner would notice in this race were not due to luck alone. Marathon Race Director Maureen Cox left nothing to chance in her year-long planning and management of this incredibly successful and fun race. I am nothing if not awe-struck and inspired by Maureen’s deep dedication to continuing to improve these classic fall events to which, it is clear, we start to look forward earlier and earlier each year.
That leads to this past weekend and the 40th Stockade-Athon. Veteran Race Director Vince Juliano and his team of volunteers, including the Willow Street coordinators of the Kid’s Run, brought Olympic Champion Frank Shorter, sixteen hundred runners and thousands of spectators to the streets of Schenectady for this classic 15-kilometer race. It was really a four-day event for Vince, not counting what must add up to an incredible number of hours of planning over the preceding year. There was a fine dinner on Thursday evening that was highlighted with a talk given by Olympic Champion, and inspiration of millions of American distance runners since the nineteen seventies, Frank Shorter. The Schenectady YMCA hosted last chance sign up on the Friday before the race. On the Saturday before the race, the Fleet Feet store in Albany, the host of the Stockade Athon Expo and packet pick-up. American road racing legend and inspiration to generations of runners, Frank Shorter, spoke with fans of all ages and signed books and shirts. The race itself took place on a perfect cool and sunny morning, and again had many fine performances by runners of all ages. The race was followed by a fantastic brunch of hot soup that was provided by Bountiful Bread, plenty of fresh hot pizza, cider donuts and chocolate milk in the nearby Key Hall and the winners were recognized at the awards in adjacent General Electric Theatre in Proctor’s. Vince Juliano made us all proud with the fantastic experience and results his efforts and those of his veteran coordinators provided. I cannot say enough about how much Vince’s work on this race, and that of those hundreds of unnamed volunteers, means to us runners.
The last few weeks of witnessing the achievements of runners and race organizers have inspired this writer to set high goals, continue training and racing with my friends and to work with the Club (HMRRC) to help organize and manage top quality road-running and racing events accessible to a growing road running community in the Capital Area.
If you reside in the greater Capital area and think that some of the recent events that I’ve tried to describe above seem like something in which you’d like to participate, read on in this issue of the Pace Setter and look for more next month as the HMRRC introduces the newly designed web version of the Pace Setter. If you’d like to become a part of the organizing groups for some events, and contribute to this growing club and the, drop me a line or come to a club meeting. You’re needed and welcome. There are many roles, small and large, to fill. These meetings take place on the second Wednesday of each month at the Point of Woods Recreation Center, 101 Ridgewood Terrace, at the intersection of Point of Woods Drive and Ridgewood Terrace, in Albany.