Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday, April 16: Antrim sort-of-5K

Bagged the first "new" town this season today: Antrim, N.H., a small community in the southwestern part of the state where a family and church organized a road race to benefit a local woman suffering from Multiple Sclerosis.

Like many communities, Antrim has put up nice signs welcoming visitors. They look fairly new; a picture of one on Route 202 is included here. Another sign, this one on Route 31, is tough shape after the long winter. I can't imagine what would cause such a huge chunk of a wooden sign to go missing like that, with no evidence on the ground of broken wood or splinters. Maybe someone doesn't want you feeling so welcome in Antrim after all.

But I certainly felt welcome, arriving early (for once) and forking over a $20 bill as my donation. No set fees on this, a nice gesture in the age of $30 registration fees, as I saw last week in Nashua. A friend of mine with kids said it cost him $135 to participate! But registration inflation is a whole other topic.

Cold this morning! In the low 30s when I headed out, but it's mid-April and the prospect of sunny skies led me to just do the T-shirt and running shorts thing. Usually my cut-off temperature for "summer wear" is 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

But by race time, the temperature hadn't budged, and a wind had kicked up to boot. I decided to still tough it out, but only one other guy in the field had bare legs.

The race was preceded by comments from a son of the woman who is afflicted by MS. He did a good job thanking everyone (they've raised $16,000 so far to help her) and couldn't help breaking down a couple of times. It was great to see such genuine emotion expressed so openly.

I was also surprised to hear that a live rock band had been assembled to pump up runners at the finish line, which was near the Antrim Town Hall some distance away. Even so, the emcee said the musicians were ready to start, and we'd be able to hear them throughout the run. "So I guess there won't be too many people in Antrim sleeping late this morning," he said, or words to that effect.

The start (of the race, not the music) was on a side road right next to the Antrim Church of Christ, which I gathered the family belonged to. Organizers took a photo of the woman with MS (who was in a wheelchair) before us at the starting line, and next thing you know, off we went.

It was a nicely laid out course, heading west from the town center on lightly travelled back roads that climbed rolling hills until about the halfway point, then back down on a parallel road, so it had a satisfying up-and-down feel to it. And because of an acoustical quirk perhaps related to the shape of the valley (and maybe the cold air), you really could hear the band blasting away back at the town.

One thing I like about running in towns like Antrim is that I get to see parts of towns I otherwise wouldn't know about. If all you know of Antrim is what you see when you roll through town on Route 202, with its churches and convenience stores, it's pleasant enough, but you only see a very thin slice of the community.

We came back into town on Forest Street, which to my surprise is lined with substantial older homes that must date back to the days when Antrim was a prosperous manufacturing community. It looked like neighbhorhoods in Concord, or in Nashua's North End. What a pleasant discovery! And kudos to organizers for taking the trouble to string a tape across the finish line for everyone who completed the course -- first time I've ever seen that.

However, on the down side, organization pretty hap-hazard. For intsance: No mile markers, water station on the wrong side of the road, course water in the form of plastic bottles with sealed caps. None a biggie by itself, but it made you wonder about some bigger issues.

Like length. Coming back into town, it seemed longer than 5K. Sure enough, when I finished, the time noted on a clipboard was "35:02," a really sub-par result for me. So I hopped in the car and drove the course, and sure enough, it was 3.6 miles. (A 5K is 3.1 miles exactly.) C'mon, people! I know it's a "fun run" for a good cause, but when you tell us it's a 5K, that's really what it should be. The racing phrase "and they're off" should not come into play when we're talking about distance.

Well, 5K or 3.6-miler, it was Town #113 and a nice way to start collecting communities in 2011.

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