Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday, June 25: Goffstown (#119)

You know it's going to be an interesting road race when, just before the start, a guy right behind you -- one of those guys with a voice that's louder than he realizes -- says, speaking in your direction, "Well, I see a lot of pretty unfit people here, so at least I know I won't be last."

That was the 32nd annual Goffstown Gallop, a 5.2-mile loop through the community, skirting the village area but sticking mostly to suburban roads. For me, it's #119 out of New Hampshire's 234 cities, towns, and unincorporated places, and it's an unusual one because it's the next town over from where I live. At this point, I often have to drive a couple hours one way to get to races I need, but for me, Goffstown's just a bit further away than the Bedford town dump.

Good thing, too, because I got a late start and wound up not even leaving the house until after 8 a.m. -- kinda late for an 8:30 a.m. start, even if it is the next town over. And then I didn't realize you have to park at the high school, which is a 10-minute stroll from the registration area and starting line, meaning I just barely got there in time. I was actually the last person to register, completing my paperwork as a guy called out "Four minutes to start!"

Although this race is close by, I haven't done it until now (after pursuing this quest for more than a decade!) because each year, the last weekend in June either found me out of town or at some other less-well-established race in a town I needed. So Goffstown took a while to get filled in, but I felt I could wait because the race is a community tradition, with little chance it would just disappear.

The full name of the race, by the way, is the "32nd Annual Dave French Goffstown Gallop," named after the town's long-time (and now retired) recreation director. I used to work with Dave when I was editor of the local paper, the Goffstown News; we were once part of a "lose weight for charity" campaign some years ago, but my favorite rec department activity was Dave's annual smelliest sneaker contest. Each year we'd photograph the winner (and the shoes) and run it in the paper. An egalitarian honor, it was something that all area youth could aspire to no matter what their athletic abilities might be.

And Dave French himself was running in the race, for what I gathered was the first time ever after years of organizing it. I didn't get a chance to speak to him, but it's somehow comforting to know you're running with the guy who the race is named after.

The length of 5.2 miles is a little odd, the result of the course having to start and finish at the town's recreation property. But it's funny how a 5K (3.1 miles) can sometimes seem longer than you expect, while something 5 miles or more (like today) can whiz right by, which is what seemed to happen today. Before I knew it, we were at the 4-mile mark and the race was almost over! There's something psychological behind this, and perhaps it's nothing more complicated than expectations vs. reality, but I don't know.

The same thing happened with what I thought would be the course's "one big hill" between miles 2 and 3, which I overheard some runners speaking of prior to the start. I braced myself for a long, motivation-sapping upgrade, but found it to be a mild uphill that barely rose at all. I kept waiting to get hit with a steep climb, but it never happened; instead, we leveled off and then began descending. That was it?

Weather: Unusually cool for late June in New Hampshire, mid-50s, overcast, occasional mist. Great running weather, so that helped. Surprised to see my time at the finish as 50:25 (just missed 50 minutes!), which means something under a 10:00 mile, I think -- my best pace this year so far. The weather certainly helped.

Kudos to race organizers for keeping the entrance fee to an affordable $10 in advance, $15 day of registration. Elsewhere, we're regularly seeing registration fees of $25 and $30 now, and that's a little steep, even if it's for a great cause.

I just checked, and yes, the results are online: my pace was 9:46, and I finished 174 out of 219. No exactly medal material (although all finishers got one), but not last, either.

Geez, I wonder how the guy with the big mouth did?

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