Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday, Oct. 6: Grafton, Town #139

The course was once the main railroad line linking Boston and Montreal.

Ran a 5K this morning in Grafton, an up-country towns in the state's western hills. Finished in 29:58, a minor miracle for me. The fact that there was actually an official race in Grafton was a minor miracle as well.

The morning was warm--warmer than you'd expect for the Saturday on Columbus Day weekend. Grafton is a small town on Route 4 about an hour away from home base, and it's far enough up for you to still see Ron Paul for President signs on the side of barns.

I know Grafton as one of the towns on the "Northern Line," meaning a railroad that linked Concord, N.H. with White River Junction, Vt. by snaking through this part of the state. At one time the corridor was part of the main linking connecting Boston and Montreal, and was very busy both with passenger and heavy freight.

Alas, the line was abandoned in the 1980s, and the tracks have since been removed. But the corridor itself remains intact, and still runs through the small towns of western New Hampshire -- often straighter and more level than Route 4, which parallels it. These days, it serves as a route for fiber optic cables as well as a recreational trail in Andover, Danbury, and yes, Grafton.

As such, it played host to today's race, both the 5K (which I ran) and the 8K course. The event was a fundraiser in support of the Grafton Historical Society's efforts to restore a local carding mill that dates from 1823.

Getting ready to run.

The race started from a recreational field off Route 4. An interesting side adventure was a lone portable toilet that I made use of. The thing was in a state of almost comical disrepair, and felt like it was about to tip over when I stepped inside. Here's a picture:

About 40 people turned out, with most walking or running the 5K; the course for the latter would be entirely on the railbed of the Northern Line, which at least meant a level course. (The 8K included hills outside of town and then a leg back on the railbed.)

I knew it would be an interesting race when I overhead organizer Andrew Cushing mention that he wasn't sure if the rail trail has been mowed lately. And the next thing I knew, a young gal was crazily shouting "Who wants to SAVE THE MILL!?" And that was our signal to start.

The course was level, yes, and took us past the usual railroad archaeological sites: old depot platforms, etc. I was surprised to see not one single tie or spike, so the salvage folks were very thorough. I found it strange to be jogging exactly on a path where immense steam locomotives once ruled.

Not sure of my order of finish, but I wasn't the last 5K runner, so I can say at least that much. The 29:58 time was encouraging, as I haven't done too many timed races in recent weeks. Hoping to push that down to below 29:00 before the season is over.

I couldn't stay for the cookout that followed, but I saw some quirky signs on the ride out. Just down the road, the Grafton General Store was promoting soft serve cones for "100 cents," and in Danbury, I passed the Route 104 Auto Repair and Computer Service. Guess they still have to wear a lot of hats out in these parts, ayup.

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