Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bagging Croydon (#144) and Granthan (#145)
in the quest to run 5K in all N.H. locations

Where I didn't want to leave my car.

If we ever have to do without cars, I know how long it would take to get from Croydon to Grantham, N.H.

I ran a "back-to-back" in those two towns this past Saturday, making them #144 and #145 in my quest to run a minimum of 5K in every city, town, and unincorporated place in New Hampshire.

And unlike a lot of these runs, this one worked out to be between the two actual villages rather than just out in the middle of nowhere, although there was certainly enough of that. Read on!

The date: Saturday, Oct. 15. Due in Brandon, Vt. that evening for a performance, my original plan was to veer further north and knock off two more-distance communities: Wentworth and Warren.

But a late start and then heavy traffic on Interstate 93 heading north prompted me to change plans before the I-93/I-89 split.

I didn't really have a Plan B, but realized en route that Croydon and Grantham were two towns I needed, and were just off I-89 on the way to Vermont.

So up I went, taking Exit 13 in Grantham and following Route 10 south towards Croydon.

Good old Route 10, which wanders through the western part of the Granite State from the Mass. line all the way up to Hanover and Dartmouth College.

I actually once wrote a travelogue about Route 10 for New Hampshire Magazine some time ago. It doesn't seem to be online anywhere—perhaps I'll fish it out of the archives and post it later.

Travelogue or not, here I was again on Route 10 as it wound its way along the shallow valley of the North Branch of the Sugar River, which was just beginning its long journey to the Connecticut River.

My usual method of a "back-to-back" is to find the boundary between two towns, then pace off 1.6 miles in each direction, noting the turn-around point at each end.

I then return to the border and head out in one direction as far as the turn-around point, then head back and cross the border in the other direction.

At the second turn-around point, I then head back the start, which is now the finish line.

As long as I've done the math right, that's a minimum of 3.2 miles in each community. And that exceeds my minimum distance of 5K, which is 3.1 miles.

One reason this works so well is that for some reason, New Hampshire communities are very good about marking the town lines.

Maybe it's due to road maintenance obligations. Maybe just a turf thing. But in New Hampshire, roads in and out of even the smallest, most remote towns invariably sport flashy green border markers.

The roads themselves may be crumbling to pieces, but the signs always seem look brand new.

Look at the size of that breakdown lane!

In this case, Route 10 wasn't falling to pieces. On the contrary: it was clean and dark and newly paved with a smooth surface and a gentle crown.

The speed limit was as high as 55 m.p.h. on long "straightaways" (as we call them), but a generous breakdown lane would keep a runner from feeling any danger.

The Grantham/Croydon line happened to be right in the middle of one of these straightaways, out in the open for all to see.

One disadvantage to this to this: there was no convenient place to stow my car. Not that anything would happen here, other than a bear coming by to ransack the vehicle.

I just don't like leaving it out in the open while I'm off jogging around.

I then hopped back in to measure off 1.6 miles into Croydon to find my turn-around point. To my surprise, the village of Croydon came up quite quickly: the historical society, the church, the school, the Coniston General Store.

That last one is a nod to the 1906 novel "Coniston" by New Hampshire author Winston Churchill, not be confused with the British politician of the same name.

"Coniston," a best-seller, was an historical tale set in the world of 19th century New Hampshire politics. Locations included the fictional town of Coniston, which was a stand-in for Croydon.

And the turnaround coincided exactly with Pat Sawyer Memorial Park, completely deserted but with a nice parking area.

And right across the highway: Milepost 60.0. So I immediately decided to base myself here: 1.6 miles from the town line. I would run back up the highway, over the town line into Grantham, and then as far as Milepost 63.2.

I'd then turn around and retrace my steps. Presto! Two towns, and a little more than 5K in each.

And so it came to pass. The afternoon was warm for October: temps in the high 50s, but with almost no wind.

High clouds were moving in from the south, filtering out the sun and muting the fall colors all around me. A pretty good day to be out for a run.

I'll meet you at the old barn. You know—the old barn!

I started at 1:32 p.m., heading north, accompanied mostly by the sound of my own feet on the pavement, the occasional passing vehicle, and occasional bursts of rifle fire from the woods.

One virtue of Route 10 following the valley of the North Branch of the Sugar River is that even though we were high in the hills, the course was almost completely flat!

The only grade at all was a short bump up into the town of Grantham proper, at the far end of my route.

The exact turn-around spot of Milepost 63.2 was at Grantham's Dunbar Library, across from the United Methodist Church. Village to village!

And I couldn't help but think I had covered the distance between both towns on foot in a way that must have been much more common say, a hundred years ago.

In case anyone wants to know: people can still do it, if they have to. I did, anyway.

I felt strong pretty much the whole way. No foot pains, no issues at all.

As I strode through Croydon on final approach, I was surprised to find Pat Sawyer Memorial Park now being used by three men at the lone basketball net, shooting hoop.

They left me alone, and I left them alone. But if they were curious about the guy in the orange shirt and black shorts running through their town last Saturday—well, he made it to Grantham and back in exactly 1 hour and 20 minutes.

The distance was 6.4 miles, meaning a pace of 12:30. That's somewhat better than what I've logged lately, probably because of the flatness of the course and the pleasantness of the weather.

Next up: Running in another state this week. More later!

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