I think today was the coldest Bolton Road Race on record. I don’t know who keeps those records! Our hometown has been gripped by a cold snap as winter refuses to let go. Snow is in the forecast for next week, so we aren’t clear of the cold yet.
Yesterday was actually colder than today. Both days, we had brilliant sunshine, but the stiff breeze made it feel even cooler. The five-mile Bolton course is a classic and ever since Dani Kennedy revived the race, it has grown in popularity. I saw a lot of Shenipsit Striders and Silk City Striders.
There are other bigger local races, but they are driven by a huge marketing budget and the support of a strong following. Bolton is different. It is a true grassroots local road race, and the distance, one that used to be a classic length, intimidates people in a world full of 5K’s. The other thing that intimidates people about running in our town, is the hills. A big deal is made about “the Hill” on the BRR course, but that’s our attempt at marketing.
Heck, if you advertised a big hill in a trail running race, it would create more demand, not less. The fact that the biggest hill on the course comes in the last mile, makes the course even more fun. I don’t want to hear any complaints about hills. OK, for a road race, it’s a pretty big hill, but as trail races go, the Bolton hills are mere bumps. Three weeks ago, Debbie and I ran the St. John Trail Race. That was hilly.
The BRR is a family affair, and not just our family, but lots of running families. We saw many friends today. They all braved the cold with us. Last year, Debbie got her name on the Bruce Ralston trophy, which honors the first female Bolton finisher. I’ve tried many times to be the first male, and I’ve been second on a few occasions, but today, my consolation for missing out on the 40-49 age group win, was that I was the first Bolton finisher for the first time. I saw Thomas Paquette, the fastest Bolton runner around, but he was “jogging” the race.
I had a race long battle with Melissa Stellato, who is one of the fastest runners in the state. She was so smooth. I started out rather conservatively, but moved up on the fist hill. I was five seconds behind her at the top and we were close to ether other for the next four miles.
She would pick up a few seconds on the downhills and I would make them back when we went up. Around the three-mile mark, I actually thought she might pull away, but pulled even with her at the four mile mark. She chatted me up, but I was hurting and just wanted to push the hill to the finish. The first two guys were gone, so it was just the two of us with a few chasers another 20-30 seconds behind us. She said, “You are a beast,” which for me, is high praise! I thanked her and told her she was doing a great job.
The last pitch hit hard and I slowed considerably, but everyone does. Some neighbors were cheering at the top, which was encouraging. It flattens out and then drops a bit and then there is a false flat to the line. I was able to hold off a charging Melissa and took third overall behind Brett Stoeffler and Kevin Vallez. Brett turned 50 this week, so I’m darn proud of him. He and I have battled many times over the years, but he is in a different class on the roads. On the trails, I’m usually a little closer to him, but he is just stronger.
Last fall, Kevin had an incredible Manchester Road Race, and at 49, he has five years on me. It seems that with these two, the older you get, the faster you go. My time was 30:54. I’ve always wanted to break 30, and came within eight seconds in 2013, so I still have a shot at the goal. Following Melissa were Greta Broneill and Michelle Corrigan, though they were more than four minutes back. Melissa is amazing. She finished fourth overall, only nine seconds behind me.
Debbie was third in her age group, but by her standards, today was an off day. Team Horst Sports were also represented by the Ricardi Family. Cole won his age group and Tom wasn’t far behind. I’m sure he was saving his legs for cyclocross season!
Race Director Dani got great support from a cadre of volunteers including Brian Miller, who seemed to be everywhere. He was the race starter, he was at the finish line, and he did the race award announcements. Nothing is better than a hometown race. This event is an important community gathering for us and a great tradition.
Today, we were joined by our son, who did his third Bolton.