Tension mounts as the racers await the arrival of the latecomers. One family is stopped on the other side of the Connecticut River awaiting the opening of a draw bridge that is broken but set to re-open at 7 p.m. While the race was supposed to start at that time, it has now been delayed. Couch Long has arrived for the start of the race, but he only has a small window of time. Discussions are underway to decide what to do, for we can’t wait until dark to run. As ideas fly about among family members, news comes that the bridge is open and the runners will be here in 15 minutes. However, Coach Long cannot stay and so we say good-bye as we await the arrival of Al, Rachel and kids.
The stranded family soon shows up and now the fun begins. The Adams Family stretches across the starting line, minus the oldest brother, Rick, from North Carolina. The runners range in age from 51 (that would be me) down to 5 years old. All my siblings are looking fit and trim. Apparently I did not inherit that gene. I know I won’t beat any of them, but I would like to beat my time from last year, which is 40:11. I have been walking and even jogging some before I came, but on the day before I left, I hurt my left knee while running through the desert. Then, 2 days ago my brother Stephen showed me how to stretch my IT band, which is a strap of muscle, and tendons that run from your hip to your knee, the same knee I injured. My upper thigh has been hurting ever since.
Gus stands ready with the camera. Renée stands ready with the stop watches. She calls out,
Gray muggy skies hang above us as we plop, plop, plop, our feet down the road. Already my siblings, my son, Alex, and the various grandchildren, nieces and nephews have disappeared around the corner. I am left watching two five-year-olds outrun me as I plod onward.
The road around the lake winds up small hills, around corners and down small hills. In its 2.8 mile course I pass beneath huge maples, oaks, and alders. There are little cottages dotting the lake with bits of open lawn and rose bushes growing, but much of the road is through thick woods with the damp smell of summer brooks and bogs. Once on the dirt road portion of the run all is silent except the thudding of my feet. I walk up the hills and run down them, trying to get the most distance out of the gravitational pull. I walk to catch my breath, then jog to pick up speed. I find my mind wandering to the surrounding and to what I will write in my blog and then I remind myself that this is a race and to “Focus!” I jog a little faster.
“Hey, Lefty, what’s going on over there? You’re falling down on the job! Pick up the pace!”
“It ain’t gonna happen, Righty. Not this year.”
“Well I can’t do it. Everyone knows I’m the weaker leg. Come on, you can do it!”
“Sorry Righty, it just ain’t gonna happen. This race is up to you.”
Righty grumbles and drags a bit, and my two legs plod on.
The final stretch of the race is where the back road of the lake meets the main road at a T. It is here that my brother Stephen meets me and jogs alongside to encourage me. I always appreciate that he does this, and he does it almost every year I have run. Everyone else has finished already. Once again I am last. Stephen tells me that Alex won, which is what we all expected, and Stephen was Second. He is only a year and half younger than I am, but he has won this race 7 times in the 12 years that we have run it. My sister consistently finishes in the top 5, and she is there again this year in spite of having neck surgery just a few months ago.
My time for this year is 41:28. I didn’t beat my last year’s time after all. I am disappointed, but hopeful. In my perpetual optimism, like Charlie Brown with his football, I believe I will do better next year.
The first runner appears.
1st Place Alex (20:02)
3rd place Chris (21:58)
4th place Al (23:16)
6th place Bernie III(26:28) and 7th place Kyle (26:29)
8th place Bernie II (26:56)
Kathie finishes 10th with a time of 41:28.
Chris and I before the race.
Many thanks to Gus for all of tonight's photography and to Renee for being our timer. Thanks to Stephen for starting and maintaining this family tradition and to Stephen and Donna for buying and sharing their new cottage at the lake with us where we had a wonderful barbecue afterwards and reminisced long into the night while fireflies flickered among tall trees at the edge of the woods.