* NOTE: New Record. Previous Record of 9.32 Miles by Emily Bryans in 1998. VOLUNTEERS: Larry Decker, Erle Daniels, Amy Petersen & Sarah Claridge Director: Doug Bowden
by Tom Bulger
I wasn't planning on writing this article about the Hour Run, figuring this task would once again be handled by Bob McFarland, who by virtue of his longevity and wisdom (well, maybe just the former) has been the club's most articulate spokesperson about the Hour Run. But Bob left us Hour Run regulars high and dry (actually, he left us low and wet by manning - or was it undermining? - the waterstop) by showing up after the race started. So once again, I wind up writing the Hour Run article by default (more accurately, the fault is chiefly Bob's).
Much effort has been spent trying to find the appropriate reasons for running the Hour Run, or thinking about the appropriate analogy for this race. Last year, I wrote the article "Seinfeld on the Track," comparing the race to the popular television show. This year, the analogy that came immediately to my mind was to Chinese water torture. The similarities are evident. Just as water torture wears one down both physically and psychologically, so too does running circles around the track and watching the clock tick relentlessly away.
But these links are not the reasons why the analogy is so appropriate. One of the putative advantages of doing the Hour Run is that one passes by the start and the clock every lap. At this strategic location, race director Doug Bowden had placed a table that served as a water stop. I had never before considered such an arrangement to be a problem. Until this year. Native Americans used to test tribe members by having them pass through a gauntlet, which was what the water table became for me. Don't get me wrong, the volunteers are people who individually are nice enough. But the situation quickly got out of hand when early on in the race, Dwight Wilson (warding off elbows from Bob McFarland as the Chief muscled into the water stop area) said to me and Tim Maggs as we ran by, "Water? Or Michelob?" Every lap, I then started thinking "Why am I running on the track when I could be quaffing a few Michelobs?" Then, as we ran by, Larry Decker (in charge of registration) was leaning against the fence, looking far too comfortable in his lounging position. (I suppose he was resting on his Empire State Game laurels.) My true nemesis at the water stop was when M.I.A. McFarland came skulking in late to the race, then fixed himself behind the water table and pretended to be filling up water cups for the other volunteers to pass out. Not that Bob was doing much work, mind you; every lap, he unleashed a flood of commentary at the passing runners. This comes as no surprise to those who know Bob; as eight-year old Julie Wuerdeman said to me as we waited for the Chief (who claims decent from the Cherokees, but I'm convinced that he comes from a mutated branch of the Arapahos, the Yappahoes) in a parking lot after the Key Run, "He's yapping." Even the youngsters have his number. Every lap, he kept telling me I was slowing down x seconds per lap and exhorting me to go faster. I started commenting in response, asking the other volunteers to douse the flaming McFarland with my portion of water, then calling on Bob to relinquish his role as Hour Run Poster Boy.
By now, you are wondering if there was any serious running going on at this race, what with all the conversation and badinage circulating around the track. (Ed Neiles later rebuked me for never shutting up during the entire race, and at the Dynamic Duo labeled me "the noisiest club member" of the HMRRC. Ouch!! I plead self-defense, talking to ward off the Chief) There was a coterie of serious, fast runners. Jamie Rodriguez and Jeff Brooks were speeding around together at 5:20 per mile pace, and they were followed by a pack of serious youngsters who ate up lap after lap (Tyson Evenson, Chad Davey, and Jim Sweeney). Emily Bryants also was motoring, putting in over nine miles during the hour. Her bid to be the first woman to enter the 10-mile club was thwarted primarily by the evening's high humidity, but she still clocked 9.6 miles and set a new women's record. Jamie Rodriguez's 11+ miles was the third best recorded performance in the HMRRC Hour Run, and Jeff Brooks turned in the 18th best all-time effort with his 10.7 miles. Tyson Evenson clocked over 10 miles for the second straight year, and all told more racers (5) ran more than 10 miles than any other year besides 1984, when Frank Ripple (where have you gone, Frank? Us old-timers miss you), Bruce Hamilton, Marty Kittell, Ken Klapp, and Jim Burnes cracked this speed barrier. This year's performances were all the more impressive given the weather.
There were other fine runners doing their thing in the race. Gary Czupil, fresh off his gold medal in the Empire States Game 10,000 meters and bronze medal in the pole vault, ran rings around many, lapping me twice. He was joined for most of the race by his training and racing partner, Ken Klemp. Charlie Matlock, Char Davidson, B.J. Sotile, Pat Fitzgerald, and Annie Stockman efficiently and quietly went about business (both winning the ever-so-coveted "Ed Neiles Seal of Approval" for their silence). Martha DeGrazia was running her fourth race in six days, motoring along as if fresh from a two-month layoff. She had talked her significant other, Ralph Feinstein, into doing the race, because the Schenectady track was close to where he works. (Ralph was deciding whether this "convenient" venue was a blessing or a curse for him, since he was able to make the race.) Chris Rush, another Empire States Game star, ran most of the Hour Run in the second lane. Once, as I passed by him on the inside, I said to him, "Chris, run in the first lane, it's shorter." He said, "I'm trying to be courteous to the faster runners." (Would that all runners and water-stop attendants had this generous attitude.)
As you can see, I'm back to reporting about the "talking" portion of the race. I will confess, now that I'm not a serious competitive runner, I use these races as primarily social occasions, with lots of conversational sidelights if not highlights. For that reason, I ran most of the race with a pack of runners that included Jim Bowles (current Siena cross-country coach), Dr. Tim Maggs (Team Stick and Maggs Chiropractic), and Bob Oates (Tawasentha Cross Country czar). We got through numerous laps catching up with one another. Tim Maggs told me that he is now hosting a talk show on WRPI. He then told me he was pointing for the Tawasentha races, and engaged Bob Oates in a discussion about the upcoming race schedule. Bob informed us all that he had to cancel one of the races because it conflicted with a running camp he was organizing. Coach Bowles kept giving us all advice, as well as to Jamie Rodriquez and Jeff Brooks as they went by, which left Jamie and Jeff in a dilemma, since their University at Albany coach Kevin Williams was watching the race from the bleachers and giving them instructions at each lap. At one point, Jim Bowles started coughing, so I asked him if he was all right. Jim said he was fine, but Dr. Maggs who was right behind us said, "Tom, better give him mouth-to-mouth respiration." Before I could defer to Dr. Maggs' medical expertise, Jim said, "I'll pass on that offer from either of you." Let's just say we all breathed easier at this crisis averted.
I also ran a lap with Jay Bryce, who was more disappointed that there were no cheerleaders practicing on the field next to us (last year's race had this added feature) then that he ran slightly slower in this year's race. Tim O'Conner, Rick Mulvey and I exchanged news as we ran along. And Jeff Brooks took a break in his pursuit of Jamie Rodriquez to run a lap with me. It comes as no surprise that after hearing all the idle chatter around me and from me, Jeff sped up and resumed his fast tracking.
After this year, I am seriously reconsidering my conversational approach to this race. In addition to the abuse from Bob McFarland and the rebuke from Ed Neiles, I realized how this approach can be misconstrued by others. This occurred about halfway through the race, when I passed Ed Neiles and Ken Skinner. As I went by, I joked about the "riffraff" on the track. Ed promptly said to the woman just ahead of him, "Did you hear what he just called you?" This innocent victim looked at me silently but accusingly. I don't know the name of this woman (neither did Ed, as it turns out), but I want to express to her my apologies for the disgraceful characters that the Hour Run attracts (I include myself in the forefront of this group) as well as the graceful runners.
As a review of the results will show, I have not mentioned many of the other dedicated runners who were in the race. They should consider themselves blessed not to be included here, for that meant they didn't waste any time or energy talking and listening to me.
One more story, then I'm done. (I hear the thunderous applause that this is finally reaching a conclusion). After the race was over, Bob "The Chief" McFarland couldn't resist getting in a final dig. As he and I and Ray Newkirk were talking, Bob (who as an academic administrator is trained to take random pot shots at faculty members during the summer break) said, "Tom, why don't you get a real job? You could work for Ray." For those of you who don't know, my dad worked for years first with Ray's father, then for Ray. I said, "That would be double jeopardy for Ray, going from my father to me." Ray concurred: "I know too much about the Bulgers." (My poor dad has to suffer from guilt by association with me.) This confirms what Ken Skinner remarked to me at the Dynamic Duo, when we were talking about the Hour Run: "We know each other too well." Though some of us don't know one another as well as we think. Len Putnick, my Siena colleague, when he heard of Bob's late appearance said, "What part of the phrase 'Hour Run' didn't he understand?" So much for your "new" Colonie Track Meet "friend," Bob.
At the risk of ending on a quasi-sentimental note, I will simply say, I am glad I know all these people so well, and it's through such events as the Hour Run that we have gotten to know each other's foibles, failures, and strengths so thoroughly. So I would assert that the reason why the Hour Run continues to flourish is that it's enormous fun and minimal torture.