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home > community > viewpoint > dreading another delightful derry

Dreading another Delightful Derry
Sixteen miles uphill in three-degree weather with a headwind…now that’s a race!

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By Christopher J. Russell
Posted Monday, 26 January, 2004

Sitting here, comfortably ensconced on my couch, in front of a roaring fire, it’s hard to imagine what we did this morning. We ran the Derry Boston Prep 16 Miler. ‘We’, being myself and a couple hundred other hardy souls. (I’m sure it will be easier to believe when the Advil wears off).

That’s Derry New Hampshire. (It’s one of the states in the upper right hand corner of your map). The overarching theme at Derry is a hilly course that the organizers classify (with tongue firmly in cheek) as ‘moderately challenging’, combined with cataclysmic weather events.

We didn’t get a snowstorm this year. Or an ice storm. Or a plague of locusts, for that matter, but it was pretty chilly. A nice, sunny, one-degree day, with a five to ten mile an hour breeze.

The runners getting suited up before the race, in the gym, looked like they were preparing to accompany Shackleton on an ill-fated jaunt to the pole. Dollops pf petroleum jelly were being liberally spread on faces and other pointy bits. Many layers were laid in against the cold.

I chatted up a couple of runners. The gist of my questioning was, “Why are you doing this?”

Alison, from Danvers, said that she was training for a marathon and heard that this was a good training race, but she had an apprehensive, ‘what am I getting myself into’ look about her. I comforted her by saying that, in my opinion, this is the hardest middle-distance race in New England. (Inspirational, huh?)

I talked to a local Derry runner. He was angry about the weather, had been training on the course, and also had a ‘why the heck am I doing this?’ whine going.

There was another nice lady who said it was one of her favorite races and she ran it every year.

At one point I told some ladies waiting in line for the ladies room that there were porta-potties outside, and the line was much shorter. They looked at me like I was from Mars and said “Outside?”

The reigning sentiment was one of challenge and camaraderie. Most of these runners were local club veterans who attend Derry every year as a right of passage on the way to Boston. The feeling seems to be “If I can do this and survive, I can do anything.” For many, this is their longest long run to date in preparation for the spring marathon season, (especially the one that starts in Hopkinton on Patriots Day).

It was definitely balaclava weather. I brought my fuzzy hat with me, thinking it might get warmer, and I could switch. It didn’t. It turned out for the best though, because I ended up stuffing my hat down the front of my tights for an impromptu fuzzy codpiece.

Derry is a challenging course with a number of hills. The biggest of these hills is a whopper that starts around mile ten and ends around mile twelve. It has a tendency to let you know what kind of shape you're really in. This is where we passed all the people who have been kidding themselves about their training.

Did I mention that it was cold? In the places where we turned into the wind it bit pretty hard. One interesting innovation was warm Gatorade at the water stops. How great is that? As a counter balance, the water had ice floating in it. The bottle I carry with me froze solid by mile ten and I had to throw it away.

I met the usual mix of interesting characters. There was a guy wearing shorts, (there always is). When we passed him on the hill he didn’t look very happy. He may still be out there. They’ll find him in the spring.

There was a hatless guy with ice chunks in his crew cut. He said he worked outside for a living and ‘was used to it’. He did seem much happier than shorts-guy.

One gentleman had big, dangling chunks of ice hanging off his hat, like chandelier earrings. I’m sure you’ll see plenty of shots of him in the race photos. He was happy too. Everyone I met was happy. We all whined a bunch, but we had a blast and got a great workout.

That is the theme and the ‘take-away’ from this race. Everyone loves it for the spectacle. Hundreds of hoarfrost covered runners stomping along like crazy musk oxen. It’s a right of passage for us in New England. If you come out strong, you’re pretty confident about running 26.2 thirteen weeks from now. If it kicks your butt, you know you have to start getting serious.

I had a great race. It’s challenging, but fun. It’s just the kind of wacky thing we like to do to break up the winter doldrums. Bring on Boston. Heartbreak is like skiing on the kiddie-slope after Derry!



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