Olde Towne – New Course
Groton turns over a new leaf while turning the corner on its 15th year.
Posted Thursday, 6 April, 2006
It’s that time of year again. I’m getting psyched up for my favorite race. The race that I run every April, that I look forward to every year. Did you think I was going to say the Boston Marathon? Yeah there’s that too, but my big race has always been my hometown race; the Groton Road Race.
Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks? I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel about my hometown race changing its 10K course after 14 years. When I started running seriously again in the early 90’s The Groton Road Race started with me and we have shared that old course with each other every April since I turned 29. But I’m ok with it now, especially after test running the new course. It’s a beauty. Combine that beautiful course with a great organization and you have a winner.
My hometown, Groton, Massachusetts is a sleepy New England jewel about 40 miles North West of Boston. Just outside 495. Last year my hometown turned 350 years old. You read that correctly, some dysfunctional English put down stakes in 1655. That’s a bunch of history.
My hometown race is having its 15th consecutive go on April 29th. That’s a bunch of history too, by road race standards, and I’ve been at them all. Sometimes I set PR’s, sometimes I limped on injuries, but, God willing, I have run and will run every Groton 10k until I can no longer move forward.
For most of its existence Groton has been a prosperous farming community. The great rolling green hills and old farm houses still inspire. There is not much commercial farming going on these days but the vistas are still there, along with a few cows, horses and hay fields. It’s post card perfect New England small town.
For all of its existence the Groton Road race has been quite successful by local 10k standards. We have been getting over 2,000 participants across all the races fairly consistently. We have had lots of great races and great days over the years. We have seen the highly competitive set records while at the same time we have become the de facto family gathering spot for the area towns.
Groton was a great place to grow up. In the 70’s Groton was still outside the reach of the sprawl. It was technically the suburbs, but in reality it was the sticks. As kids we had lots of space to roam and frolic in. Since then the town has had some build up with the neo-mansions of the new landed gentry, but the townspeople have managed to do an excellent job of preserving the rural aspect. Groton has a large amount of open space, parks and conservation land retained. It is honeycombed with deep forest trails and meadows. After all these years I still haven’t explored them all and I still get lost.
The road race runs through the center of the olde towne. It passes buildings from across the years. You can see the old town hall and imagine generations of self determined town government. You will run by the Prescott School, (where I used to get beat up in 6th grade). Then you’ll turn left at our historic Inn that originated in 1678 and successfully avoided being burnt with the rest of the town during King Philippe’s War in 1694. You’ll pass through the ivy covered outskirts of my alma mater prep school, The Lawrence Academy, founded 1793. Along with the prestigious Groton School these two prep schools add to the town’s campus-village flavor.
I used to explore these roads with my cross country team and then again to train for wrestling season. If you look left after LA, on the new course, you’ll see on top of the hill, surrounded by Black Angus cattle, the remnants of what we always called “the castle”. It was a fieldstone mansion and tuberculosis hospital that burned down before memory leaving only the walls and castellated turret to watch over the lowing herds. It looms like an ancient knight’s dwelling, and has excited the imagination of school boys past and present.
Groton has several lakes and ponds that we used to enjoy as kids. One of these is off the edge of the new course. Close by old stone walls and apple orchards you’ll find the glacial hole of Baddacook Pond, rumored to be 90 feet deep and full of crafty trout. Keep your eyes open for noisy flocks of itinerant wild turkeys that always bustle at us when we run around this area.
The new course also comes close by the famous Ayer – Groton – Pepperell – Hollis rail trail, 11 miles of unbroken, smooth, flat trail for when you grow tired of the hills but not of the scenic beauty. Sunday mornings you’ll find herds of wandering marathoners running it end-to-end-to-end for an easy 22 miler.
Everyone should have a hometown race. If you don’t, come to Groton and share mine. Step back in time to a Norman Rockwell visage of rural charm. Come on by and see us this year. It’s two whole weeks after Boston and most of us will be walking again. I’ll be out there. I’ll be enjoying the crowd, listening to the bands and shaking hands with old friends. I’ll be helping out with the kids and trying to answer questions and point new comers in the right direction.
I’ll cheer the kids in the Tot’s Trot. I’ll shout encouragement to my nephews and nieces in the 2 miler and 5K. Then I’ll lace up my size 12’s for my 15th trip down memory lane and head out to enjoy the new course.
See you out there,