by Rich DiSalvo
Itís hard to imagine that an 11-mile trail race run through some very rough
and hilly terrain, including rocks and roots, lots of mud, and waist deep
water, could come down to an all-out sprint to the finish. But thatís
exactly what happened at last Saturdayís Weekend Before Hunting Season
Trail Race in Sandown. The truly amazing thing, however, is that
this was the second year in a row that the race was decided by a sprint
to the finish resulting in a one second margin of victory, and the third
year in a row that the margin has been less than 10 seconds. Perhaps
the tricky terrain throughout the course keeps the frontrunners from trying
to break away until they reach the flat railroad bed with less than one
mile to go.
Jason Porter of Wiliston Vt (shown on the right), who placed third one year ago, became locked in a head to head battle with 1996 winner Robert Hoppler of Plaistow in the very early stages of the race. As was the case last year when Dave Beauley formerly of Nashua outkicked Dave Dunham of Bradford Mass, Porter didnít have the race won until the final 10 yards.
"Hoppler put some distance between us at about the four mile mark, which made me doubt I could keep up with him but by mile five I was back on his shoulder. I let him set the pace from that mark on ," said Porter.
His time was 1:07.30, while Hoppler, who crossed at 1:07.31, added another second place showing to his trail race credentials as he has never finished lower than third in his four appearances in the event. Keith Schmitt of Lee improved on his previous best finish (fourth in 1997) by placing third in 1:11.33
Things werenít quite so close on the womenís side, although this yearís field was by far the strongest the race has seen yet. Brenda Baxter of Groton Mass, improved on her second place finish last year to claim the womenís title with a time of 1:25.04. Dot Martin of Barre Vt. Followed at 1:26:02 along with Alice Thomas of Fitchburg, Mass (1:28.16), Peg Donovan of Auburn and the hosting Greater Derry Track Club (1:28.23), and Caitlyn Ramsey of Worcester, who rounded out the top five with a time of 1:28.47. A record seven women finished under the one hour and 30 minute mark for the very challenging course.
Unseasonably warm weather prevailed for the race, which helped bring in another record crowd. A total of 219 runners completed the trek Ė up from 155 last year, and more than twice the number that ran three years ago. Itís clear to see the reasons why. The race offers an enjoyable and often exciting change of pace from the average, everyday local road race. Porter seemed to agree.
"I think the race really brings people together," he said. "It breaks up the routine for someone who is interested in more than just running.".
A great deal of time and energy go into the staging of the event, which was created and directed for the past six years by former Sandown resident Jeff Litchfield, now a resident of Hopkinton. Runners are treated to hot food and refreshments after their battle with the wild, and even a chance to view a race video of the first water crossing which is entertaining to say the least.
Funds raised from the event, which will be in excess of $1,000, will benefit the townís cub scouts and boy scouts who also work the raceís water stops and assist at the road crossings and trail intersections.