Kopacs at NY Marathon finish line
Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club
MHRRC Home  Recent  Humor  Information  Boston Marathon  NYRRC Races  Other Races  By Friends
Lynne in NYC

Kopac's Corner

The Hunt for Old Chatham

by Bob Kopac

Have you ever overlooked something that has always been there in plain sight? Lynne says that, based on her observations of me, it must be a genetic guy thing. Anyway, at the RRCA convention in Peoria, Illinois, I attended a workshop and learned that there were RRCA-sponsored state championship races. When we returned home, I again hunted through the local newspapers column of upcoming races. Sure enough, there was the RRCA New York State Championship Old Chatham 5K. Out of mind, out of sight.

Bob Rother and Lynne decided to come with me to the Old Chatham 5K. They were rewarded for their decision--the Old Chatham race over-exceeded in race packet goodies. For a $15 entry fee, a runner receives $30 worth of merchandise. How does race director Mark French perform this miracle? Does he work in Congress, that is, run up a deficit? Well, no. Mark said that the entire Old Chatham community rallies behind this race, which is a benefit for the Morris Memorial. In 1912, George Morris established the not-for-profit fund to help Chatham area youths and to combat juvenile delinquency. The Morris Memorial supports the Chatham Gold Youth Track & Field and Cross Country programs. Local merchants gladly support the Memorial, the Chatham Gold program, and the Old Chatham 5K by providing plentiful goods for the runners. So if your sole reason for running is to get merchandise, I recommend this state championship race.

However, the race offers much more than material goods for racing aficionados. You get the opportunity to race and also to be a spectator, for there are two races. The mens race started at 10 AM, and the womens race started at 11 AM. In 1999, they will be reversed, with the womens race starting first. In addition, since the course is an Australian course--out (and) back--you can cheer the race leaders of your race as they charge the last mile to the finish line since you are probably still running the first mile.

Would music interest you? How about multiple bands! The Kuumba Dance and Drum Troupe near the starting line laid down a syncopated beat. It was a somewhat difficult rhythm for any runner who wanted to match his or her running cadence with the drum beat, unless he or she was a member of the Ministry of Silly Runs. Near a red barn on the course, the Zak Calhoun rock band played Cant Get No Satisfaction." Hopefully the group changed the lyrics ...cant get no girlie action to less sexist lyrics during the womens race.

Stationed at the top of a hill on the course was, appropriately, the Shriners Hill Billy Band. They asked the runners to perform a jig, but not a jog--we are runners, after all, not joggers. Since the band made the request as the runners finished struggling up the hill, the runners might have performed a jig except they were too tired from running the hill. On the way out, the group played a hillbilly song. On the way back, they played the World War I song Over There." Was this in response to a runners inquiry as to where the finish line was?

At the Old Chatham Cemetery, the Chatham High School Band played the University of Michigan fight song Hail to the Victors. None of the spectators there seemed to notice--at least there were no spectral visitations. Perhaps the motto on the plaque at the cemetery, dedicated to sacred use and peaceful tranquility," was an entrance requirement, and the ghosts had to observe the rules of the cemetery. Bob Rother said the song raised his spirits (but not the spirits in the cemetery) for about five seconds, until he remembered the upcoming hills. Then he turned pale as a ghost writer.

If the spirit of music does not entice you, how about crowd support? Notwithstanding the lack of support from the spirits in the cemetery, there were many live spectators providing rousing vocal support. In addition, as the women ran on the bridge over the New York State Thruway, several cars honked their horns in support. However no cars honked during the mens race. Is this one of those genetic guy things again where female drivers pay attention to the road in front of them, whereas male drivers concentrate on everything but the road?

If crowd support does not move you, how about horses? Riders from the Old Chatham Hunt Club rode in the fields adjacent to the museum area. At the Fox Run Farm Hunt Club, riders watched from the side of the race course. Bob Rother stuck his thumb out looking to hitchhike, but no riders took up his request since they thought he was horsing around. On the course, runners knocked over several traffic cones on the center stripe. The runners possibly were influenced by the horseback riders and thought the race was a steeplechase.

If horses do not turn you on, how about sheep? The sheep at the side of the road ran alongside the runners. However, do not worry about being beaten in the race by a barnyard animal, for most of the sheep never registered and were running as bandits. For the ones who did register, they ran well. After all, each has four legs so the sheep should be twice as fast as humans--until the sheep hit their heads on the fence in their path. Sheep are not too bright--but then again, the humans were running in the heat and humidity by choice, so humans are not that much brighter.

The weather was so hot that the running Spiderman had to unmask himself. Unmasked and uncostumed, but with his Spiderman strength intact, he also unofficially ran the womens 5K. At least he wore shorts and a singlet. After all, this was not the BARE AS YOU DARE race, and Spiderman did not want to scare the sheep.

Bob Rother said it was an alliterative race--hot and hilly. At the bottom of the steep uphill near the end of the race, there was a sign that said SLOW. Duh. The steep hill was nasty, brutish, and short, followed by two-tenths of a mile gradual uphill to the finish line. I asked Mark French to do something about the hill for next year. He suggested having the sheep run up and down the hill to wear it down. At least that would wear out the sheep and no sheep would win the race. On the other hand, that just might be the hill workouts needed to produce world-class racing sheep.

One word describes the race announcers--enthusiastic!!! RRCA representative and regional runner Dave Oja announced the race from the finish line, while Mark French co-announced the race from the back of the lead motorcycle. Mark spoke in an excited style--maybe he did not trust the motorcycle driver? Perhaps next year Mark could broadcast the race sitting behind Jim McMahon in the Parker OMalley Air Museum biplane that buzzed the course.

If announcers do not call out to you, how about elite runners? Several renowned athletes ran in this non-moneyed race. They ran because it is a bucolic race in a wonderful setting and because the race benefited a worthy cause. Paul Mbugua, Charlene Lyford, LHoussine Siba, Tonya Dodge, Abidi Bouazza, and John Cunningham were among the elite athletes who participated. You too can compete with these famous runners! If they should happen to be mugged by renegade sheep during the race, you might even win!

Paul Mbugua, the winner of the mens race in 14:36, was not mugged by renegade sheep. Paul missed the course record of LHoussine Siba by one second. He told me he knew before the start that he would win the race. It was not a matter of arrogance but confidence in his physical and mental conditioning. He had just returned from Kenya where he had trained hard at high altitudes, averaging 120 miles per week. Paul said he respected the strengths of his competition, but he realized that his grueling training regimen would be the difference in defeating his rivals. When I asked Paul what the goal of his heavy training was, he replied that he was targeting a marathon in Rhode Island in November.

Did the heat bother Paul today? He responded that he loved the heat and preferred races run in the heat and humidity. Paul decided to set the pace early to see if his competitors could keep up with him. During the race LHoussine Siba tried attacking on Pauls left side, then on the right side, but he was unable to pass Paul. On the final hills, Paul sped up, figuring correctly that his training would help him conquer the hills and give him the victory.

The post-race festivities were championship class. Bob Rother and Lynne both took advantage of a free massage. Each lay on a magnetized table; the massage therapist ran magnetic balls down the spine and over the legs. Lynne thought the massage was very effective. The only disadvantage was when she returned home and stuck to the refrigerator.

If a massage rubs you the wrong way, how about post-race refreshments? There was a cornucopia of food available for the runners. I saw one female runner carrying several yogurts, and I wondered if she was doing her weekend grocery shopping. At least she did not put the pumpkin ice cream cones in her bag. Pumpkin ice cream? Absolutely delicious!

If you are interested in the New York State Championship Old Chatham 5K race, check out their Internet site at http://www.coolrunning.com/major/chatham/hunt5k.htm for 1998 race results and make plans to attend the race in 1999. Leave some pumpkin ice cream for me, though.

1998 mens race:

  1. Paul Mbugua 14:36
  2. LHoussine Siba 14:49
  3. Abidi Bouazza 15:04
  4. John Cunningham 15:57

1998 womens race:

  1. Charlene Lyford 17:27
  2. Tonya Dodge 17:42
  3. Amy Herold 17:54
  4. Jennifer Latham 18:12

Nicholas Sarbo, age 12, won the one mile run in 5:59.9.