What is it about pouring rain at 7 a.m. that makes grown adults get out of bed, put on running gear and head out to a competitive running race? Are they nuts? Do they know something that the rest of us don’t?
Honestly, I expected, as I got myself up at that hour on Saturday June 2, to find that Ellen Dioguardi, who is in charge of running the Dan’s Papers PotatoHampton Minithon this year (as last and the year before that), had cancelled the race. So I called her. She would be in Militia Park, just behind Almond Restaurant on Ocean Road at that hour. I hoped to tell her not to cancel because runners are nuts.
“Are you kidding?” she asked. “We’re all out here setting up. The police are here in force, the race timers are setting up the computers, some runners have already arrived. We’ll get the race going on time. Runners will run in anything.”
I came downstairs to have some breakfast. I opened the kitchen slider to let the dog out. She came over, took a look, turned around and trotted back into the living room.
Then I went out to the parking area. Which car should I take over to Bridgehampton to lead the race? The 1959 bright red Triumph TR-3 convertible without a top I’ve used before? Or the black boxy 2008 Tahoe with the DANSPAPR license plate? Bah!
The police were in yellow rain slicks. The staff of Dan’s Papers and the volunteers from Island Timing USA had umbrellas and hoodies. The runners, hundreds of them, were stripped down to Spandex trotting back and forth and doing muscle stretches while the water dripped off them.
Before the race, I had an interesting encounter with two runners getting ready, Leonid Lohutor and Galina Belishkina, who said they were from Kyrgyzstan, a small landlocked country in central Asia. They spoke a halting English.
“You remember this race?” Leonid asked.
He unfolded a worn copy of the May 29 issue of Dan’s Papers from 2001 to show me the article I wrote that year about the race.
“Of course I remember this race,” I said, although of course I didn’t. There have been 34 years of races. They kind of meld together.
“My brother from Kyrgyzstan,” he said, pointing to the picture of a group of winners, “won that year.”
“Now you?” I asked.
“Oh no. But we run.”
Dare I ask? It was a long shot. “You came all the way from Kyrgyzstan?
“Originally,” he said.
The runners assembled in a huge crowd across Ocean Road, and our timer, Bob Beattie, counted backwards from ten seconds as if this was a rocket launch, and then sounded a horn. The race was on, 200 people pounding down Ocean Road toward my Tahoe in a giant pack—and myself standing up on the passenger’s seat through the sunroof of the Tahoe taking pictures, as my friend David Caldwell shifted into drive and headed off. Seventeen minutes later, when we led the lead runner across the finish line, I climbed down and hopped out, a man soaked but only from the waist up.
First to cross the finish line was Richard Temerian, who went out front at the start, stayed there and slowly pulled away to win it in an, um, walk. Temerian has a weekend house in Bridgehampton and also has an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He’s a serious runner and a man who makes his living by doing metal work at a loft in that city.
“Remember me from last year?” he grinned as he came over to me while we waited for the second place runner to arrive. Of course I did. He won it last year and the year before and he is the first person ever to win this race three years in a row. He ran this one in 17 minutes and 27 seconds, two seconds slower than last year, he told me. I was tempted to suggest well, you’re slowing down, but instead thanked him for coming back. A photographer came over and asked us to stand next to one another. We put our arms around each other. I was cold and slippery. He was hot and slippery.
“I pass one of your masterpieces when I come out from the city,” I told him. “On the Triboro Bridge. CARL ICHAN STADIUM, backwards.”
He laughed. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask somebody.
Second across the line was Jeremy Johnson, who makes his living as a Wall Street bond trader. Third was Lois Volle and fourth was John Nelson. Fifth was a huge surprise. It was Erik Engstrom, an eighth grader from Springs School, making quick, long, beautiful strides across the line in the time of 18:58. He looked like he could run like that all day, I thought.
Barbara Gubbins, who is 52, and has won the women’s division of this race something like five times in the last 25 years, finished seventh overall and won the women’s division once again. She’d been absent from the winner’s circle for several years. I’ve known her forever. I gave her a big hug and kiss for her accomplishment.
Ellen Dioguardi was on the microphone giving out the awards from under the tent we had set up on the lawn inside the park. People were still milling around, and they applauded, as the winners were called up to accept their certificates. Here were the winners:
Top Male Overall: Richard Temerian
Top Female Overall: Barbara Gubbins
13 and under: Erik Engstrom, Carley Wootton
14-19: Garrett Seusuree, Laetitia Krisel
20-29: Louis Volle, Jadry Gruen
30-39: Dominik Reust, Charmaine Strange
40-49: Jeremy Johnson, Jennifer Keller
50-59: John Nelson, Amy Sussman
60-69: Kevin Reilly, Blaire Stauffer
80 and over: Robert Goldfarb
The Southampton Town Police were here as they have been every year, handling traffic and shepherding our race through the back roads and we issue a huge thanks for that. The rain was light during the first half of the race, but it became a downpour for the second half. Rounding a turn in the Tahoe just after the downpour commenced, I looked back to see if the rain had forced everybody to leave off. But everyone was still on course.
We’d also like to thank Chris Haerter and Michelle Severance from Jordan’s Initiative as well as Hamptons Water and Twin Forks Bicycles for their help.
We were particularly proud of Kelly Laffey, our Sections Editor whose time was under 22 minutes. It’s nice to have a true athlete in our midst, especially a race nut.
And of course I want to personally thank Ellen and her crew, consisting of David Gribin, Lori Berger, Lisa Barone, Catherine Ellams and Dave Caldwell for their time volunteering for this event, and also Bob Edelman, our publisher and CEO, who even with a bad cold attended the event to fly our flag that morning.
See you next year!