The sun made a rare appearance, an Oak Bluffs man blazed to a course record and a jumbo lobster stuffed the consequences Saturday at the 19th annual running of the Chilmark Road Race.
Art Smith, 28, of East Chop and Cambridge ignored soaring summer temperatures en route to winning the five-kilometer (3.1-mile) race down Middle Road by a wide margin in a record 14 minutes, 38 seconds.
It was Mr. Smith’s second straight victory at Chilmark and - as is the custom - received to cash prize, but instead a large, Island-caught lobster.
“It’s a fun race,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s probably the only race I run during the year where there isn’t [money] on the line, but I really wanted to be a part of it.”
The top female finsiher was Elaine Christy, 32, of Chestnut Hill, who sprinted to a victory in 19:34. Second place went to Jennifer Mitchell of Alexandria, Va., at 19:57.
These speedsters were clearly in the minority on Saturday. Chilmark is a casual road race, full of families, senior citizens and children. It does not emphasize winning, but participation. Everyone receives a race T-shirt. Finishing is fulfillment.
And on a tree-line, rolling stretch like Middle Road, getting to the finish line is half the fun. After the elite runners sprinted off, the main pack meandered its way over the hills toward Beetlebung Corner. One runner turned and took photographs of his friends. Two young men sang 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.
Photo by Max Hart.
For many people, the Chilmark Road race represents a summer reunion of sorts, a time to rekindle friendships and burn off summer calories.
L’Etoile Restaurant entered 31 runners, mostly current or former employees who wore running shirts emblazoned with the tasteful Edgartown eatery’s logo.
The Lochridge family of South Road boasted 21 runners, most direct relatives, but with a “few who had to marry into” the team, said clan chief Richard Lochridge.
While a few Lochridges posted competitive times, most were clearly there for fun.
“We got ready with a pasta dinner, some dancing, and a few late nights,” Richard Lochridge said after the race.
Prior to the race, runners noted the sudden appearance of the sun, which had been absent from Island skies for almost an entire week. Rising temperatures made water stops a priority. One runner collapsed late in the race from dehydration, and was taken to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, where she was treated and released.
After the race, the heat became excuse number one among the runners.
“The heat wasn’t a problem for me until the very last stretch,” said Whitney Hammett, 24, of Oak Bluffs. “Then it really started blazing on my brow and the nape of my neck.”
Still, Mr. Hammett managed to finish the race in fine shape. Apres race, he and most of the other 1500-plus runners drank bottled water, slurped on Italian ices and told war stories from their respective 3.1-mile treks.
Once again, the road race was organized by Hugh Weisman, a New York architect and Chilmarker who launched the event in 1978 with 180 runners. Today, the modest run has evolved into the premier athletic event on the Island, but Mr. Weisman has kept it as laid-back as a summer barbecue.
“It was a great race,” Mr. Weisman said. “We had our first good day of Vineyard weather in what seemed to be five years. Everything went very smoothly, with one glitch where we fouled up a bunch of times in a couple of age ranges, which I really hate to have happen. Everyone feels that their times are important.”
Mr. Weisman, who devotes hundreds of volunteer hours to the race, needn’t apologize. Many slow runners will be grateful not to learn their true times. But those who want their times can check them today on the World Wide Web.
One runner who doesn’t need to check his time is Art Smith. He was clearly the best runner in Saturday’s field, and he proved it from the start.
By the quarter-mile mark, Mr. Smith - a telecommunications professional by day - had left the field in his wake and was cruising toward the Middle Road hills.
The heat didn’t faze Mr. Smith, either. Earlier this summer, he competed with America’s finest 5,000-meter runners at the Olympic trials in Atlanta. While his bid to make the Olympic team fell short, the experience - and dealing with the southern humidity - left him more than prepared for Chilmark.
“I run here 100 per cent for fun,” Mr. Smith said. “And I like getting the T-shirt.”