Said Jack Davies: "It doesn't rain on the Chilmark Road Race."

And for the first 25 years, it didn't. Runners last year, in fact, were reported as traversing the scenic stretch of Middle Road "against a canvas of shadows and golden light." That was hardly the case this year, as runners arrived at Beetlebung Corner decked out in homemade raingear, most of it fashioned from kitchen trash bags. But Saturday morning's thick gray clouds and spotty rain didn't faze the participants; it only put a damper on the takeoff and fostered some ironic humor.

"I hope everyone remembered to bring his sunblock today - SPF at least 30," someone announced over the loudspeaker as 1,434 runners piled into the big yellow school buses, bound for the starting line.

And by the time the bullhorn cracked about a half an hour late - Chilmark Standard Time, as Mr. Davies put it - the rain had itself dwindled to nothing more than heavy humidity.

Cups of Italian ice, ridged plastic bottles of Naya spring water and a spirited team of cheering fans awaited the colorful community of runners, joggers, walkers, strollers and four-legged trotters at the finish line.

If the goal of the race - other than raising funds for the Chilmark Community Center - was to spark the interest of both runners and spectators alike, then mission accomplished.

And there was a bonus this year: Hugh Weisman, the race's founder, who thought managerial obstacles would once again keep him on the sidelines, crossed the finish line for only the third time in 26 years.

"He's running this year," said his hopeful daughters, Ali Weisman and Jennifer Sullivan, as they watched their father directing participants to the buses. "He's got to let the control go."

Mr. Weisman clocked in at 28:54.

"I wanted to break 30 minutes, so I'm happy," he said after completing the five-kilometer race, his bright yellow T-shirt drenched.

As do many signature summer events on the Vineyard, the Chilmark Road Race attracts a motley crew of people, each of whom carries a story of why this event is meaningful. Indeed, the event has a broad embrace, serving as a serious test for competitive runners as well as an inclusive family tradition for others.

Father and son team Dan and C.J. Lacroix have been traveling from Foster, R.I. to pummel the Middle Road asphalt for 25 and 20 years, respectively.

"He can still do six-minute miles," C.J. said, pointing affectionately to his father, who shrugged off the compliment. The duo crossed the black mats of the finish line at 23:19 and 23:20. "We run as a team," C.J. said.

Likewise, the Vagelos clan - Roy, Diana and their various offspring - makes a point of meeting at the family home in Chilmark for this annual event.

"We have 11 runners this year," said daughter Ellen Masseur, who flew in from Palo Alto, Calif. "We all came from California, New York and New Jersey. The youngest is seven and the oldest is 73. And we've had some part of that group running since '85."

Though the race may be more celebration than competition for the likes of Bob Buhmann, who suits up in a different character costume each year - he's been a cow, Superman, Uncle Sam, Delwoods Mooz - the race also draws a contingent of dedicated and serious athletes.

"People train all year for this," said Mr. Weisman's chief operating officer, Mickey Stone, who, until he was given his administrative responsibilities, trained six days a week for the race.

"I used to go to Gay Head and run hills even to break 20 minutes," he said. "Seven-minute miles are challenging."

From his perch at the back of the press truck, Irv Cohen of Manhattan and Chilmark recalled previous years when he ran the race.

"I turned 60 this year, so I would have been in a new age category, but I have a herniated disk," he lamented. "This was my chance."

Mr. Cohen did, however, discover a silver lining to being sidelined.

"I've never seen it from this angle," he said as the truck faced the mass of runners gathered at the starting line. "I'm always looking at the backs of people."

The runners (1,700 had registered) took off at the sound of the horn and the cacophony of shouting and confusion suddenly fell silent. Wearing number 199, 22-year-old Tyler Cardinal of Middletown, Conn., took an early lead, which he easily maintained until his third Chilmark victory 15 minutes and 54 seconds later. At the one-mile checkpoint, he was under five minutes, and at two miles under 10.

"This is the first year I haven't improved," Mr. Cardinal said after the race. "I drove all night from Chicago to Connecticut. Then I got up at 4:30 a.m. to drive here. I went out a little slower this year, but hopefully I'll be back next year."

"There's a nice battle for second going on," said Mr. Cohen's wife, Margo, midway through the race. "You have to take momentum from this little hill."

"The first mile and a half is flat," Mr. Stone said. "Then there's a slow incline. The race is won or lost on the hill."

"When you see Keith's Farm at the top of the hill," Mr. Cohen added, "it's like nirvana."

Joshua Sohn of Edgartown and Ari Zamir of Ridgewood, N.J., followed in second and third place, clocking in at 16:02 and 16:13. Each kept a pace of under six minutes per mile. Max Burrell, age four, was the youngest participant; Donald Shapiro, at 78, was the oldest.

Close watch was also kept on the leading female, Marian Bihrle, 19, of Belmont, who, before a cheering crowd, finished 15th overall at 18:22. Marian, who runs track at Princeton University, said she has run the Chilmark race since she was 13.

"I ran it last year and came in second [for females]," she said. "It feels good. I was injured all year with a stress fracture in my foot. I thought I wasn't going to be able to run again. But now I have two screws across the midsection of my right foot."

Cheering did not stop after the first few runners crossed the line. For almost an hour, runners streamed across at their own pace, some pushing modestly and steadfastly ahead; others throwing up their arms in celebration of personal triumph. A three-legged team hobbled across the mat and ripped the duct tape from their legs victoriously; a mother ambled across with her baby-laden stroller; another woman mopped the face of her black Labrador retriever. And Arlene and Ronald Goldfarb of New York city, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, jogged to the finish line hand-in-hand with a time of 1:01:02.

Top Male Finishers

1, Tyler Cardinal, 220:15:54.7

2, Joshua Sohn, 220:16:02.7

3, Ari Zamir, 170:16:13.1

4, Jonevan Hornsby, 260:16:13.4

5, Robert Laplante, 340:16:25.8

Top Female Finishers

1, Marian Bihrle, 190:18:22.0

2, Michelle Lauterback, 340:19:36.4

3, Ilaria Rebay, 380:20:04.3

4, Ashley Eyre, 170:20:53.1

5, Hazel Ryerson, 180:20:57.7