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The Great Stew Chase: A View From the Water Station
Sunday, February 5, 2012
by Karen Batt

LYNN - “Are you familiar with this course?” asked a volunteer from the Wicked Running Club as we filled paper cups with water. I answered in the negative. “Oh, after the race, you have to drive up there and see ‘The Hill’. You wouldn’t believe what they have to run up, it’s like this!” She demonstrated with her elbow held 90 degrees from her body, her fingers pointed to the sky. She elaborated - it seems there were, in fact, several Hills. Sometimes it’s nice to show up on a race day wearing jeans, not feeling the slightest bit anxious, and only hearing about The Hill, knowing that you can later view it from the comfort of your car - if you so choose.

It was a cloudless, brisk, February morning for the 38th annual running of the Great Stew Chase. While the runners may have been warm and sweaty, it became downright cold at the water station. I can’t begin to imagine how Krissy was able to operate a camera at the finish line! I couldn’t have gotten through the day without hand warmers. The other water station volunteers were happy I’d brought a bagful. I was happy they’d brought Valentine candy, and we made a nice trade. It made me wonder what secret goodies, beside water, might be available at a water stop if you just ask for it?

Not long after a tightly clustered pod of regional elite sprinted past (no time for water), our own Striders began streaming by. I recognized a lot of teammates whom I knew were using the opportunity either to race; as a training run for Amherst, New Bedford, Boston, or any number of other long races coming up; to catch up with friends on a beautiful, February day; or some combination of all three. There were a lot of teams represented today, and I may be a bit biased, but I think we were the best looking of the lot. It was great to see you, often running together in groups or pairs, cheering each other on - and all smiling!

George Geis took 1st place among Men 70+, proving he’s in great shape to move up to a #1 ranking in the USATF NE series this year. Mike Pelletier took 3rd in the Men’s 65-69 age group, and Lanse Stover lead the Striders at a nimble pace, good for a 5th place finish in the Men’s 55-59 age group.

For the women, Bonnie Hallinan finished 2nd in the 60-64 age group. Jayne Sexton took 4th for Women 55-59. Marisol Ficaro had previously requested a twist of lime with her water. If I hadn’t been worried about mixing up cups and creating a choking hazard for another, unsuspecting runner, I would’ve been happy to oblige - sorry, Marisol! But a lack of lime didn’t slow her down or stop her from taking 5th place among Women 45-49, with Vicky Yee right on her heels, taking 6th in the same age group.

When the last of the runners had gone by, I opted not to visit “The Hill”. My needle was on “E” and I needed to make a gas station my first imperative. You all can tell me about it, but I was assured that it was a good training route for Boston. Speaking of which, the Stew Chase was my own training for the Boston Marathon, as I’ll be on Mary Stevens’s volunteer crew handing out water and encouragement at mile marker 12 (or maybe 8). For those of you running, if there are any special cheers you’d like to hear as you near the halfway point, please let me know and I’ll make a note of it! After saying it for two hours, “looking good” can start to sound a bit canned. Of course for you Striders, it’s always sincere.

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