Friday evening is not an ideal race time for landscapers. Before you finish up the day, you need to make sure everything is all set going into the weekend, and a lot depends on the weather, your equipment, your employees and your customers. You may be done at 5PM and you may be done at 9PM. So when Brian told me he wanted to run the Blessing of the Fleet (a very popular Friday evening 10-mile race) this year, I was hesitant about pre-registering because I know his schedule as a landscaper can change from moment to moment.
So we decided that we would wait until race day to register. If everything went according to plan, we would leave his house by 3PM, head to my parents’ house on the way to drop off our dogs (since we would be staying there that night) and arrive in Narragansett, RI (where the race takes place) by 4:45PM at the latest – plenty of time to register, warm-up and get any other pre-race activities taken care of.
We did OK on our departure time. By 3:20PM we were pulling out of his driveway, and figured we would still make it to Narragansett by 5PM. The traffic flow had much different plans, however, and we didn’t end up pulling into my parents’ driveway until a little after 4:30PM. By that time, we figured it would be best to drive with my parents instead of taking one car; that way, we could just jump out of their car and register rather than have to find parking ourselves. But that also meant waiting for my dad to get home from work before we could take off.
We finally left their house at 4:50PM, about 50 minutes later than we planned.
It was raining pretty hard on the way down to Narragansett, and we kept hitting pocket after pocket of traffic. We started to panic a little about the time. When we finally reached the Narragansett Pier School (where registration takes place) at 5:45PM, we jumped out of the car and ran to register. The gym was muggy and smelly, but we had made it in time. We filled out our registration forms, got our T-shirts (which we promptly ditched because we realized we had no place to put them) and ran to the start of the race. (And we were pleasantly surprised that the race organizers had finally opened their eyes to the wonderful invention that is chip timing.)
Knowing we had made it in time for the start (barely), we could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
It had stopped raining at this point, but the air was thick… and it didn’t help that there were about three thousand people huddled around us. Brian and I said good luck to each other and went our separate ways in the crowd.
I didn’t realize how far back I started, but I later saw that there was almost a 2-minute discrepancy between my chip time and my gun time. (It did seem like it took awhile to cross the starting line, with a lot of starting and stopping.) And as anyone who has ever run the Blessing knows, the first mile is usually pretty crowded and consists of a lot of weaving around other runners. I didn’t mind, though, because it gave me a chance to loosen up a bit after rushing around before the start.
Right from the beginning, the crowd support was awesome. It reminds me of a smaller-scale Boston Marathon, with people literally partying all along the race route as you go by.
I had forgotten my Garmin (and my socks, too, but that’s a different story), so I had to rely on the timers at each mile marker. And since it had been fairly cool (and raining) when we left the house, I figured I would just keep hydrated with the water stops rather than bring my FuelBelt. There were plenty of water stops, but they got a little crowded and I had to actually run up to the table at one of them to grab my own cup because the volunteers couldn’t keep up with everyone.
It started drizzling within the first few miles, but by mile 5 it had turned into monsoon-like conditions.
On top of that, around mile 6 the course takes you onto a very tree-lined road, so it actually got pretty dark. Even after we got out of the tree-lined area, the sky was very dark and ominous.
The 10 miles went by pretty quickly for me, and I really didn’t mind the rain because it was a warm rain. I did feel sorry for the race photographers, though (or rather, their expensive cameras… but they seemed to have a handle on that situation) and the spectators, too (though everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, cheering as we ran by).
I know that a big draw of the Blessing is the festival afterwards, but though I had no problem running around in the rain, standing around in it didn’t appeal to me all that much. So after meeting up with Brian and our friends, I helped myself to a bottle of water, found my parents and headed to The Mews Tavern for a post-race meal with them, Brian and my brother Adam and his sister-in-law (the two of them also ran the race).
This was my third time at the Blessing. I walked it in 2002 and ran it last year (8 minutes faster last year – I know I could have pushed myself more this year, but not 8-minutes-faster more!). It really is an exciting race – great crowd support on a scenic route with fun after-party (especially when it’s not raining) – and I can see why it draws in big numbers year after year.
When the Blessing of the Fleet comes up in conversation between runners around RI, it is often accompanied by groans of, “Oh, that race is always so HOT!” That is not, however, how the 2010 Blessing will be remembered.
For some, it will be remembered as the year it downpoured. For others, it will be remembered as the inaugural chip-timing year.
For me, it will be remembered as the year I decided we would always pre-register.