The eleventh annuual (and first post-Buffington) Groundhog 50 was held yesterday. Although Joe should be posting the full results (including how he reeled me in in the last two miles), I thought I'd add my two cents about my fourth and (since I'm moving to New Mexico next week) probably final Groundhog.
Probably the big question on the minds of people with large collections of Groundhog belt buckles was: was it the same race? Well, yes and no. The race itself was practically the same, but with a smaller crowd. However, the sense of community was absent. (And Phil didn't come by to say hello on Friday.)
The new directors managed the logistics of the race perfectly. I only noticed a couple of changes: the Pig Roast aid station was moved up the road to the intersection, the trail leading to the tarpits was rerouted, and mining activity caused a few landscape alterations toward the end. Instead of belt buckles, finishers received beer mugs, featuring an illustration of Silver Bus Hill. Despite the departure of Sandy's as a sponsor, there was still free beer, so one could immediately put one's beer mug to use.
The crowd was smaller. Fewer than fifty runners started the fifty miler (down from 180+ in previous years). A new addition this year was a 25 mile fun run, which had about 40 starters. (Looking over the finisher list in the 25 miler, I saw a lot of familiar names---folks, including the venerable Dr. Buff himself, who would usually have run the 50.) The 25 milers started at the same time (which led to a fairly fast initial pace). There were many reasons for the small turnout---the late announcement, the choice of labor day weekend, and an unfortunate overlap with a Finger Lakes race. The new directors are apparently aware of these problems, and will work to fix them next year.
However, one of things that made the Groundhog such a well-loved race was the sense of community. In past years, every participant of the race crammed into the church hall for the Friday night spaghetti dinner, while each runner was introduced by name. In past years, every participant packed into the saddle club for the Saturday night awards ceremony, when each runner, from the ringers to stragglers, came up to get their belt buckle. Folks would gather together around the wooden tables in the saddle club, drink beer, hobble over to refill the pitchers, and trade stories.
This year, the only time we all gathered together at once was at the starting line :( From looking over the finisher lists, I saw that a lot of the usual crowd was there. But we never saw each other... (sigh!)
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