The Social Network of Summer Running

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Photo by Donna Fitzgerald

Charles Byrdges’ summer runners set out across the fields at Bruce Park.

I have always thought of running as a solitary endeavor. Traveling around the beautiful roads of Suffield this time of year it is easy to spot runners and their telltale washboard abs. Believe it or not, I have even had some folks living under my roof who actually think running is fun. But I may be on to them as they seem most excited to strap on the running shoes and head out the door when it is time to wash the dishes, mow the lawn or squeeze the dogs anal glands.

This summer I started to notice the signs around town about a running series held at Bruce Park on Tuesday evenings. I sat down with Charles Brydges who organized these events with the help of the rec department. I was hoping our tête-à-tête would reveal more about the social aspect of running and the running community here in our little town.

In years past, Charles has headed to other towns to participate in their running series and to meet up with other runners. He felt the time was right to bring the series to our backstreets. Charles, a senior at SHS and a member of the cross country and track teams, believes that runners who run together run longer and that runners need to support each other in their training as they pound out the miles. He talked about role models that he has met through the sport and the team camaraderie that has developed. With those two components in mind, the series at Bruce Park seemed like a good way for runners to gather and build community. Each week, this first year, about 35 runners and walkers have congregated under the oak trees. They run the cross country trails which wind around the park and provide shade and hills and exposed stretches, something for everyone. Charles and a team of volunteers have organized each race, and the participants have come bearing school supplies and other staples to stock up the shelves of Suffield Community Aid. In addition, all the proceeds from the entry fees go directly to the SCA. Charles registers and times the runners each Tuesday and posts their results. He is well aware of the history of strong runners that we have in this town. Many have gone on to run at the college level and continue to race after graduating. And up and coming runners stand on the shoulders of those who have gotten out of the gates before them. They gather at Bruce Park to perpetuate this legacy and set goals and meet them. The community of like-minded athletes who have committed to this Tuesday night series have bonded and, somehow, in the company of other runners, they make all the work of getting in race-shape, less like work.

Looking back, Charles started running as a way to pass the time while waiting for his younger sister to finish up with her Daisy meetings. So while the girls were making potholders, Charles hoofed it around the track. It has evolved into a passion and he wants to share his excitement for this lifelong sport. And, heck, if it gets him out of doing some dishes, that is something he can live with. 

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