Suffield Observations

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Andy Sauer

Running Commentary

A few years ago, I read an article about a woman who left her strict religious family and found herself adrift.

Isolated and sad, she decided to do something about it. She signed herself up for a road race. Completely clueless about competitive running and very self-conscious, she steeled herself to just finish, which she did. Encouraged by other runners, she signed herself up for another race. She’s been competing ever since. Running not only provided her with a new community but a new family, including a husband of seven years.

For all of running’s emphasis on the individual (solo runs, personal bests, willpower), competitive running is actually a community event. For starters, it takes the closely coordinated efforts of almost an entire town to stage a major race – roads are closed, emergency care put on call, volunteers assigned, sound systems set up, DJs hired, and ‘porta potties’ placed. Then, there’s the race itself: A crunch of people pounding the pavement at close quarters that eventually stretches out over the miles of the course. And, finally, there’s the finish with a crowd of people cheering on the runners. As everyone waits for the final entry, a festive atmosphere envelopes the finish line. The bigger the race, the bigger the party.

I can only imagine that for someone who’s feeling lonely, the sudden connection to hundreds of people must be intoxicating, even if it is temporary and a little superficial. That kind of feeling can keep a person running for the next event.

Runners in Suffield will get a chance to connect with the relaunch of the weekly Summer 5K Series at Bruce Park in July. The races, which kicked off on June 19, start at 6 p.m. on Mondays until July 17. Registration is $5 and starts 30 minutes before the race. The competitions are not as large or intense as the average road race – they attract about 40 people, and the runners range from the fast to the not-very-fast. The races are more of a reason for people to get together and run (or walk) for time.

Summers in Suffield, even pre-Covid, were, and are, on the quiet side, but the pleasant weather always brings out the runners in town — we all know they’re out there.

In this post-coronavirus world, where attendance from churches to theaters still feels a little muted, there are so many excuses to isolate and fewer opportunities to connect.

This summer, Suffield has a start and finish line, a clock and someone handing out prizes. It’s time to take our mark, get set and go!

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