I knew about six of the entrants but felt a remarkable kinship with the others, too.
It was sunny and comfortably cool. A perfect morning for a race.
The starting line was just a ways down Pleasant Street, in front of the former home of my first real boss, George Little. I worked with him four summers at Buckeye Pipe Line while I was in college.
As we jogged past Farmer Street, I recalled part of my tryout for the track team when I was a freshman in high school. Our coach, Ike Ferres, had apparently measured and determined that Farmer Street was 400 yards long. So we started 40 yards back on Pleasant Street. In those days, I did not know anything about pacing myself. As a result, I had nothing left at the end of 440 yards. And I thought I was going to vomit, for good measure. I did not make the squad.
We festival racers continued north on Pleasant Street, past Graves’ and Brookovers’, names from my days as a newspaper carrier; their families still living on the same street as in 1961.
We continued right through downtown, which looks much more stylish these days thanks to the elegant floral stylings of Dan Stober.
Right before our race pack passed under Wakeman’s only traffic light, I recalled the time 12-year-old me was riding my bike and hit the curb by the grocery store (well, it was a grocery store then; I can’t recall its current name or function) and flopped so hard I saw stars for 10 minutes. It was my worst fall ever on a bicycle.
I was just starting to breathe hard when we got to Depot Street (which runs parallel to the village park alongside Route 20). A couple of jogs then took us into the upscale housing development hidden alongside the Vermilion River. It’s very pretty back there, but—and I had never really noticed this when driving through—there is a steep hill that comes along just after the one mile mark of our 3.1 mile race. Brutal, at my age.
But it made me appreciate the race course when it soon flattened out again, across Verlin Street in the shadow of the big water tower that was constructed in the 1950s when my dad was mayor of the village, to Abbott Street.
I had a ton of Sunday Plain Dealer customers on Abbot Street when I was a paper boy: Gradys, Batchelders, VanFossens, Hookers, Boyers, Kuhns, Ferreses and Grahams. And that is just some of the ones west of Verlin Street.
The race course looped through a nice development off what we used to call Abbot Street extension. The development was not there 57 years ago. But the two mile marker on the race course showed up just before we went into that “new” neighborhood. I was puffing at that point.
The last 1.1 miles had us backtracking down Abbot Street and Pleasant Street to the spot we started.
As usual, I was way back in the pack. Third among five entrants over 70. Just barely ahead of a pre-schooler running with her dad. And far behind a young mother who was pushing a stroller as she ran. I have been in several races with women pushing strollers, and I have yet to beat one.
But I had a splendid time. And I am guessing none of the other 125 entrants had more wonderful memories from the streets they were traversing than I. It was a great day.
Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] hotmail.com.