So my brother Charlie and I ran the Blessing of the Fleet 10 mile run a week ago Friday and had a great time doing it.
There were 2141 runners who successfully completed the ten miles (and we were among them) along with 516 walkers (who cover the same course but who start an hour before the runners). With that many runners starting on a narrow village road, it takes some time just to get to the starting line (at a shuffling pace) and quite a distance before the crowd of runners is spread out enough for there to be room. My brother was having leg cramps about a mile into the race that made us have to stop a few times so he could stretch them and attempt to knead the cramp away, but as there got to be more room we were able to hit a better pace and his muscle cramps went away. (He has been doing relatively little running as he is busy ramping up his bicycle mileage in preparation for doing that 105 mile bike ride across Death Valley again this fall.)
We clowned around during the race, laughing and joking, applauding the spectators, announcing that we represented a combined total of 120 years of experience and trickery. Charlie was quite fond of selecting a spectator who appeared to be in our age group, reaching out for a quick high five or handshake and calling out to them as if he knew them "Hi, wow, great to see you again, man, it's been ages, bye!" -- leaving them with a puzzled look as they searched their memories, trying to figure out who it was that had said hello to them.
This is a very enjoyable race to run in -- great traffic control, lots of water available along the course, and more spectators per mile than any other race I've ever run. There was a woman bagpiper playing in the front yard of a house somewhere in the first mile of the race. The course passes back through that neighborhood around eight miles into the run and there was a section where there traffic barriers with ropes to provide a clear path for the runners through the crowd of spectators -- and there was that bagpiper playing Irish music. Charlie turned to me and said "When we get up by her, let's stop and dance a jig." Well, we stopped and, although I could not get my tired legs to do more than a semi-Celtic shuffle (but I am not a very good dancer in the best of circumstances, except perhaps dancing the twist), Charlie (who is an outstanding dancer) did a fair little jig. This made things difficult for the piper who was attempting to fight back laughter while playing. (It can't be easy to play the bagpipe while laughing.) As we resumed running, one bystander called out "You have entirely too much energy for this far into a race!" Well, not quite... we were both very tired... but we wouldn't let that interfere with having fun.
The actual Blessing of the Fleet takes place Saturday, the day following the race...
The State Police boat was carrying R.I. Governor Don Carcieri, who waved to the crowd as he passed by (and then docked a bit further along so he could come back and join the local officials on the reviewing stand). I was interested to note that people paid almost no attention to him at all -- a few waved to him, but people were waving at every boat. That's pretty much a reflection of the reality of state government in Rhode Island -- the leaders of the legislature have far more power than the governor -- in addition to which the Democrats have about 85% of the seats in the legislature and the Republicans hate each other so much that half of them are demanding to have their offices moved because they can't even stand to have offices near to their fellow Republicans. (This really is a peculiar little state.)
Well, that's it for the Blessing of the Fleet 2005. Let me leave you with one more picture of the Lawrence brothers...