What does it say about local runners when they show up more than 100-strong for a Bucks County Roadrunners Club Winter Series race with the thermometer reading “ZERO?’’
“They’re insane!’’ says John O’Brien, director of the WS at Tyler State Park, with a hearty chuckle.
Well, yes, in a good way. Because you have to really love running if you’re going to get up and brave those kinds of elements, as was the case this past Sunday for the Tyler Challenge 10K.
How cold was it?
So downright cold, the club decided not to time the race as an official event because it would have been too hard on the 25 or so volunteers who have to stand around in the freezing conditions without much movement.
Even the people working the registration table had to take their gloves off at times and that’s no day at the beach either.
All this took place just a week after some 250 runners showed up for the New Year’s Day Cham-Pain 5K, also on a frigid, 15-degree morning.
Normally, a WS race will draw close to 400 people. So when more than half the projected field takes to the starting line, you know these folks have the right stuff.
“It was zero degrees when we got there to set up in the morning,’’ O’Brien recalled. “It was up to 5 by the time we finished.
“The runners enjoy getting up, getting out, hanging out. We get out and work together. The volunteers get there an hour and a half ahead of time to set things up. Everyone kind of kicks in, it’s a nice community. . .they really are nuts, but in a good way.’’
Tyler State Park officials did a good job clearing the trails of last Thursday’s snow storm.
BCRR officials ruled the trails were good enough to run on but decided to change the race to “informal’’ status to reduce stress on the volunteers.
“Our big concern was for the volunteers, when you have to just stand around,’’ O’Brien said. “Running wasn’t that bad, because there wasn’t wind. But when you’re just standing there to help, it’s tough. You can’t do anything to warm up.’’
Normally there are about 25 volunteers out on the course. That includes registration, food preparation, course marking, finish line and so forth.
Fortunately, the two-week icebox situation is coming to an end for a while. This week’s Wild Card race should have temperatures much more moderate.
The 11-race series, now in its 40th season, continues to draw runners from Bucks County, New Jersey and the entire Delaware Valley.
In the races so far, standout runners Steve Hallman and Shawn McElhaugh have excelled for the men while Justyna Wilson and Allyson Thompson are competing for top honors among the women.
In the Cham-Pain race, Hallman took first in 17:12 and McElhaugh was second in 18:18.
Wilson, returning from an absence this season, took women’s honors in 19:39 (ninth overall) and Thompson was close behind in 20:01 (11th overall).
All these performances are made possible by the dedicated volunteers. It should be noted that in order to qualify for Winter Series end-of-year awards (and coveted coffee mugs), a runner must volunteer to help out with at least one race.
“It takes a lot of fortitude to stick it out on a day when you’re not running,’’ O’Brien pointed out. “You don’t know the conditions when you sign up.’’
Congratulations to all who have kept the series races going each week. You might be doing something that many people say is crazy, but as Joe Walsh once sang, it’s about having “a good time.’’
BCRR Winter Series Wild Card (distance to be determined), 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact bcrrclub.com