A group of teenage boys in shorts assembled at the starting line on the track at Masuk High School in 1990. I was among the runners getting ready for the start of the 800 meter race. I knew I wasn't the best runner there, but always had that same thought, "Hey, we're all side-by-side right now. I have as much a chance of winning as anyone."
As always, the gun would go off and I'd jump out to a fast start ... too fast. Ignoring warnings from teammates watching the action to slow down, I'd inevitably run out of gas and spend the rest of the race huffing and puffing behind the top runners.
Twenty-two years later this past Sunday, I was standing among the mass of humanity for the Sprint for Monroe, packed in like a sardine. Training for me consisted of three sessions on a treadmill, so I didn't expect too much. But I wondered how long I could see the backs of the lead runners before they were out of sight.
I only made it a few feet before they were long gone! I ran down Cutlers Farm Road, turned right onto Cross Hill Road and reached the cemetery when my mouth felt dry and my legs grew tired. That's when the 5 kilometer race alternated between walking and running for me.
Aside from the sight of people running and walking through the street making me think I wouldn't survive for very long on the show The Walking Dead, I noticed the wide range of ages of those taking part in race.
Walking to the starting line, I met George Whitney, 93, wearing a yellow T-shirt that said. "Anybody got a cigarette? Oxygen is overrated." George had gotten into running at age 80. On Sunday he joked to people he walked past about his number being the same as his age.
Then there was Anthony Katz, a courageous boy born with myotubular Myopathy, a severe form of muscular dystrophy, participating in his electric powered wheelchair with his father Doug.
Young children ran by, as well as adults who looked like they ran a lot of races.
On Sunday the Sprint for Monroe had a record of over 700 registered runners and 653, who participated in the run and walk that benefits the Monroe Police Department's S.H.A.R.E. program and a number of community causes.
Paul Moyse and Sgt. Pete Howard, co-directors of the Sprint, set up Wolfe Park's grounds early in the morning with the help of longtime volunteers Frank Bent, Ed Butler, Former Co-Director George Puglisi and First Selectman Steve Vavrek. Among the many other volunteers were Kelly Plunkett and Tom Taylor.
Marybeth Zarifian was responsible for a huge spread of fruit, bagels, dougnuts and other sweets that runners piled onto their plates after the Sprint.
On the road, runners chased their personal bests, some participated to get into shape and others walked for a good cause with their friends.
Of course, there was also elite competition. Bryan Kovalsky, 33, of Ridgefield was the overall winner with time of 16 minutes and 33 seconds. The best overall female was Helen Merkle of Trumbull with a time of 19:17.
I was right behind them, finishing in 492nd place, conquering the course in a mere 36 minutes and 43 seconds. It was all in good fun.
Congratulations to all of those who walked, ran, organized and volunteered for the this year's Sprint — one of Monroe's biggest events which just turned 20.
This year's title sponsor was Kimball Group and presenting sponsors were , Mr. Handyman, Minuteman Press of Monroe and Pepsi Cola. It was presented by the Monroe Police Department.