Henry Williams.jpeg

Ithaca's Henry Williams finishes first in the 10K portion of the Ithaca 5&10.

I thought the algorithm goblins were at work. Last week's column pointed out that I am 30 years into my tenure as the Ithaca Times sports guy, and when I was looking for a story idea for this week, who should pop up, but Bob Congdon, about whom I started writing...you guessed it...30 years ago.  

Back then, I wrote about Bob's impressive streak of twenty-some consecutive Boston Marathons (he would run many more), and this week I saw that he was one of the loyal runners taking part in the iconic Ithaca 5&10, described on the Finger Lakes Runners Club's website as “Ithaca's oldest foot race.”  I asked Gary McCheyne—this year's Race Director—just how long the event had been in existence, and he said, “This was our 45th year. We took a couple of years off, but this was year number 45.”  

McCheyne—who has directed or co-directed the race for 10 years—first ran the 5 &10 in 1978, back when those numbers represented miles rather than kilometers.  I was not aware of the switch, so when I asked him who won the races, and he said, “the winning times were 32:06 for the 10 and 16:40 for the 5,” I thought a pair of world records had been set.  In Gary's words, “It just got too hard to get volunteers for the longer races.”  He was quick to add, “This year, we had 47 volunteers, and I really appreciate them all.  Without them we can't put on the races.”

This year's field of 168 runners (and 15 in the kids' Fun Run) ranged in age from 10 to well over 70, and McCheyne said, “Every year, they come out of the woodwork.”  The runners were treated to a cool morning with a light rain (“runner's weather,” in McCheyne's words), and the route starts at Ithaca High School, runs down to Court Street, back up Tioga to Fall Creek, back up Lake Street.  Years ago, a loop around Stewart Park was included, but when the race was shortened due to the difficulty of getting enough volunteers, that part was scratched.  

Gary was impressed that the field was so well-populated, given the full running schedule in the region.  “Our race was just one of three events,” he offered.  “Sunday also saw the Virgil 100-Mile Ultra and the start of the N.Y.S. Adult Cross Country season.  A lot of people that would have normally been at the 5 & 10 were competing in those races.”

Once again, I tracked down Bob Congdon and he said that he didn't run as well as he wanted to, but that he was pleased to keep his streak going.  He has run every one of the 45 Ithaca 5 & 10s, and he is also a member of the exclusive Boston Marathon Quarter Century Club.  He told me, “I ran Boston forty times—thirty consecutive—and that got me into the club.”  Looking back, Bob said, “I was one of the race's (the Ithaca 5 & 10) originators, and Jim Hartshorne got involved as Race Director.  He knew how to run things.”   As area runners know, when Jim got involved with something, it was done properly, and the race's longevity would make him proud, for sure.  

Steve Ryan is another longtime local road warrior, and he—at age 71—finished second in the Over-60 division.  Bob huffed a little at having to compete with a youngster such as Ryan, as he laughed and stated that he would prefer an Over-75 age group, given he is now 77.  Bob implied—of course—that he would run faster next year.

***

A couple of columns back, I wrote about the upcoming Friday Night Fights at GIAC, but I regret to inform readers that this Friday's event has been postponed.  Balancing the schedules of numerous fighters is a challenge, and the organizers need more time to make it happen.  Stay tuned at GIAC's website http://www.cityofithaca.org/327/Greater-Ithaca-Activities-Center or call the agency at 607-272-3622 for updates. 

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