MERIDEN — The 20th annual Meriden Rotary 5k Road Race took place Sunday morning at Hubbard Park, a prelude to the upcoming Daffodil Festival.
Peter Wnek, a member of the Meriden Rotary Club and chairperson of the road race, said about 150 people took part in the day’s activities. The race will raise about $6,000, all of which will be put toward the Meriden community, he said.
For Waterbury resident Molly DePaiva, Sunday’s race was one more step towards running a race in every town in Connecticut. She’s a member of the “Run 169 Towns Society,” a group of about 2,000 people who plan to experience the state on foot. Over 70 people have done the entire circuit.
“It’s a great group. I did not know a single person and now I am friends with everyone,” said James Sweney, a fellow society member.
DePaiva, a history teacher and cross country coach at Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury, is currently “streaking” – a term for consecutive days of running at least a mile. She’s currently on day 307. She plans to complete a year and keep going from there. Every day DePaiva puts on more miles, does more hills. She’s training to run up Mount Washington later this year.
After 56 towns, it all kind of runs together, so to speak. For example, over the course of Thanksgiving weekend – an important time for local road races – DePaiva ran in six of them. She hoped to run the Sunday race in less than 25 minutes.
“That would be a PR, personal record, for me. I want to finish the course, have fun, and do better than yesterday,” she said.
Sweney, a Niantic resident, was hoping to set a pace of less than seven minutes per mile.
“I love to try to prove myself. In every race I am keeping up with the top runners,” he said.
“He’s fast,” DePaiva added.
Sweney spoke of his running as a kind of meditative practice.
“I get a sense of my mind. I get a sense of peace. I get out of the house. I get away from everything happening in my life. This is a blessing doing what I can do,” he said.
Middlefield resident Daria Vanderveer had a different kind of running partner. She headed to the starting line with her 14-year-old mutt Lucy, a spotted and exceedingly amiable dog. Lucy lost her left front leg to cancer this past fall, and Vanderveer couldn't imagine a life without her by her side on the trail.
“I got the Chevy Suburban of pet strollers,” she said. “As long as we could still buy her some quality time, getting out, getting some stimulation. I thought, what can I do to get her moving fast?”
Vanderveer and Lucy have stuck to flat courses thus far, so Hubbard Park’s hill was going to be a test.
The children took off for their fun run around the park around 9:45 a.m. The adults started lining up shortly thereafter. The lean and sinewy runners edged to the front of the starting mob, shaking out tense muscles and waiting in quiet anticipation. The middle of the pack were runners to be sure, but more of the weekend variety, chatting amongst each other and adjusting their headphones.
“I’ll be in the back of the pack if you need me,” a friend said to another.
“Me too,” he replied.
A horn sounded and with a good natured yelp the group began to move up the hill.
The Daffodil Festival runs April 27 and 28 in the park.
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