(Bridgton ME) Steamy Bridgton was the scene of the 34th annual 4 on the Fourth road race.
Temperatures were in the 80s even at the 8AM start time from beside Food City.
For the third straight year, the winner was a newcomer to the event.
I like to size up the runners as they prepare for the start to see if I can pick the winner. After the race starts, I move over to in front of the Magic Lantern to get a great view of the runners cruising down Main Street and to see how I did. I suspected that there were ringers in the race but chose the wrong one. My wife, however, guessed Phil Richert and had the winner.
For the second straight year, the eventual winner ran Main Street without company. The first competitive race was for fifth between Tim Even and John Bechshaw and Tim eventually won while John faded to seventh.
The race now attracts over 1500 runners and has come a long way from 1977 when it was started. In that starting year, the race was held in DECEMBER with a course that included Chadbourne Road and Upper Ridge Road. That race ended at the house of the organizer and hot cider was served to the 28 participants.
Later the starting point shifted to the golf course and the ending to Highland Lake. The hassle of getting runners to the golf course caused it to be shifted to downtown Bridgton in the 1980s where it has stayed. USA Track & Field have certified the course.
The event is very well organized from beginning to end. There are still folks who think that they can drive along Main Street just before the runners show up. Two cars tried it this year and judging by the number of stops they were forced into and the verbals they got, I doubt they’ll make the same mistake again.
One change I noticed was that cones ran down the middle of Main Street giving the runners just half of the road. With 1757 finishers, I’m not sure that was a great idea.
That high heat brought out health concerns. You never worry about the elite runners because they have trained enough so that they could probably keep the same pace for another four miles. It’s the folks who are trained but the heat gets them or the untrained that should be standing beside me rather than risking their lives in front of a large audience. I did hear a couple of ambulances as I was leaving the race, before all had finished, and pray that there wasn’t a fatality. I did see one scary elderly gentleman in the race look as if he was going to go down at any minute since he was running at about a 45 degrees angle. Fortunately, it looked as if a family member was near him in case he headed for the pavement.
I did some online research on the top finishers after seeing their summer residences listed beside their names. I just wanted to know a little more background.
Winner Phil Richert is from Minnesota and went to Wisconsin = Stevens Point. The 23-year-old ran track there. What’s he doing in Bridgton, Maine on a hot July 4th? The Portland Press Herald found out that he has a summer job at Arcadia National Park in the gift shop on Cadillac Mountain.
Phil’s 19:58 winning time was quite a ways from that of record-setting Colin Peddie. The 3-time winner ran the course in 18:46 in 1987. Colin still holds a number of Maine state track records set while he was at Cheverus High School.
In second was Noah Graboys, who just graduated from New Trier High School in Illinois. If you want a favorite for next year, how about this kid? He finished eighth in 2009. It surprised me to see an elite runner like Noah have such long hair. If he returns next year with short hair, he’s my favorite. Noah’s brother, Sam, finished 11th and he’s just 15. Both boys are again connected to Camp Wigwam in Waterford for the summer and have run the Bridgton race several times each.
Third was Douglas Whichard who finished 15th at Bridgton as a 16-year-old in 2006. Doug is from California and is connected to the track program at UC Santa Barbara.
In fourth was Richard Klauber. This was Richard’s first try at Bridgton. He’s from Thomaston CT and now runs for Quinnipiac College. He’ll be a junior.
The first truly local runner to show up was Stoneham’s Tim Even. Tim is 21, attends the University of Southern Maine and runs track there. He has been running Bridgton while he was at Fryeburg Academy and had been stuck in the teens for the past three tries. This time, though, he put together his best time and best finish.
Scarborough’s Erica Jesseman finished 14th overall to pace the women finishers for the second time. She also was the best woman in 2006. She just graduated from UNH and starred in track.
(All information should be considered unofficial.)