By Chuck Frye
---- — HAVERHILL — The reasons for running yesterday’s Frozen Shamrock 3-Miler were varied. Competition was very low on the list.
A respectable total of 800 runners from the record 1,100 entries were able to take to the streets of Haverhill and Bradford for the kickoff-turned-wrapup of the three-race Wild Rover Series, rescheduled from February due to heavy snow. With Mayor James Fiorentini providing well wishes from the city prior to the start and an interested audience lining the course, the spirit of community extended beyond the runners and was not lost on the athletes.
“I really appreciate that they come out and watch us,” said overall winner Frank DeBonis of Andover. “They make you feel like you’re doing something important enough that they want to come out and watch. It feels good, and once I catch my breath (after the race) I want to thank them for coming.”
With an opportunity to run a shorter course with some friends as well as continue his training for the upcoming Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, DeBonis outkicked Amesbury’s Larry Fowle down the stretch to take the title in 16:53.2, about six seconds faster than Fowle. It was his third top 10 finish in the Wild Rover, but that didn’t matter to DeBonis.
“I try to keep it all in perspective and have fun,” the transplanted New Jersey native said. “I’m not here to break records and kill myself. I’m here to have fun and places like this allow me to do that.
“It’s an opportunity to run with a couple of my buddies that don’t do long distances as I do, to spend some time with them and have a couple of beers afterward. That’s really what it’s all about.”
Friends were the motivating factor for Haverhill’s Kristina Scott to enter as well.
“She’s a good runner so we said, ‘Come on, let’s do it,’” said Tewksbury’s Judy Murphy.
Scott validated Murphy’s opinion as she was the first female to cross the finish line at the host site, Archie’s Little River Ale House. Placing 23rd overall, Scott had a time of 20:12.2.
The race was like a sprint for Scott, who is accustomed to running ultra marathons but is continuing her rehabilitation from a partial Achilles tear suffered at the Reach the Beach Relay last year.
“This is my first race since the injury,” Scott said. “I do training runs that are longer than this and I don’t like to do speed work, so this is how I get that work in. It’s so much better with a group of people around you.”
The course also was appealing as Scott lives just a mile away.
“I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m almost at the end,’” the Auburn native said with a laugh. “Everything was familiar which was nice.”
Running also provides Scott with valuable stress relief connected to her school work.
“I have a dissertation for education leadership at UMass Lowell that I should be finishing up around August. I run a lot to get rid of stress, and when I have a lot going of in my life, it’s a relief.”
Apart from impulsive, day-of race entries, Scott will stick with training until the completion of her dissertation. After that, her running goals are lofty as shown by her plan to take part in a 24-hour, 200-mile run this year before school work became all-consuming.
And after her victory, as a good friend, Scott waited for Murphy and her friends to cross the finish line, which happened about 10 minutes after she did.
A bigger Shamrock?
Race director Dave Camire has been careful to cultivate the Shamrock over its six years of life, doubling the field during that period while keeping the tight-knit feeling that makes the race popular.
“That’s by design,” said Camire. “We don’t want to tax our resources.”
But Camire does see room to grow, feeling that “easily we could get 1,500 for this race. But the big thing for us is quality. We’ve had good experience here but we don’t want things to get too crowded. Luckily things like the new parking garage have helped that from happening.”
Also, support from the city has been imperative in the growth of the event.
“The city has been incredible,” Camire said. “Everyone from the mayor to police chief Alan DeNaro to the incredible running tradition here. This race works because of the people involved.”