EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 23, 2012

Mixed results for region's premier running couple

By Bill Burt
bburt@eagletribune.com

---- — ANDOVER — After Nate Jenkins runs a race, the person he usually meets up with immediately afterward is his wife, Melissa Donais, often in the winner’s circle as both are among the best runners in the area.

But after yesterday’s win for Jenkins, his fourth straight Feaster Five 5-mile victory here on Thanksgiving morning, there was no sign of his wife.

”Reluctantly, she is home,” said Jenkins. “We were out for a jog after work on Hillside Drive (in Andover) and she hit a curb and fell. We were more worried about her hip from the fall. But when she woke up the next day she couldn’t move her arm. She broke a bone in her shoulder.”

Donais was contemplating an attempt at this year’s event, but it wasn’t in the cards.

”She tried running, and then it would hurt,” said Jenkins. “Then she came up with a bad cold, so there was no way.”

Heart attack? No problem

It was a pleasant surprise for many Andover residents. Selectman Brian Major not only was at the Feaster Five, but he had a number on his jersey.

Despite suffering a heart attack in June, Major was given a clean bill of health from his doctors to run — not walk! — in yesterday’s event.

He ran the 5K race in an impressive time of 32:04.

”I feel better than ever,” said Major, before the race. “I’m very thankful to be here.”

Beck had a lot at ‘steak’

Catherine Beck had many reasons to give it her best at this year’s race.

After winning and having so much fun two years ago in her first Feaster Five, the Brookline, N.H. native got the support of several family members this year, most of whom attended Thanksgiving dinner in Topsfield after the race.

But Beck admitted there was another reason she was excited about running. She wanted another steak.

”I got a gift certificate from Burton’s and had an incredible steak last year,” said Beck, who is attending graduate school in New York City and resides in Newark, N.J. “I really hope I get a steak (for finishing second) this year.”

Turn 50 and starting to run

Some people turn 50 and they start slowing down and maybe plan for retirement. Mona Thornhill of North Andover started running.

Now 56, Thornhill ran her sixth Feaster Five yesterday, raising her hands as she crossed the finish line.

Her husband Dean, and sons Bill and Nate also ran, as well as Bill’s wife, Becka.

”I was sick of staying home and cooking while everyone was exercising,” said Thornhill. “I’m so glad I started. I love it. I just ran my first half-marathon at Hampton Beach. I’ve never been in such great shape.”

Widows continue tradition

Peter and Anne Schwind jogged across the finish line and gave each other a big hug.

Yesterday marked the 10th Feaster Five for the couple, both of whom were widows before they remarried.

”Why do we do this? Because it’s fun,” said Peter, 75.

Anne lost her husband to an accident in 1991 and started walking the Feaster Five. When she met and later married Peter, it was a tradition they wanted to continue.

Combined, the Schwinds have 25 grandchildren and 9 adult children.

”I passed my granddaughter (Meghan Gemmell, 15) and then she passed me,” said Anne. “Honestly, this is so much fun for us. When my first husband died we decided to walk. When something challenging happens in your life you make some changes. We decided to participate in this race and it’s been great.”

Rocky and the Mayflower

It started a few weeks ago as a way for Andover resident Caryn Wilson to let her new dog, Rocky, experience the festive atmosphere.

It turned into one of the best costume/float presentations of the 2012 Feaster Five.

Wilson adopted a Rottweiler mix dog which was found in a Los Angeles landfill. Rocky has bad hips and would not be able to walk the 5K course. With help from her dad, Herbert Wilson, they were going to push Rocky in a wagon.

“But then that turned into the Mayflower,” said Wilson. “Then we became the pilgrims and Indians. We got the outfits and next thing you know we are in the Thanksgiving spirit.”

Wilson, her father, her friend Christine Primiano and her son were fan favorites.

“We felt like celebrities,” she said. “People were stopping us along the way to take pictures. It really was fun. This is our 10th year and, because of Rocky, we finally did it right.”

A turkey and three chefs

It’s one thing to be dressed as a turkey. It’s another to have four chefs in tow.

The Stieger family of Andover went all out yesterday with dad, John, dressed up as a turkey, while mom (Lynne), son (Nathan. 8), daughter (Ingrid, 5) and a friend (Lucy MacLean, 5) dressed as chefs.

”We planned this about two months ago,” said Lynn. “I love to run. But for this race, it’s more about having fun. This was great.”

John said his wife gets all the credit for the cheers they got along the way.

”She got this costume on Amazon.com,” he said. “I saw other turkeys. But I didn’t see any chefs.”

A celebration for sisters

Salem sisters Katie Johnson, Barbara Johnson and Nancy McAvoy had a lot to celebrate yesterday. Barbara had lost 138 pounds and Nancy, who was in a wheelchair for the race, has had some lengthy hospital stays and recently returned home.

”Two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to walk up the hill (on Main Street),” said Barbara.

As for Nancy’s favorite part of yesterday’s event?

”I didn’t have to run,” she said. “It’s a good way to start Thanksgiving.”