racing me! What I mean is, it's a running race."
"I think he
wants the Austin Rod and Gun Club," one of the men finally volunteered.
Several sets of directions, three wrong turns and 15 minutes later we thundered
to a halt in front of a deserted Austin Rod and Gun Club. Inside the clubhouse
three other old men sat on barstools trying to outstare Sandy Koufax on
where the road race starts?" I begged.
said the bartender. "You want the Nenameseck Rod and Gun Club. Other side
The man took
compassion on me and drew a map—probably because I had my head on the bar and
was crying. We finally arrived at the right rod and gun club, which was at the
end of a dirt road atop a wooded hill several miles out of town. The club was
so well disguised that a U-2 plane would not have noticed it. It was five
minutes before the start of the race, and I was shaking. I was handed a
cardboard number and two safety pins.
immediately dust was being thrown in my face by the retreating feet of maybe 80
runners. I took off in panic. Eventually I worked my way near the front of the
pack. Midway through the race we strode past the Ware city hall and the same
three men who had earlier misdirected me. They did not so much as look at
at the Nenameseck Rod and Gun Club, Rose was making friends. Several people
were there whom she had seen at the Salem race two days earlier. Not only do
many of the same runners show up at most of the New England races, but there is
an army of camp followers—mothers, fathers, wives, sweethearts, children,
parakeets—who stand around and fraternize while their athletic heroes pace
through the countryside. Camp following is far from an unpleasant chore, since
often the running is merely sauce for the real thing. In the case of the
Nenameseck Rod and Gun Club the real thing was not shooting. I had the distinct
feeling Song and Beer Club was more like it.
I had been given
No. 1 to wear on my chest for identification. Half an hour after the start a
car roared into the club parking lot, screeched to a halt, and a woman leaned
out the window. "No. 1 is No. 1," she cooed at my wife. A few minutes
later I staggered across the finish line 100 yards in front. "A new
record!" roared one of the officials after glancing at his stopwatch, and
the several hundred Nenameseck rod and gunners raised their glasses in
approval. "A record?" I asked when I had regained my breath. I did not
think I had run that hard.
"Well, it's a
new course," a man said. "They lengthened it from last year to make it
I remembered what
Semple had told me about most New England road-race courses being
"shoort." "Then it's an honest 10," I said.