The Fred Brown Relay Around Lake Winnipesaukee--once known as the Plymouth Rock to Provincetown Relay--will celebrate its 20th year this fall. Jeff Gould of Westminster, Massachusetts will be there for the start?and the finish--like he has for the past 19 years.
"I think I'm the only runner with perfect attendance," says Gould. He's not running the first leg, but Gould's presence at the start of this year's race is imperative--he'll be shooting the gun.
The Winnipesaukee relay was moved from Cape Cod to the New Hampshire lakes region in 1988 when the Barnstable Chief of Police refused to let the runners pass through his town. This bump in the road didn't stop the North Medford club--the second oldest running club in America--from keeping this spectacular running event alive. Instead, the club headed north to another of New England's hotspots, and the camaraderie continued.
Gould glows with excitement when recalling the relays of the past. "I've run just about every leg at one time or another," he says. "Some years I've had to run two." For the past 10 years he's been assigned the last leg, the team's anchor; this is where he feels most competitive.
"Twelve years ago the team captain called and told me he was putting me on the last leg. It's short, but hilly. I was nervous because I knew there were strong runners behind me. I got the baton, took off like I was shot out of a cannon, and never saw another runner for the rest of the race. We came in seventh that year out of 170 teams."
So, what is Gould's attraction to something that's eight legs and 65 miles long? Originality. "There are very few long distance relays within a day's drive," says Gould. "They are difficult to put on, but the North Medford running club does a great job with this one."
The course is nothing short of breathtaking--for more reasons than one. "It's challenging because of the hills, but the view is spectacular," says Gould. While others are planning their race day strategy offsite, he's traveling the course mile by mile with other North Medford club members, marking each one along the way. "Four of us from the running club go up the day before and make sure the course is well marked for the runners."
The race begins and ends at the lower parking lot of Fun Spot at Weirs Beach. There are barbeque pits for tailgaters, and video games galore. This fits nicely into Gould's race day strategy: "I'll shoot the gun, drop a few quarters and get to the last leg in time for the handoff."