Clubs   Places   Groups   Races   Results   Writing   Message Board   Search 

Junque Miles:

By Mark Roberts

Wineglass Marathon Relay

Photographs to accompany this story are at

I can now confidently say that running one third of a marathon is at least twice as much fun as running a whole one. And not just because you can climb and descend stairs the next day, although that's definitely a major benefit. After running the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, NY as part of a relay team I can't remember when I last had so much fun at a race.

After some last minute scrambling to replace runners who decided not to participate, we had two teams, an Open Men's team ("Technotrousers"), consisting of Tom Gabruk, Caleb Shulman and myself, and an Open Women's team ("Chickens Run"), consisting of Linda Grossman, Michele Rosenbaum and Lisa Teot (who, incidentally, was the one who came up with the team names).

Part of the fun was in having the opportunity to race without taking it too seriously; check the team names in the previous paragraph if you have any doubts about this. Each of our teams had runners on both sides of the Masters mark (you had to have a team in which all three members were 40 or over to qualify for the Masters division) and of varying ability levels (rumor has it that Linda Grossman has actually won marathons in the past). Fortunately, most of the other relay teams seemed to share our peculiar sense of competitive spirit and there were plenty of other varied collections of ability and seriousness. This resulted in a constant reshuffling of the deck during the course of the race as one team replaced a speedster with a slower runner and another team replaced a mid-packer with someone fast. The relay runners started 15 minutes later than the marathoners and eventually mixed in with the marathoners, making it difficult to tell exactly what was going on. And to top it off, those who were planning on walking or running and walking the marathon were started 1 hour before the official race start, just to make things even more confusing (and I mean that in the nicest sense of the word--not knowing exactly what was going on was a big part of the fun of this event and I have great respect for a race director who's willing to go through the agony of calculating the results from all this). Giving the relay runners and marathoners different colored number bibs helped a little, but as the race progressed it became more and more difficult to know which runners started early and where anyone really stood. This just added to the excitement and mystery.

Tom and Linda were our lead runners and after leaving them at the starting area the rest of us drove along the course to find a good place to cheer them on and found a suitable spectating area at the 2 mile mark. There we met the "Friends of Mike", a contingent of friends and relatives of a guy named Mike who was running his first marathon. They were a large, boisterous group with big signs that read "Go Mike" and "Go George". "Who's George?", I asked. "He's the same guy as Mike", came the answer. Huh? It seems that George is George Jr. and has always been known by his middle name (Mike) in order to distinguish him from George Sr. His cheering section decided to play it safe and bring both signs because they'd told him that if "Mike" felt tired he should have "George" take over. This kind of humor seems a lot funnier to the runner at mile 2 than it does at mile 22, but I didn't tell them that. I wanted Mike to get the full marathon experience, annoying spectators and all ("You're looking good!").

The enthusiasm of the "Friends of Mike" proved contagious and we were all soon cheering loudly for the runners we knew as they came by. I crouched at the inside of the corner and took pictures as Lisa stood farther upstream and alerted me to local runners as they approached. "Here comes Greg! Go Greg!" Then she'd charge over to me, "Mark, get a picture of Greg!", and sprint back to cheer more runners. "Yeah Karen! Go Dennis!" We yelled at every local runner we recognized and even cheered the now-famous Mike/George.

By the 2 mile mark the faster relay runners had made up enough of their 15 minute deficit to be closing in on the back-of-the-pack marathoners. Seconds after the last marathoners came the lead relay runner: our own Linda Grossman, leading a pack of rather startled-looking men. Lisa definitely out-cheered the FOM (Friends of Mike) at this point: "Go L.G.!!!" A few seconds later Tom Gabruk came through and after another lung-busting exercise we dashed across the street, piled into Michele's Jeep amongst piles of gear bags and running supplies and set off in search of the first relay exchange point.

We navigated our way through the wilderness of New York State wine country, found the relay exchange without too much trouble and settled down to wait. By this point (9 miles) the relay runners were getting well mixed in with the marathoners and the first person to pass through was actually a relay team walker who was in the group that had started an hour early. Then came the first marathoners and soon the first of the regular relay runners appeared. It was again Linda Grossman, leaving a trail of scorched pavement and crushed male egos in her wake. She almost collapsed in the exchange area after handing off to Michele but soon recovered sufficiently to ask "When did Dennis VanKerkhove come through?" "A couple of minutes ago." "I'm outta here!" And with that she set off to do the second leg as a "training run".

Tom appeared after a few minutes and handed off to Caleb and once again we piled into the Jeep and set forth into the wilderness. Upstate New York definitely has some pretty countryside and this time of year, autumn as the leaves are beginning to turn, is especially beautiful. It was a clear, sunny day which had started off quite chilly but was beginning to warm up considerably by the time we reached the second relay exchange. The air was refreshingly cool as long as you stayed in the shade but the heat from the direct sunlight and that radiating from the pavement was clearly taking its toll on the runners we saw as they passed through. I'm sure the marathoners were wondering why we couldn't have had a typical gray upstate New York day.

We tried counting the relay teams as they came through. By this time we thought the walkers with the one-hour head start would no longer be a factor (we were wrong) but we couldn't be sure which teams were Open and which were Masters and we couldn't tell if a team was mixed men and women unless they happened to have a man-to-woman or woman-to-man hand-off at that point. So we just guessed (and got that wrong, as well). By the time Caleb came through to hand off to me we thought we were in 7th or 8th place (we were wrong about this, too), but one runner was only a little bit ahead of us and I felt sure I could catch him. A couple of 17-18 year old "young punks" were a few minutes ahead of him and I had no idea how fast they'd go but resolved to try to catch them. Michele completed her leg about a minute behind Caleb and handed off to Lisa for the final 8 miles.

The final miles of the course are reportedly the least interesting (I didn't see much of the first 18 so I have no basis for comparison) but Lisa did report several more sightings of the Friends of Mike. It seems they were determined to cheer him at as many different points along the course as possible. Lisa and the FOM cheered each other at each encounter. I managed to pass three male runners including the two "young punks" (old age and treachery and all that...) and reached the finish line just as the rest of the team was arriving in the car. (And Linda was pleased with herself just for beating the men in her relay leg! Guess I showed her! long as they didn't get lost or stop for gas or food or anything, in which case I don't want to hear about it.)

In the end both teams did respectably well. "Chickens Run" was second in the Women's Open class and "Technotrousers" was first place in the Men's Open class (behind the winning masters team, it must be admitted). We attribute our amazing success to hard work, dicipline and the frighteningly exorbitant entry fees for relay teams ($40-$45 per runner -- $120-$135 for a team!), which helped keep competition to a minimum. The medals were amongst the most unusual marathon medals I've ever seen: they were made of glass (Corning Glass is a sponsor of the race). They'll definitely stand out amongst the other marathon medals in my (or your) collection.

Having had such a great time this year we're already planning teams to compete in next year's event. Or perhaps we'll try a different marathon relay to run. Maybe one with 5 or 6 legs. After all, if one third of a marathon is twice as much fun, one fifth of a marathon should be at least four times as good!

Copyright © 2000 Mark Roberts
Wineglass Marathon web page

Back to page top

  Next article: It's in the bag.

  Previous article: An "Unwaivering" Commitment.

  Back to Junque Miles Index.

  Back to Rochester Running Page home.

Rochester Running Page Home

Page design copyright ©2014 Mark Roberts