With the sounding of the horn, some 1,600 runners in the 31st Chilmark Road Race took off. The herd shot toward the press truck like raptors in a Steven Spielberg film and the red pickup sped up to avoid being overtaken. John Ciccarelli was at the front, his face just feet from the photographers’ lenses. Behind him two boys in pink shirts attempted a 100-meter dash in the beginning of the 3.1-mile race and soon dropped off to the side.
Mr. Ciccarelli, however, kept up the pace, finishing the first mile in just under five minutes. The second and third place runners were 25 seconds behind him, a time difference that would grow to well over a minute when the Connecticut law student passed the finish line at Beetlebung corner, 15 minutes and 27 seconds after he started.
Halfway through the race, the press truck pulled up to the side of Mr. Ciccarelli and his slender figure moved seamlessly in pace with the vehicle. The sound of his quick breaths was steady, the soft click of the cameras intermittent. In the background the trees surrounding Middle Road opened to pastures and farms with ocean visible in the distance, as if Chilmark were trying to distract him. People cheered from the ends of driveways, their hollow applause passing like Doppler. They turned to see the next runners, only to find a long stretch of lonely road.
“Go get that lobster!” one observer yelled, referring to the two-and-a-half-pound prize awaiting Mr. Ciccarelli at the finish line.
He thought about it for a moment and without losing his pace turned to the media folks hunched in the bed of the truck. “How big is the lobster?”
This was Mr. Cicarrelli’s second time running the race. Unlike many participants in the event, the 25-year-old Southbury, Conn. resident didn’t just run on a whim. He trains year-round and after the race he seemed barely out of breath, drinking an organic sports drink and smiling.
“I’ve been training for longer distances like 10 (kilometers) and half-marathons,” he said. “With a 5K, it’s nice to get done quick.”
Others had different methods of preparation.
“I’ve been training for this for 24 hours,” said Rogers Brandon before the race. “A strict beer and wine diet.”
He has run the race on and off for 12 years.
Asked his reason for running the race, he answered in baritone, quoting Fiddler on the Roof.
He finished with a time of 29:13.
Chris Madaus of Needham was in town for the weekend trying to beat a personal record.
When he first ran the race, he finished with a time of 19:11. Three years later he tried to beat that time, only to tie it perfectly.
“So I’m looking forward to beating it today,” he said. But he finished with a time of 19:35.
“Be back next year,” he said.
The race lasted over an hour and runners continued to pour in past the finish. Their expressions ranged from exhaustion to self-satisfaction. Sweat stains were varying Rorschach blots across their shirts.
The race got the best of some and emergency personnel greeted them with ice packs and bandages.
There were hugs and handshakes all around.
At the award ceremony outside the Chilmark Community Center, Jim Austin stood on a bench and clapped for the winners.
He wore a blue and green ’78 Chilmark Road Race shirt, an artifact from the event’s first year.
“It comes out once a year,” he said. He has run the race nearly every year since its inception. There were a couple years back in the 80s when scheduling conflicts prevented him from running it in the official sense. But he said organizer Hugh Weisman would meet up with him later and time it while he and his family ran the course.
“So I’ve run the road race with a time every year,” he said. “There were just a couple years where there weren’t as many people around.”
The 65-year-old Vineyard Haven resident came first in his age group as he has for many years.
He finished with a time of 21:17.
“I was a little bit slower than last year,” he said. “But still a little bit faster than everyone else in my age group.”
Complete results of the Chilmark Road Race will be published in a future edition of the Gazette.