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Frequently, we hear and read about the “silver linings of COVID,” unexpected positives that have come out of the net negative of the past 15 months. This can apply to our sport of road racing as well.

Take last week’s Big Run as an example.

The Big Run is held every year in various communities with Fleet Feet locations as a celebration of Global Running Day, which was Wednesday, June 2. The local Big Run, hosted by Fleet Feet Poughkeepsie, returned after a one-year hiatus on the William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail from the popular Gold’s Gym location on the trail in LaGrange.

There were 5km and 10km events, with 157 finishers (93 for the 5km and 64 for the 10km) as well as more than 50 virtual participants. This is about the half the number of in-person runners compared with 2019 (obviously, there was no 2020 event).

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Fleet Feet Poughkeepsie owner Kim Caruso noted the quick turnaround as a reason. “We had a much shorter window of time to throw this event together, not knowing until pretty recently if we would be able to host an in-person event at all,’’ she said.

The pleasantly humid evening on the rail trail was welcomed by the participants, who a year ago had to settle for virtual races and socially distanced training runs by themselves or in small groups. When something you love is taken away and then you get it back, gratitude is the go-to emotion.

“The event felt shockingly normal and everyone kept commenting how great it was to be racing in-person again,’’ Caruso said. “For many runners, this was their first in-person event in over a year so there was a lot of excitement.’’

That alone would qualify as a “COVID silver lining.” But one COVID precaution — staggered, corral starts — might be a silver lining that’s here to stay — at least for the Big Run.

In an attempt to spread out the runners, waves were sent out every three minutes. Again, this was initially a COVID concession. But with the width of the rail trail and the large number of runners, Caruso said this method probably will be used in future Big Runs.

“It really lessened the congestion on the trail,’’ she said. “It was initially a COVID precaution but then we realized it make a lot of sense anyway for races that take place on the rail trail.’’

Caruso said the corrals went off every three minutes but next time it will be decreased to one minute. She admitted that three minutes was too long (“seemed like an eternity,’’ is how she put it) and race officials ended up sending off runners in their corrals as soon as they were ready. Hey, there’s a learning curve for silver linings, too!

“I am really hopeful that this event kicked off a return to in-person racing,’’ Caruso said. “I know that we are feverishly trying to plan some fun events and training groups for this summer!’’

Young men were at the front of both finish packs. John Amenta of Fishkill, a John Jay High School graduate who just completed his first year as a star runner on the SUNY Delhi track team, won the 10km in a blazing time of 31:59.62, an average of 5:09 per mile.

Matthew Ferreri of Hyde Park, a 10th-grader at Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie where he runs cross country and track and plays on the baseball team, won the 5km in 18:46.03. His father, 58-year-old Anthony Ferreri, was third overall and first in his age group in the 10km, improving on his 2019 time by a whopping two minutes with a finishing time of 40:27.74.  

The top women’s finishers were Kristen Warren of Boiceville in the 10km (46:50.61) and Victoria Barthel of Millbrook in the 5km (22:23.06).

Fan mail

It was so great to receive a letter — an actual mailed, typewritten (yes, on a typewriter) snail-mail letter — from our old friend and fiercely loyal reader Erika Abraham from Cornwall. It’s 2021, so the reality is that many readers of this column are viewing it digitally rather than in print. While many of us binge listen or binge watch podcasts or TV shows, Erika is now binge reading this column — in print!

Here’s here awesome letter:

After many long months, I finally got to visit my twin sister in Pine Plains on May 29. Lo and behold! She saved ALL the Thursday issues of the Poughkeepsie Journal, 26 in total, featuring your weekly columns on the ins and outs of running. I was in seventh heaven, on cloud nine and grinning from ear to ear with so much wonderful running material to read. Your columns have always been my connection to the Dutchess County running community. Now I did not have to “miss a beat.”

Yes, at age 83, I am still pounding the pavement and unabashedly abusing my rebelling knees. I have to run, if only for the sheer joy of the moment. Being technologically challenged, I had my computer savvy nephew register me for several 5K races, including the Classic 5K. While I am no longer the racing speedster of yesteryear, I can still find it challenging to run races. Therefore, I will run the Classic 5K with the hope of finishing before the onset of darkness. All will be fine with the world that day.

Thank you, Erika, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club member Pete Colaizzo, the track coach at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, writes on running every week in Players. He can be reached at runhed246@hotmail.com. For more club information, go to www.mhrrc.org