• Joe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #29: PEA Track, Exeter


Baby, we were born to run

As the calendar turns to March, we begin to taunt ourselves with dreams of spring, of a furtive sun shedding cloudy veils to bring warmer days. And with that spring, the sports of the season - baseball (more on that another time), and spring track. In my days at Exeter High School in the early 1990s, we'd have a few weeks between the dusty dungeon days of indoor winter track (again, more on that another time) and the onset of spring track season, which always came too early. With no track of our own we'd wander the mile or so from school to the Philips Exeter Academy Campus, and their orange outdoor track across the Exeter River from Gilman Park. There would often be snow and ice alongside the track (and not infrequently on it) when we started bullying our legs back into shape around the middle of March. As Whitney Tucker famously once observed, at the beginning of spring track season, your nose runs faster than you do.

But it would warm up soon enough, and the sweatshirts and silks would give way to shorts and tank tops as the lilacs blossomed along with the ephemeral romances of the young and the would-be swift. One of the enduring appeals of track was that it was a co-ed endeavor, with boys and girls training and traveling and competing together, and I know I wasn't the only one to find more success with dating than dashing. We were lucky to have coaches in the legendary Mike Grogan and the wearily patientRichard Pratt who knew just how to manage the equally urgent athletic and hormonal agendas of their charges.

And yet we still managed to train and compete, with varying results. I wasn't the sprinter my brother Al Pace was, though I did my best to uphold the family legacy anchoring the 4x100. I did love the relays, the closest thing to teamwork to be found on a track, and I fondly remember sharing the baton with Adam Fellman and Jason Plante and Jeremy Cole and Eric Borden. I was a 100/200/400 guy in those days, leery of anything longer than a mile - I would have scoffed at any suggestion of a 5k, let alone a marathon - though I did eventually give it a shot with the length of the state relay adventures. I did try just about everything else, from shot put to discus to javelin to the pole vault. I toyed with attempting the decathlon my senior year, though the high hurdles and a balky hamstring put an end to those flirtations. That breadth of experience came in handy years later at McLean School when I plied my itinerant coach's whistle with varsity track and cross country alongside Darrien Tucker and Becca Susan andGary Faigen.

Spring is coming. And while my days of speed and adolescent angst are almost entirely behind me, it still feels like time to get outside for a run.

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