LYNN — The Lynn Woods races are a staple of summer in the city. Wednesday night, the annual Lynn Woods relays brought hundreds of runners to the reservation as more than 70 teams competed across 13 divisions.
The relays bring a new life to the weekly races, adding the aspect of competition and teamwork. It also draws a much bigger crowd, with cars filling the parking lot, overflowing into Gannon Golf Course’s lot and lining Great Woods Rd. Organizers Bill Mullen and Joe Abelon get the relays off without a hitch; the first leg of runners were off at 6 p.m. sharp.
Runners and spectators lined the ropes at the entrance to the woods, a perfect spot to watch the runners start and finish. Many participants aren’t new to Lynn Woods; some come every week, some come when they can, and some hit up the relays every year. Some, like Lauren Chappell and Marybeth Way of the team Cardio Chicks, running in the women’s open division, hadn’t been to the woods for years. But the former Salem State cross country runners joined together with their past teammates to run the relay this year.
“Years and years ago we used to run this for Salem State cross country, and nine years later, we decided to run it again together,” Chappell said. “ We don’t (run relays like this) much anymore, but our old teammates came back and organized it, and we thought it’d be fun to see everyone again. It’s a fun race, I like the whole relay aspect of it.”
“We were just here to finish and have fun,” Way said.
The course proved to be a challenge for many runners.
“It’s a lot tougher than I remember it,” Chappell said. “We didn’t die, so that’s good.”
Some, like Peabody’s Jake Rodriguez, prefer to take the scenic route when running, so the Lynn Woods course was right up his alley.
“Because it’s in the woods, on the trails, it’s unique,” Marissa Rodriguez, Jake’s mom, said. Both members of the Wicked Running Club in Salem, Marissa ran for the Wicked Duchesses in the Masters Women’s (ages 40-49) division, while Jake lived up to the name of his team, Wicked Fast Kids, which participated in the boys high school division.
“In my younger days I preferred the trail, but nowadays I prefer the road,” Marissa added. “He (Jake), on the other hand, loves the woods.”
The race requires some strategy when deciding who will run what leg. Marissa Rodriguez ran first for her team, which is the way she likes it.
“I knew what to expect, since this is my fourth or fifth time running the relay,” she said. “I prefer to run the first leg because everybody goes out fast and it keeps me fast.”
Dan Chruniak, running with the Central Mass Striders on the Wicked Fast team in the men’s open division, ran the third leg for his group. He and Nick Taormina, a Wicked Running Club member, were neck and neck for the majority of their race.
“He was keeping me honest until he pulled away,” Chruniak said.
Taormina, who has run the relay in the past, said that keeping pace with someone was a different experience.
“There’s certain times, like last year, I ran alone,” Taormina said. “There was no one near me. This time, I saw him right behind me, and I thought ‘uh oh.’”
The relays may be a signal that summer is coming to an end, but the Lynn Woods races will continue through September 27.