Runners drink beer after the Chester Four on the Fourth race

The Chester Rotary Club’s annual Four on the Fourth road race pushes hundreds of athletes, neighbors, and visitors to run some of the steeper hills found in the lower Connecticut River Valley. This friendly town is the home of my freelance writing office for the past decade-plus, and the race is the friendliest I have ever run. Residents of the winding hilly streets sprinkle runners with their hoses. A folk fiddling band plays during the race, providing a huge boost at about mile 3 when runners go through the village before the final loop to the finish. I saw one of my doctors, who praised me for going the distance. (Thanks, Dr. Zarfos!) I saw several other friends and acquaintances out testing themselves. Go, folks.

The one tradition at the Chester race I have never warmed to is the drinking of beer. With the registration number and T-shirt comes a red ticket. “Here’s the most important thing,” the kind volunteer joked as he handed it to me. At the finish line, after you check your time and suck on cut-up oranges, that ticket gets you a giant cup of draft. I sound like the Ladies’ Temperance Union, I know, when I say that if I quaffed a beer after running for 38-plus minutes in a hazy Fourth of July sun, the next stop would be the pharmacy for Excedrin Migraine. How do people do it?

This is not to deride the large group of Rotary volunteers who set up and monitor this race, pushing all of us to do more than just sit around on a holiday weekend. I ran faster than I thought I would and the whole thing inspired me to train a little harder and try to be stronger. There are so many reasons to do this and none not to.

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