High winds and torrential downpours in Interlaken Aug. 22 made the First Annual St. Francis Sheldrake 5K Fun Run anything but a fun run, according to runner Maura Stamberger.
"The weather was wretched. It was windy and rainy and it was just awful," Stamberger said. "It was funny because they were calling it the Fun Run. Maybe next year they’ll call it the Hurricane Run."
Stamberger was one of 13 runners who braved the elements to complete the 5-kilometer course, which started and ended at St. Fidelis Friary on County Road 153 in Interlaken. The run was held in conjunction with St. Francis Solanus Parish’s 50th-annual chicken barbecue, said Jennifer Sharp, one of the Fun Run’s organizers and a member of the chicken barbecue’s planning committee.
The Interlaken parish held its first chicken barbecue in 1960 as a way for parishioners to raise money while engaging in a social activity, and the barbecue has been a summertime fixture for parishioners ever since. Held on the picturesque friary grounds overlooking Cayuga Lake, the annual event also includes a cake wheel, children’s activities and a large raffle. Musicians provide live music for those who choose to enjoy their chicken under the large tent on the friary grounds, while take-out meals also are sold for those who can’t stay.
The format of the barbecue has remained largely unchanged for the last 50 years, but this year organizers wanted to mark the barbecue’s golden anniversary in a special way.
"Because it is the 50th (anniversary), we wanted to do some special things," explained Sharp, a lifelong St. Francis parishioner who has been volunteering at the barbecue each year since she was a child.
Committee members settled upon the idea of a 5K because such races have become popular in recent years, and because County Road 153 is popular with athletes who come from the Ithaca area to run along the scenic route, Sharp said.
"There are no races along that road. We were trying to draw people," said Sharp, who noted that walkers also were encouraged to participate in the Fun Run.
Unfortunately, however, the day of the chicken barbecue and the Fun Run dawned gray and dreary, and conditions didn’t improve as the day wore on.
"The tent blew over twice and had to be reset, so that was quite an ordeal and they couldn’t do the cake booth or any of the kids games. It was a downpour," Sharp said.
The bad weather forced volunteers to cook the chicken in town and transport it to the friary, rather than cooking it at the friary as usual, she added. This meant some people had to wait in the rain for chicken, and when the day was over there were still 170 chicken dinners left over.
"The whole festival was crazy. It was kind of like a hurricane out, so we barely got (the run) going," Sharp said. "It was really windy and rainy, but we did have some people show up."
Although only 13 runners participated, a number of parishioners ventured out into the driving rain to volunteer during the run. The sight of these volunteers dripping in their rain gear lifted Sharp’s spirits.
"It wasn’t the best day, but we still had a bunch of volunteers come out and stand in the rain," she said, noting that she was grateful for their efforts.
Runners traveled to Interlaken from as far away as Rochester and Binghamton, and two men from Binghamton won the race, Sharp said. Both men crossed the finish line 17 minutes and 52 seconds after starting the course, so each won a night’s stay at a local bed and breakfast. Those two grand prizes were donated by the Silver Strand Bed and Breakfast, owned by Stamberger and her husband, and the Driftwood Inn.
"They liked (the run), and they thought it was great, despite the rain. It was a very fast course because it was flat," Sharp said, noting that the two winners urged Fun Run organizers to stick to their plan to make the race an annual fixture, despite the first year’s inclement weather.
Runner Melissa Laverack agreed.
"The course was very nice. It was really nice being down by the lake, and it was a really nice, flat course," said Laverack, a veteran of several 5K races.
Everything about the race was good with the exception of the weather, she said, noting that she didn’t let a little bit of wind and rain tarnish her Fun Run experience.
"You kind of had to laugh," Laverack remarked.