Winter Warriors Head for Ashland’s Hills

Ready to run at Ashland’s Marathon Park were hardy Massachusetts residents, from left, Dave Oliver from Westborough, Bill Robertson from Ashland, “Boston Billy” Rodgers, a Boxborough resident, Ken Jacobson from Maynard and Dr. Ed Knights, also from Boxborough.

With temps in the single digits, five accomplished runners challenged themselves and the elements for a frozen ‘Fun Run’ over the hills on Ashland course

ASHLAND, Mass., Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, from Ashland Half-Marathon Media Office  
  On one more day when the freezing point was a fond memory and the temperature in Ashland was in the single digits, “Boston Billy” Rodgers gathered a small group of pals Sunday morning to challenge the hostile elements and the Ashland Half-Marathon course for a training exercise, a frozen “Fun Run.”
The four intrepid souls along with Rodgers on this chilly endeavor were friends Dave Oliver from Westborough, Bill Robertson from Ashland, Ken Jacobson from Maynard and Dr. Ed Knights, like Rodgers, a Boxborough resident.
When most folks stayed inside, hunkered down under a quilt, Rogers gathered an accomplished group of longtime runners for this quest:
In the inaugural Ashland Half-Marathon & 5K last October, Dr. Knights was first in the half-marathon male Super Seniors Division, setting a personal best of 1:42:28, with race ambassador Rodgers running second.
Robertson, a streak runner who has run at least 3 miles every day for the last 36 years, finished just moments behind that pair in the middle of the pack in the Seniors Division, his last year in that group before moving up to Super Seniors. Robertson is familiar with Ashland’s challenges as he lives just off the course around the 3.5 mile mark.
Oliver is training up for April’s Boston Marathon while Jacobson, a former Ashland resident, is pointing toward the New Bedford Half-Marathon coming up on St. Patrick’s Day. Rodgers’ next event is at The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer February 17 in Jacksonville, Fla., its theme a subject close to his heart.
When contacted by phone Monday, Rodgers said on Sunday he had rediscovered the demands the Ashland Half course makes. “It’s very hilly. I forgot a little,” he said.
“It’s one of the hilliest half courses I’ve run in my life.”
Rogers compared the Ashland hills to those he encountered in Puerto Rico during the San Blas Half-Marathon in San Juan and the steep inclines he found while competing in the Big Boy Classic 20K in Wheeling, West Va., both races he’s run many times.
“The San Blas is very hilly, just like Ashland,” Rogers
said. “Wheeling has steeper hills, but there’s more of them in Ashland. If you’re searching for a hilly race, here’s one of the best right here in New England, in Ashland. If you’re into challenging yourself, this is it!”
Rodgers, who said he had run about 50 miles last week despite the chilly temps, said the group prepared for the weather. “You could breathe OK, but we were all bundled up,” he said. “It’s tough, because your muscles don’t work all that well in this cold.”
Rodgers related that Jacobson, a 30-year runner, said Sunday on the Ashland course was the ‘longest half ever’.
“It did feel like 16 miles,” Rodgers quipped, adding that, for runners, it is important to maintain fitness during the winter. Fun runs “are really worth doing,” he said. “You can’t let the weather slow you down.”
Although the group made rest stops periodically and to discuss points of interest along the course, Rodgers said, they all finished at around 2 hours, give or take. Oliver was the first fun runner back to Marathon Park, Rodgers said, with the determined Dr. Knights continuing on, adding another 4 miles for a total of 17 miles.
“This is one of the most challenging courses for real runners to push it,” Rogers concluded. “But Ashland also has a lot of variety. For runners who really want to challenge themselves, Ashland is where you can do it.”