At 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, hundreds of participants, along with their families and friends, waited anxiously on the lawn of Militia Park in Bridgehampton. Latecomers shuffled in for last-minute registration, children played with their toys spread across the grass, babies slept and old friends from previous years caught up with each other. They were all waiting for the “Ready, Set, Go!” call of the announcer to take place at 9 a.m., when walkers and runners would set off on the 3.1 mile course down Ocean Avenue. The event was the Dan’s Papers Potatohampton Minithon, a 5K race held this year for the American Heart Association and The Southampton Animal Shelter, this year marking the 33rd anniversary of the race.
Among the enthusiastic participants was last year’s winner, Richard Temerian, of Manhattan, age 52. He has been running the Potatohampton for 18 years, and last year was his first win. He runs 15 to 20 races a year, ranging from the mile to the marathon, through the racing club Urban Athletics. He has participated in the New York City Marathon the past four years and placed fifth in his age group last year. So what stands out about Potatohampton for this avid runner? “It’s great to see Dan with his hat on and the convertible. It’s just a great race; it’s so much fun,” he says. Temerian came in first again this year with a time of 17:20:08, beating the second-place winner, Harry Hackett, by almost two minutes.
Hackett, 40, of Bridgehampton, has a slightly different story. This is only his second Potatohampton. He typically does around five races a year to support local charities, but with 9-month-old twins and a four-year-old, he has to squeeze in runs when he can. Hackett came in second with a time of 19:07:00. “My goal was to run 19:30:00 and it was a little faster. I held in the last mile a little better than I thought.” He certainly did. About Potatohampton, he says, “It’s a great race and Dan does a great job. I’ve wanted to run the 10K version but that disappeared, but this 5K is great. I’m really happy with it.”
Hackett and Temerian may be fast, but will they still be running Potatohampton at 78 like Blaire Stauffer of Sag Harbor? He started racing competitively around age 50 and does six or more races in the area each summer. “I think Dan’s may have been the first one I participated in,” he says, “It was usually on Memorial Day so it opens my season. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a 5K so it’s shorter than some of the races out here and all these kids run like hell.” In years past, Stauffer has run half and full marathons, including seven New York Marathons. Although he doesn’t run in the winters, he does a warm-up before this race. “This year I did an 18-miler so I was pleased with myself,” he says. He’s been running Potatohampton for quite a few years. “You think of races like this becoming perpetual but after you’ve been around for a while you realize everything changes, so it’s always interesting. I look forward to seeing friends here. You begin to run into the same people and you form these existing groups that you’re not necessarily competing against, but let’s face it, when you race someone, you’re challenging them, whoever it is.” Temerian, Hackett and Stauffer will all participate in the upcoming Shelter Island 10K on June 18.
Stauffer is not the oldest participant though. Richard Lavpot of Riverdale is, at 90 years old. He has only missed one year since the very beginning of Potatohampton, almost 40 years ago. “I was a run-of-the-mill runner. Just got to be a habit to do it every year,” he says, “To me, it’s nostalgia, nothing more.” He remembers a time when the race was a 10K and had close to 1,000 runners at its start. From runners to walkers, young to old, everyone crossed the finish line with a smile and Dan drove the course cheering them on in his Smart Car and straw hat.
For some, the summer racing season has just begun, and for others, this will be their only race, but either way, they’ll all be back for another year. [/expand]