Arbutus race veterans look to future after heat at Firecracker 10K

Moments after finishing the 31st Arbutus Firecracker 10K, veteran runners weren’t reflecting on the heat, humidity and hills that made the traditional Fourth of July 6.2-mile run such a breath-depleting test of will.

Runners such as Halethorpe resident Scott Roper, 57, who has run every one of the 31 races and has the T-shirts to prove it, was looking for a day at the parade and pool with his family.

And he had one bit of advice for himself, his two daughters, Julianne Roper and Emily Slusher, and son, Kurt Roper, who also ran the race: “Don’t stand up,” Roper said.

After enjoying the rest of the Independence Day festivities, Roper will get ready for another summer run next month that most likely will involve his family, which also includes daughter Brittany, who didn’t run this year’s Firecracker 10K but has in the past.

The next challenging endeavor most likely will be the River Valley 10K/5K Run on Aug. 17 in Manchester, Md.

It includes a 10K trail run, which includes groomed trails, steep hills and rocky terrain as well as a section that runs through the Gunpowder River.

There is also a 5K road race that will be run on paved roads.

“The 10K is one of the top-rated trail runs in the country so it’s really popular and my son runs that trail.” said Roper, who plans to run in the 5K.

The shorter distance and lack of hills is most appealing to Roper, who hopes the humidity is less than it was for the Arbutus Firecracker.

“I look at 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity and that’s how it was today,” said Roper, who acknowledged he  had to deviate from his usual race strategy. “I walked a little bit and I hate walking. I rarely walk.”

Thankfully, some cloud cover provided relief after the scorching sun greeted runners at the start of the race.
Sprinklers, hoses and frequent water stops also made the run more bearable.

“You try to run through the sprinklers, and get water on your head and take advantage of them,” Roper said. “They are very helpful.”

Roper, a 1972 Lansdowne High graduate, finished in a time of 1:02.31 and confessed his favorite part was standing beyond the finish line.

“This (being done) is the best part of the day,” he said.

Roper finished about eight minutes ahead of Arbutus native David Goucher (1:10.28), who was also affected  by the humidity.

Goucher, a 1974 graduate of Lansdowne who broke Roper’s mile record at the school, knew he was in trouble before the race.

“My shirt was soaked warming up,” said Goucher, who grew up down the street from the race’s start at Arbutus Middle School. “I had to stop and walk.”

Goucher has run in 28 of the 31 races and had a quick response when asked when he plans to run competitively again?

“Next year,” he said. “I don’t mind the heat, but the humidity kills me. I’m going to go home and lay down.”

Arbutus resident Val Stocksdale, the race coordinator, along with her father, George Kendrick, ran in the race, but was already thinking about what they could do better next year for the 32nd annual race.

“My goal for next year is to get 600 runners,” said Stocksdale, noting they had a record-high 538 this year.

Stocksdale said preparation for the race, which includes coordinating volunteers, police presence, water stops, permits and results through Charm City Runs are challenging, but she does it for the community.

“After the race you always think about what you can do better to bring more people to the community,” she said. “We do get great support from the community with the sprinklers and hoses and we even had a lemonade stand this year.”

Stocksdale’s competitive running doesn’t end with the Firecracker race.

She is planning to run in several other races as she trains for the Baltimore Marathon in October; she has already run in two Marine Corps Marathons.

Stocksdale includes the difficult Firecracker in that traning.

“It is a tough course and a lot of the first-time runners didn’t realize how hard the hills were,” she said. “I was grateful the sun went in behind the clouds after the start of the race.”

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