I “participated” in the Franz Family, 5-K run last Saturday. I arrived at the Little League field in the “Flats” at 9:30, signed in, picked up my T-shirt, made a donation (this year the money went to the Multiple Sclerosis Recourses of Central New York) and hung out in the middle of a pack of elite athletes, eavesdropping on their race strategy and coming up with my own.
It was cold. Bitter cold. The young runners wore knit hats, thin gloves and lightweight nylon and polyester workout suits. My racing attire consisted of three layers of clothes, wool socks, insulated hunting boots, double thick gloves, ear muffs, a scarf and a hooded winter jacket. Five minutes after signing in, I was frozen, a human ice cycle. The elite runners were casually chatting back and forth, stretching to stay limber and jogging down to the corner and back. I spent my time looking through the crowd for a guy with a flask. To no avail!
Finally, it was time to race. We lined up at an imaginary tape and Tommy Franz, the Franz who came up with the idea as a memorial to his uncle, Ed Franz, gave a little speech thanking the crowd for participating, explaining the genesis of the event and the safety rules. Some rude, old guy in the back kept yelling, “Lets go! Lets go! It freezing out here!” Tommy’s mother, Pat, blew her car horn to help move things along too. Tommy looked my way and asked me to be patient; he’d get it started as soon as he finished. How do you say no to a bearded Franz wearing a fuzzy red, horned Viking helmet?
Finally, we were off and running. I stayed in the back, in accordance with my “Tortoise and the Hare” strategy. (Let the other runners burn themselves out. I’ll catch up and win.) Bill Franz, a guy of my old coot vintage and mind set, hung back too. He said his foot was acting up; I told him my knee was having a bad day. We looked at each other, and when the pack was out of sight, we hustled to our cars. He headed east; I went south, returning a while later with my wife, Marcia, to the taproom at the Farmhouse Brewery. Tommy said we would meet there after we finished. Marty and Natalie Mattrazzo, their son Alex and their two friendly dogs, Sal and Sofia warmly greeted us at the door. We were the first ones in. Marty started us off with a flight of beers, saying it must be five o’clock someplace, though in the “Flats” it was just barely 11 a.m.
After 10 minutes or, so the real runners started to wander in; before we knew it, the place was abuzz with Franz family members and friends – all eager to check out the plethora (sorry about that highbrow word: I just love the way it rolls off your tongue) of beers that Marty had crafted. It was the best 5K run I ever “participated” in. Tommy thanked us again and announced that over $800 was raised for Multiple Sclerosis. The crowd then serenaded him with a Franz family tradition. I didn’t hear all the words, but the song ended with something about him being a horse’s rear end. I’ll be there again next year, the Saturday following Thanksgiving. I’ll stick with the same game plan. It worked out great! I was the first one to the tasting room!
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