CUMBERLAND – Add the ages of the second- and third-place finishers together and you would get 39, the age of the winner of the 44th edition of the Arnold Mills Road Race.
As 23-year-old Scott Twardowski and Colin Tierney, 16, learned on Fourth of July Wednesday, there’s still plenty of life left in the feet of Chris Magill, now a six-time champion of the holiday running event. The individual title – achieved in 21:06, which was 13 seconds better than Rehoboth’s Twardowski and 21 seconds quicker than East Greenwich’s Tierney – represents the first for Magill since 2006.
A Cumberland native and St. Raphael Academy alumnus, Magill will turn 40 this December. That meant Wednesday marked his final time competing in the open division (ages 18-39). Still, as he demonstrated under overcast skies that at times featured intermittent downpours, Magill isn’t quite ready to pass the baton to the younger generation just yet.
To further embellish on what he accomplished at this moderately challenging four-mile course, pay close attention to the ages of the finishers that crossed the finish line at the North Cumberland Fire Station immediately after Twardowski and Tierney. Seekonk’s Sam Spencer came in fourth (21:49). He’s 21. Greg Payne of North Attleboro was fifth (21:57). He’s 22. Cumberland’s Matt Sutcliffe placed sixth (21:98). He’s 18.
“I felt it was an all-star meet for me. It was just me pushing the pace,” said Magill, who had a good 200 yards on his closest competitor at the third-and-a-half mile mark. “I’ve been running pretty good lately, winning some races that I didn’t win last year at age 38 that I’ve won at 39. Again, it’s all about staying healthy and being consistent with my training.”
Magill’s splits consisted of 5:05 (first mile), 10:24 (second mile) and 15:45 (third mile). Asked to what degree the weather played a factor, Magill answered, “Everyone has to run in the same conditions. I’d be okay standing around, but the humidity was brutal. It was tough, especially in the middle miles when you’re trying to stay focused and hold on to the lead.”
Cumberland’s Katie Libby, whose 25:21 clocking earned her the distinction as the top female finisher, noted that caution had to be exercised on the wet pavement. Libby finished 33rd overall.
“You had to be careful around the corners,” said Libby, a past Arnold Mills female champion. “I had no goals. Once I got out there, I just wanted to see how I could do.”
Magill started to break free from the first wave of runners roughly a mile-and-a-half after the starter’s pistol was fired. “I had no idea who was with me, but I was trying to stay calm and keep an even pace,” he said, also adding that he took satisfaction in shaving 13 seconds off last year’s Arnold Mills time, when Magill finished second to Bobby Hartnett.
In golf, you have the Majors – the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship. In tennis, there’s the Grand Slam – the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. In horse racing, you have the Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
During the summer months in Cumberland, you have three road races – Arnold Mills, Yo Raymond and Cumberlandfest – that help define the town as a popular running destination. Imagine some marketer coming up with a slogan or catch phrase that unites all the aforementioned races under one umbrella and promoting it to the point where even more participants jump onboard.
Exactly 544 runners turned out for Arnold Mills, a race that means a great deal to Magill.
“I’m very pleased to get another title in my hometown,” he said. “To win this race, it’s like the local Boston Marathon. Everybody knows your name.
“Certainly in Cumberland, this is the biggest race,” he added. “The whole town comes out, the parade is here. I would call (Arnold Mills) the championship race, for sure.”
Arnold Mills also means a great deal to Cumberland’s Jack Thornhill, who at 70 years young competed in his 41st straight road race on Independence Day. Thornhill captured the senior veteran male division with a time of 27:21.
“It’s like an old-fashioned race; you’re going back in time,” said Thornhill. “I’m going to do this as long as I can stand!”
On the opposite side of the age spectrum, you had two nine-year-old “tykes” making waves. Chris Magill Jr. made his Arnold Mills debut, the son of you-know-who completing the course in 34:25. Jack Casey finished in an eye-popping time of 27:38 – nearly two minutes off last year’s mark.
Watching Casey rub elbows with runners nearly double his size was a spectacle unto itself. The son of John and Sharon Casey looked every bit like a seasoned pro the way he grabbed and poured water on his head, not breaking stride in the slightest.
Adam Thibodeau, an eight-year-old Cumberland resident, was able to keep pace with Casey for much of the way before finishing at 27:54.