Undeterred by Cold

Angel Rojas, who topped the Thanksgiving Day three-mile field, is running faster than ever.
Jack Graves

    Thanksgiving morn was cold and gray and still they came to run, jog, or walk in the East Hampton Town Recreation Department and John Keeshan Realty three and six-mile turkey trots in Montauk.
    Dogs too. So many, in fact, that Keeshan said that next year a dog division should probably be added.
    Angel Rojas, the landscaper from Hampton Bays with a big heart, won the three-miler, in 16 minutes and 47 seconds, extending a streak of wins in East End races. Lisa Halloran, a part-time Amagansett resident, who won here two years ago, again won among the women, in 18:59.
    The six-mile winners were Chris Koegel, 27, of Malverne, in an impressive 33:09, and Lauren Laviola Ruiz, 29, of Shelter Island, in 40:25, a personal record for her. Koegel has become a familiar face here. He repeated as the Minds Over Matter 5K’s winner last May and in June placed 11th in the Shelter Island 10K. Ruiz is trained by John Conner, a 74-year-old former national-class age group competitor, who said that as a 50-year-old he would have given Rojas a run for his money.
    John Rooney of the Rec Department said it was a record turnout, a surprise considering that the weather that drew last year’s field of 400-plus was fine. There were 134 more finishers this year than last.
    Bob Beattie, the timer, had brought out 500 chips, figuring that would take care of it, “but 550 registered, so we had to plug some of them in on our computer. I’m 99 percent sure it was the biggest turnout ever.”
    When Rojas was asked how he had gotten into running, he said, with a smile, “I began running four years ago when my girlfriend left me. One of my friends said, ‘Let’s go get drunk,’ but I decided to run instead. . . . I liked it.”
    “Maybe you’ll meet a beautiful woman who runs,” this writer said. “It may happen.”
    “That is my dream!” Rojas said with a laugh. “That’s my dream!”
    The Mexican-born winner said he had been running a lot lately. He recently won the Shelter Island 5K and the Riverhead 5K. He has been bettering his times and watching his diet. “This was my best time here. I didn’t run last year, but two years ago I was third. I’m not thinking to quit. I love to run.”
    Halloran, a Penn State law student who ran for Commack High School and the State University at Geneseo, was 10th over all.
    Myles Romanow, 35, the fifth-place finisher, who lives in Water Mill, can more often be found riding a bicycle and competing in cyclocross races than road-running.
    He said that the spectator-friendly Whitmore Landscaping Super Cup regional cyclocross races that used to be held each fall at the Southampton Recreation Center had been shifted this year to Eisenhower Park in Nassau County.
    “We did it on a wing and a prayer, but we got a log of the top people,” said Romanow, who added that Valentin Scherz, a Swiss, the world’s top-ranked under-23 rider, and Nicholas Keough, the top American cyclocross competitor in that age group, had traded wins over the weekend.    Speaking of cycling, Conner told Kenny Weldon, who hadn’t been able to get his athletic grandson out of bed that day, that during his thrice-a-week 5 to 6 a.m. rides in Springs in the summer he delights in seeing no cars, a rarity here nowadays.
    “We came over especially for this race,” Kevin Cummins, of Cork, Ireland, said with a straight face when approached. He and his wife Anne, he said, were visiting their daughter Carol Sanchez and her children, Tony and Thomas, who live in Montauk. It was their fifth time here.
    When told that this writer and his wife had recently become unnerved when faced with the prospect of driving on the wrong side of the road over there, Cummins said he understood. Though, he added, Cork would have been a lovely place to visit.