Gore Vidal’s famous comment, “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little,” makes little sense to runners, who always seem psyched when their fellows do well, provided they didn’t just now throw an elbow while doing it. So it is cool to see that among those having a fine 2013 racing season is Darren Winchenbach, whom I have know since the late and lamented Hancock 10-miler in 1999, when Darren was so young he was there with his dad, Craig, and I pronounced the name “wink-in-bahk.” No, this is Maine, it’s “winch-in-batch.”

Winchenbach, who turned 32 yesterday, is closing in on the lifetime PRs he was putting up when not long out of high school.

At 6 feet 2 inches, he’s already down to his high school weight of 179, which he’s happy to say “takes me out of the Clydesdale division,” thanks in part to a better-diet, no-drinks New Year’s resolution, and also to high-nutrition, post-workout Vi-SHAPE shakes daily (he also sells the product). Not an elite runner, but a very solid one, Winchenbach has nevertheless won four 5Ks this year, the fastest being 19 minutes, 20 seconds at the Brandon Feyler Memorial, just over a mile from where Winchenbach grew up in Waldoboro.

Placing high “just depends on who’s there,” as he points out. “There were only 30 people in the (Feyler) race. I just figured out the right races to show up to, after 17 years.”

Winchenbach shows up all the time. He’s run 36 consecutive Back Cove Wednesday night 5Ks, dating back to September 2010. Yesterday he marked his birthday by competing in the Strawberry Shortcake Shuffle 5K in Damariscotta. Last week he topped off the Wednesday Back Cove 5K (19:37) with the Thursday Firecracker 5K at Thomaston (seventh, in 19:52).

With 40-50 races on his schedule, weekend doubles pop up — such as Beach to Beacon on the first Saturday in August before pinning on the bib at the Lobster Festival 10K in Rockland on Sunday.

The frequent, mostly midcoast 5Ks serve as Winchenbach’s speedwork as he trains for the Maine Marathon on Oct. 6. In addition to long runs with friends, he’ll shoot for a sub-1:30 PR at the Blueberry Cove half at Tenants Harbor on Aug. 25, to improve on last year’s 1:31:12.

He’s run the Maine Marathon five times, with a PR of 3:23 in 2008? His target this year is 3:15. It would be cool to see him do it. 

THE JULY 4 numbers were impressive: 6,952 total finishers in the state’s eight biggest races, including 917 in the Goose Rocks Beach Association 5K at Kennebunkport, where Yarmouth’s Ben Decker, 17, won in 15:57, and his dad, Byrne, 46, was second in 16:25. Kate Warwick, 23, of Waltham, Mass., and Brandeis won the women’s division, finishing 20th in 19:24.

At Winthrop in the 617-finisher Friends (of the Cobbossee Watershed) on the Fourth 5K, youth was served as Chase Brown, 19, of West Boothbay and Colby College won in 16:20, and Erzsie Nagy, just out of Lawrence High, ruled the women, racing to 18th in 18:28.

At Thomaston, Stephen Carlson, 30, of Weymouth, Mass., raced to an 18:29 victory and Katie Powell, 19, of Wrentham, Mass., ran 20:54.

The two-hour “standoff situation” involving dozens of gunshots in Bangor early Thursday morning caused the Walter Hunt Memorial 3K course to be shortened to 1.51 miles. Veazie native and recent Oklahoma grad Riley Masters, 23, won in 6:35, while Jordan Daniel, 25, out of Mt. Blue and the University of Maine, was the top woman in 7:58, for 15th place overall of 628 racers — a record number of finishers for the 33-year-old event.

The July 4 races also illustrate the steady growth of road racing in the state.The L.L. Bean 10K had 1,359 finishers this year, up from 538 in 1997. In 1998, Bridgton had 1,250 finishers, compared to 2,011 this year.

Winners at last week’s Tour du Lac 10-Miler in Bucksport were Eric McCarthy, 32, of Old Town in 54:55, and Jennifer VanDongen, 35, of Bar Harbor in 1:05:44.

Farmington’s late-July Summerfest may have undergone an identity and date change (it’s now the Summer Solstice Celebration), but the event’s road race lives on. The Spandits! 5K and kids’ 1-mile race will be held Friday, July 26, at 5:30 and 6:15 p.m.

Registration starts at 4:30 p.m. in front of Outskirts on Upper Broadway — downtown. The fees are $20 and $8, all to benefit the Mt. Blue High cross country teams. T-shirts go to the first 100 finishers in the 5K and the top three in each age category of the 1-miler.

Registration is race-day only, but you can get a form at www.serenityholisticmassage.biz.

John Rolfe of Portland is a road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at:

[email protected]


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