By Nick Curcuru
---- — Peter Watson had always planned and talked about getting a team of women together to compete in the Mount Washington Road Race.
Watson, a former Gloucester Daily Times editor who passed away last November after a bout with brain cancer, was a veteran of the grueling uphill road race of more than 20 years and founder of Team Gloucester, a group of Cape Ann runners who have been making the trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for the last two decades plus.
The avid runner had his team all picked out years ago featuring three of the top female runners on Cape Ann in Layce Alves, Regina Loiacano and Jenn Brooks.
“We didn’t even know each other at the time,” Alves said. “But 10 years later we all got together through Peter and started training together.”
With Watson’s health worsening, the three, along with Tina Dowling, who they picked up from the Addidas run team, competed in last year’s race and as a team finished second in the women’s division. This year, however, the quartet is planning on taking first place in Watson’s honor.
For the last several months Alves, Loiacano, Brooks and Dowling have been training together in preparation for the 7.6 mile uphill jaunt that has an elevation gain of more than 4,500 feet from start to finish.
With the women having young children at home, finding time to train has been difficult, but they have made time. The Team Gloucester women have been up and training at 5:00 a.m. every weekend to get ready for the race, and according to Alves all four are in peak physical shape.
“We’re looking strong,” Alves said. “It’s pretty uplifting to be training with a group of talented women. We can match each others speed, which is tough to come by sometimes. This is a tough race both physically and mentally and I think we’re ready.”
It’s not just the quartet of women looking to win the women’s team division that are making the trip to Mount Washington from Cape Ann. In total, 18 local runners will be making the jaunt up the mountain, all of them representing Team Gloucester, and all of them running for their former leader Watson.
“We’re all racing for Peter this year,” Team Gloucester member John Barbour said. “He inspired us to take on this daunting and somewhat uncomfortable challenge.”
Watson’s passion for the Mount Washington race was unmatched.
It was the challenge that motivated Watson to conquer the treacherous uphill climb and he was always looking for ways to improve his performance. While training, he would sometimes run uphill and then ride a bike downhill so he didn’t put any strain on his legs. He would also partake in several other unorthodox training techniques such as pulling a sled uphill and carefully monitoring his weight to turn in a peak performance.
Watson would lead the run up and down the hill until he announced the workout was finished, at which point he would lead the runners back through the trail, stopping at the Steel Derrick quarry for a quick cool down dip.
But what most of his peers will remember is the “Mount Washington Prep Day” that he created. Watson would host a gathering of local participants at his Rockport home and to make sure they were up to the task, he would lead them on a run through a wooded trail near his home that led to Doctor’s Run, a steep cul de sac that most closely resembled the steep trek up Mount Washington.
“It was a site to see,” Alves said. “He took it seriously and motivated us to do the same.”
“Peter came up with the idea many years ago and it is one of the most creative training days imaginable,” Barbour said.
It was that passion for the race and drive to get to the top that motivated his peers, who are fully aware of just how much the race meant to him.
“The best way to say hi to Peter is to run up to the top of Mount Washington,” Alves said.
There will be a large number of local runners wishing the man who got them all together a nice hello on Saturday.
Mount Washington Road Race Local Participants Layce Alves Rockport John Barbour Gloucester Jenn Brooks Gloucester Kathy Burley Rockport Michal Cimoszko Gloucester Matt Curran Gloucester Bob Gillis Gloucester Tim Greiner Gloucester Bob Lindberg Rockport Regina Loiacano Gloucester Ernesto Mendoza Gloucester A. J. Migonis Manchester David Olson Gloucester Tom Paradis Rockport Tony Reppucci Gloucester Zach South Gloucester Peter Vadala Gloucester Steve Whittey Gloucester