CUMBERLAND – The old phrase “Familiarity breeds contempt” took a beating at the Arnold Mills Four-Mile Road Race on steamy Fourth of July morning.
Perhaps a better way to put the overall mood after Northeastern University junior-to-be Brian Doyle, the 20-year-old son of former Ocean State marathon great Bobby Doyle, crossed the finish line in a cautious but solid winning time of 21:07: The mutual admiration society.
The elite harriers contending for the supremacy in the men's Open Division (18-39) included Doyle; his kid brother Connor (both of Swansea); multi-time Mills victor Chris Magill of Cumberland; Colin Tierney of East Greenwich; and Bobby Hartnett, the former Cumberland High All-Stater and Columbia University graduate.
Seconds after capturing his second crown in four years – he previously had won the race in 2010 – Doyle spoke of how hard it was to reign, given not only the heat and humidity but the quality of those participating.
Heck, he even praised Race Director Tom Kenwood and starter Keith Lawton, and for outstanding reason.
“I've probably missed only two of these over the past 10 years, and it's because I like to come out and try to support Mr. Lawton and Mr. Kenwood for all they do (for the racing world),” he stated between sips of precious cold water. “There were a lot of great runners here, and we were in a pack through the first two miles or so.
“I know I won it back in 2010, right after I graduated from high school,” he added. “I ran a faster time then than now, but I'm not disappointed at all. With the heat the way it was, we had to watch the pace. In both cases, I sat behind the leader for about two miles, and decided to make a kick at about two-and-a-half.
“I felt fine; that's the fastest I've gone in a long time. I didn't think I'd be that quick as I'm doing a lot more distance training,” in preparation of representing the Northeastern men's cross-country and indoor and outdoor track squads next season. “I'm really pleased, especially in a field like this.”
Hendricken High senior-to-be Colin Tierney of East Greenwich took second in 21:14, and the younger Doyle third just 12 seconds behind. David Phipps, 21, of Attleboro snared fourth in 21:34, and the 40-year-old Magill fifth in 21:34.
Kim Chula-McGuire, a 38-year-old physical therapist working in Pawtucket but who lives in Cumberland, led the women's Open surge to claim the title in 25:47.
“I'm just mad this chump beat me,” grinned Connor, 18, while pointing toward Tierney. “No, I'm only kidding; that kid can run! You know, I'm really happy with the time. I haven't really worked out since June 15 (while training for the New Balance National Interscholastic Outdoor Track & Field Championships at North Carolina A&T University). I ran the 5-K (3.1 miles) in 15:12, and I think I finished 26th overall.
“I'm just happy I beat some of the other guys here; there were a lot of good runners in this race, like Bobby and Chris and, obviously, Brian,” he continued. “I know they're better than I am. I just wanted to try to hold 5:20 (splits) each mile, and I pretty much did that.”
The younger Doyle plans on competing for the University of Massachusetts-Lowell this fall as a freshman. UML will join the NCAA Division I ranks in cross-country and track for the first time.
“We were all in a pack for the first mile or so, and I was really surprised at the slower pace; some of the (elite) runners fell off. I mean, Magill has won this how many times? That caught me off-guard when I passed him. He stuck around for a while, and I thought he was going to kick. I slowed down for a few strides to see who was going to move up. When some started to catch up, I knew I didn't have a choice but to kick.
“This is my best-ever finish here, so I'll take it.”
Tierney, whose father Scott ran for Kenwood as a Clipper and graduated an All-Stater in 1984, finished third in the 3,000 meters at the state championships at Brown on June 1 (8:57), then mustered eighth in the New England meet (9:22) before attending the nationals.
At that event, he ran the 5,000 meters in 14:59, and became the second fastest Rhode Island schoolboy ever while placing 17th.
“The heat was brutal,” Tierney chuckled afterward. “That's why the pace wasn't that fast at the start (Magill led at the mile mark in 5:16). I was running second behind Brian the last 1 ½ miles, and there was no way I was going to catch him. Then again, there was no reason to; I just wanted to come out and put in a workout.”
The good news for Tierney: He bettered his 2011 placement by one, as he gained third.
Chula-McGuire, who also represents the Ronald McDonald House Running Club of Providence, earned yet another crown at the Mills race, but couldn't recall the last time.
“My goals here were simple: I wanted to run a smart race and not melt in the heat,” she noted. “It was pretty tough out there, but a lot of people (watching and cheering) sprayed water on us, or gave us water, and they were so helpful. That's always the case in the race.
“We had to run a real tactical race because it was so hot and humid,” she added. “I felt very fluid until the third mile; we were on Sun Valley Drive, and there's a very short but steep hill right there. When you're at 3.5 (miles) and you're fighting your way up that hill, it's tough, especially when it feels like it's 100 degrees out there. It seemed like Mount Everest – without the snow.
“Actually, I wish there had been snow; we'd have been cooler! I didn't do my best time (on the course), as I thought one year I was a little faster, but I'm still satisfied. I had been injured for a year or so – it was a labral tear in my hip – and didn't do any running until March. That drove me crazy, taking the time off, but it's been going well.”
In that women's Open division, Shelby Cuddeback settled for second in 26:05, and Lauren Lapierre third in 26:33.
Kenwood indicated beforehand that he had approximately 130 distance aficionados of all ages pre-register for the race, but expected over 600 total with race-day signups taking place at the busy North Cumberland Fire Station. As always, he had a huge field.
One of those pre-registrants happened to be Doug Fownes, grandfather to recent CHS graduate and harrier Tom Fownes, who finished the four-mile trek in 22:12, good for 11th overall.
“This is my first race since I turned 70, and this marks the eighth decade I've done a road race,” grinned Doug, who flew in from London to take part in the event and get together with family in Cumberland on the holiday. “I love this Arnold Mills race!”
That came of no surprise. In the Senior Veteran Male division (for those 70-and-over), he took third in 49:45. Jack Thornhill snagged that category's top spot in a superb 27:55, while Phil Ryan placed second in 42:59.