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Westport Runners Beach-Bound For New Hampshire Relay Race

Matt Spiegel and the Rosie Ruiz Fan Club will run the Reach The Beach relay race in New Hampshire for the eighth time this weekend.
Matt Spiegel and the Rosie Ruiz Fan Club will run the Reach The Beach relay race in New Hampshire for the eighth time this weekend. Photo Credit: Contributed by Matt Spiegel

WESTPORT, Conn. -- Westport’s Matt Spiegel figures the Rosie Ruiz Fan Club moniker fits perfectly for his team of runners in this weekend’s Reach The Beach Relay.

“Most of the time you’re riding in a van,’’ said Spiegel, captain of the 12-person team that will run from the White Mountains of New Hampshire to Hampton Beach State Park, a distance of nearly 200 miles. “So it’s an ideal name.”

Ruiz is the infamous Boston Marathon runner who was disqualified after winning the race in 1980 because she did not run the full course. The Rosie Ruiz Fan Club team has run in eight Reach The Beach relays. Spiegel has run in six of them, and has taken over as the team captain. He’ll be joined for this year’s race by Deirdre O’Farrelly and Paula Scaminaci of Westport and Dan Clark of Stamford. The other runners are from throughout the Northeast.

“When you need 12 people, you take any contact you can think of in any direction,’’ Spiegel said. “You get some repeat people. There are some people I know from running in Westport.”

Reach The Beach, like the others in the Ragnar Relay series, is an overnight event with teams made up of multiple runners who take turns running different legs of the route. Most of the teams stay connected with a caravan of vans, taking turns sleeping while one member runs. Most team members finish the event running a total of 14 to 20 miles combined on their three legs.

“We don’t take it seriously,’’ Spiegel said. “We kind of think of it as a 30-hour party with running in the middle.”

Spiegel said the night adventures are usually the most fun. Race officials created noise restrictions for teams in the relay so they don’t wake residents sleeping along the course.

“It’s hard to cheer at a whisper,’’ Spiegel said. “We’ve had times where we’ve had to run in torrential downpours. My first year I had a leg that went uphill for 4 or 5 miles. One time we got lost, and we were afraid we wouldn’t make it back to meet the other vans. We’ve had some crazy times.”

Teams from Wilton, Fairfield, New Canaan, Fairfield and Stamford have also entered this year’s race. The race starts at 6 a.m. Friday, Sept. 18, and teams go off in waves from Bretton Woods Ski Area in New Hampshire until 3:30 p.m. All teams must finish by 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Some teams treat the relay as a competitive event. Spiegel and his crew, as you can surmise from the team name, take it lightly and treat it as an event for bonding, camaraderie and a rolling party interspersed with periods of running.

“It’s not a challenge,’’ Spiegel said. “We’re not going to win anything no matter how fast we run. There are a few teams that go and push as hard as they can. For us, it’s just to go and have a good time.”

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