By Dan Guttenplan
---- — SALISBURY -- Patrick Rich doesn’t get many mornings outside of the house without parenting responsibilities these days, so the South Hamilton father of three makes the more of the opportunities he has.
Rich, 36, made quick work of his child-free morning Saturday, cruising to victory in the 32nd annual April Fools’ 4-Mile Road Race in Salisbury. A Gordon College cross-country and track coach, Rich held off two close competitors before crossing the line in 20:11.8 (5:03 mile pace). Andover’s Scott McGrath, a 26-year-old Bentley University alumnus, finished second in 20:18.1 (5:05 pace). Methuen’s Jose Ortiz, 24, placed third in 20:30.4.
“I wanted to run hard the whole way,” said Rich, who has three kids, ages 6, 3 and 10 months. “As a father of three kids, I have limited opportunities to race. Every time I go out to race, I try to put in a full effort because I don’t always know when the next chance will be.”
Rich attended University of Michigan in the 1990s, but did not pick up running seriously until after college. At 36, he’s running as fast as any other point in his life, particularly in the 5K to 10K distance. His 2011 Cape Cod Marathon championship is his “crowing achievement as a runner,” according to Rich. He finished that race in 2:28.54.
“I have ambitions of getting back to that distance before I get too much older,” Rich said. “At this point, I’m still running about as well as I ever have.”
Walpole’s Mimi Fallon, 47, won the women’s race in 23:32.2 (5:54 pace). She put a distance of more than a minute between herself and second-place finisher Megan McCormick (25:07.7, 6:17 pace) of Newburyport. Rich’s wife, Heather Rich, 33, placed third in 25:25.6, 6:23 pace).
Continuing the string of strong finishes in the Rich family, Patrick’s father, Kevin Rich, won the 65- to 69-year-old men’s division in 30:36.
“It was a good day for the whole family.” Patrick Rich said.
Rich is a lifetime member of the Winner’s Circle Running Club, although he has competed as a member of the Central Mass. Strides for the last eight years. He plans to run the Mount Washington Road Race this summer, and he will also compete in the United States Track and Field Association New England Grand Prix Series.
He earmarked the $100 prize purse for his first-place finish for “debt reduction.”
“I just got a new car,” Rich said. “My son just broke his leg. We had a few co-pays we weren’t expecting. Unfortunately, I won’t be spending it on anything fun.”