A little over 200 runners took to the Ghost Trail in Salisbury last night as part of the 35th annual Pat Polletta 2-Mile Rail-Trail Race, the first of its kind with a handicapped and adaptive athlete’s race category.
“Pat introduced running to women back in the 1970s before it was big,” race director Tanya Anderson said of Polletta. “He passed away a few years ago, so I didn’t know him, but in his honor, I added a handicapped division this year.”
Named after former Amesbury high school running coach Pat Polletta, who was paralyzed by an injury while at sea, the race supports the Amesbury Boosters and running programs as well as the nonprofit, Adaptive Sports Partners of the North County, which provides sports and recreation opportunities for people with physical and developmental disabilities.
Rick Dayko started the race back in 1978 for his friend Polletta who passed away in 2005.
“I cannot fathom why more people do not name races for a living person who can appreciate the fact that they are being honored,” said Dayko. “Most of these races are memorial races. He was initially embarrassed by it, but as people say, ‘He feels a little funny about it. But, on the other hand, he just beams when he talks about it.’ And he was always our official starter.”
Newburyport’s Steve Dowsett, 25, finished first at 10:23.5, only 0.3 seconds ahead of Chris Grange.
“I took a wrong turn right at the start,” said Dowsett. “I just wanted to go fast, so I just took off to the right. Then I got back on it. Worked with (Grange) in the middle, then I just took the lead in the last 10 seconds. This is my first local win.”
“He went off pretty quick, then I caught up to him at the mile mark,” Grange, 29, of Amesbury said of Dowsett. “We tied with about a half a mile to go, then I passed him and he passed me back with about 200 meters left. But it’s good to be competitive.”