Josh Billings RunAground notebook: Drakes busy during race


STOCKBRIDGE -- Many residents of the Berkshires have fond memories of the Josh Billings RunAground.

One Stockbridge family has taken the time to record their involvement in the Josh dating back to the early days of the race.

The recordings will one day turn into a home movie. A movie that will show great times and help remember a family member who is no longer living.

For John Drake and his wife Heather Drake-Armstrong, the Josh is a very hectic day, but for different reasons.

Heather and her father Rick Armstrong competed in the Josh since the race was moved from Williamstown. The two were on a team until Rick drowned 15 years ago while training for the Josh at age 57.

Rick competed as an ironman, and Heather has competed in a canoe and kayak.

Heather, an avid racing fan, has continued to race with members of her family. After competing in teams with her brother, this year Heather is part of an all-female team, "OURDITAROD INJURIES," that includes her sister Michelle Sargis and Pat Rosier.

Through the 29 years that Heather has competed in the Josh, John has been at her side recording her each step of the way. While Heather is paddling away on the water, John is trying to find the perfect angle to film from. John said he travels about 30 miles throughout the day, following the progress of Heather and her team.

"I go down in Great Barrington where the start is by McDonald’s to video tape the start. Then I run over to Division Street, then I jump in the car and go to the turnpike bridge in Stockbridge, then I go up 183 to the boat launch where I tape the exchange," Drake said.

After the exchange, Drake tapes the wristband exchange with Michelle. Drake said he likes to get two more shots of Michelle, finishing with her crossing the finish line.

Drake said he’s currently in the process of cataloging all of the years of racing. The footage with Heather’s father Rick will be especially meaningful to his family, he said.


The ideal weather conditions made for a great experience for all particpants in the Josh Billings RunAground Sunday, especially for first-timers.

Dr. Jeb Fowler of West Stockbridge competed in his first Josh as a cyclist. He said he was glad he avoided the humidity that hung over the Berkshires early in the week.

"I think it was perfect. I think some of the really skinny cyclists might of found it a little uncomfortably cold at first. But I like it like this," Fowler said.

Fowler, who was racing for the Austin Riggs Center, was one of the first cyclist to finish. Fowler said the crowd support really helped him and provided motivation while riding.

He said he plans on racing in more Joshes in the future.


Stockbridge town officials reported that this is the fifth consecutive year in which the state Department of Conservation and Recreation has reported no zebra mussels in the Stockbridge Bowl, despite literally hundreds of watercraft from other towns using the lake.

Selectman George Shippey reported that the town has paid monitors working seven days a week from Memorial Day until Columbus Day, as well as a boat wash also open during that time.

Shippey said he believes Stockbridge is the only town in the state that has a monitoring and boat wash system in place.


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