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Fun & Fast: Fitzy’s Frisky Felines

CAN YOU SAY FRISKY? The 3:09:28 crew from 2007 (L-R): Patty Foltz, Sue
Mazlowski, Janet Kelley, Mary Peabody, Marge Bellisle and Eileen Troy.
Photo by FitzFoto

by Cathy Utzschneider

Ordinary, shmordinary…. Fitzy’s Frisky Felines are no ordinary winning relay team.

No sir. Or rather, no ma’am.

They’re “studlettes.” Women over 50 (and one over 60) who can outrun most women half their age.

They did last year, at the Cape Cod Marathon Relay, the event that inspired their name.

They won first place among all women’s relay teams (and were 11th of 190 relay teams including all male, all female and mixed teams), beating all the open groups and beating others in their age group by a wide, “Time-for-a-Guinness” margin.

Running legs from 3.05 to 6.15 miles, the Felines together ran a 3:12:54 marathon, averaging a 7:22 mile and beating out the second place all-female team by, yes, 18 minutes (maybe time for more than one Guinness?).

Last year the Felines were Marge Bellisle, Eileen Troy, Patty Foltz, Janet Kelly, and Claire McManus‰ÛÓall elite age group runners who, between them, have numerous track, road and marathon wins to their names (Bellisle won the Cape Cod Marathon in 1999 at age 44). Other years the group has included senior stars Sue Maslowski and Mary Peabody. In 2007, the Felines ran a PR 3:09:28 while placing second to the 20/30-something women of the Greater Boston Track Club.

As “Captain Kelly” summed it up, “The Felines are a great group of fun women who like to run fast.” They represent various states, including Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island, and they’ve run (fast) for different clubs.
 
Fast they are‰ÛÓand it’s the fun and folly they’ll tell you about. One story the town of Falmouth still remembers is the Porta-potty episode. Be forewarned and read on.
Talk to the Felines and they’ll start by saying how fun the Cape Cod Marathon Relay is‰ÛÓ mainly because it’s about running, but a lot more.

“Everything to do with the Cape Cod Marathon is fun,” said Bellisle. “It starts with Courtney and Caroline Bird, the race directors, who run a well-organized race.”

                                                                         Mary Peabody sets the early PR pace in 2007.
                                                                                                                     
photo by MickFoto

“The Cape Cod Marathon is a beautiful course,” said Foltz. “I’ve done the marathon myself several times; it is very challenging but I also have my personal best on the course so it is great to come back and run the relay.”

“The race itself is less stressful because you don’t have the complete marathon to contend with,” said Maslowski. “We each have a leg and cheer each other on. We have all been pretty competitive throughout the years so we race the best we can and hope for a good leg.”
 
All the Felines chimed in with a comment about their “God Father”‰ÛÓthe man who sponsors them: “Fitzy,” or “Sugar Daddy.” Fitzy’s wife, Michelle, is also a sponsor. Readers like you probably know their names‰ÛÓand if you don’t, check out the masthead of this magazine (don’t look for “Sugar Daddy”). Fitz and Michelle are the publishers.

Having bought New England Runner in 1998 and immediately launched a Pub Series, Fitz and Michelle decided to sponsor the Frisky Felines in 2005. They cite the fact that unlike other sponsorships‰ÛÓthe Masters bonus $ at Mt. Washington comes to mind‰ÛÓthe Relay is a relatively inexpensive endeavor.

The Felines have won at least their age division‰ÛÓif not all female age divisions‰ÛÓevery year since then. Fitz also sponsors an elite men’s team ‰ÛÓ the New England Runner All-Stars, a group of 40 and 50-somethings with one 60 year-old. Formed two years ago, the NER All Stars are now two-time defending champions, slowing slightly in 2008 but still winning in 2:37:02, a 6:00 minute pace.
Tom Foltz and Janet Kelly await the start of the opening leg in 2008.
Photo by FitzFoto

The Felines will tell you they love every aspect of race day and the sponsorship in particular. “We are all motivated by our father-figure Fitzy,” said Foltz.

He pays for entry fees, their singlets and lunch at Liam Maguire’s‰ÛÓwhich everyone, including Fitz and Michelle, enjoy together after the race. And then there’s dancing to the music of the BaHa Brothers (another NER sponsorship) afterwards.
 
“Everyone gets fired up,” said Bellisle, recalling relays from the past four years.

“The relay for the ‘Felines’ has always been a great time,” said Maslowski. “We mix the competitive aspect with the social, usually spending the evening and participating in the beverages and dancing at the post-race festivities. It’s a chance to spend time with people and catch up, which oftentimes you don’t get a chance to do.
 
“Fitz even bought us spiffy singlets, although next time we want Michelle involved in the fashion department,” Kelly added.

“We always have a great time with Fitz at dinner and the band is always terrific. They have the BaHa Brothers, and everyone our age is on the dance floor,” said Troy.

“The band is great to dance to,” Bellisle confirmed. “It’s amazing how many people who run the marathon can dance all night long!”

“Sponsor,” “God Father,” “Sugar Daddy” Fitz is thrilled with the performance and attitude of the Felines. He expresses his pride with “Fitzy” gusto.

“They just keep getting better,” he said. “They won the whole enchilada last year. In previous years, they had been coming in second out of 160 teams, and they’d win the senior division by a ridiculous amount…are you sure saucy Patty Foltz called me a father figure? How can you be younger and a lot less mature, and still be a father figure? I suppose if I got out and tried to race with them that description would fill the bill.”

Recalling the source of the name, “Fitzy’s Frisky Felines,” Bellisle has one explanation (others have others): “As I recall it was about five years ago after several pints of Harpoon Ale at the Ollie 5-mile post-race festivities,” she said. The Harpoon apparently contributed to some vague and differing memories, but the Felines agreed it doesn’t matter. The name stuck, and it suits everyone.

The name stuck, and so did the Porta-potty story. Now that is hard to forget.

It happened two years ago. “It was a blustery, windy day,” said Troy. The one to run the first leg of the relay was Janet Kelley, who hit the Porta-potty shortly before the start. The Felines dropped her off and then waited for her so they could cheer her on at the start of the race. But then the (very) unusual happened.

A heavy gust blew the Porta-potty over‰ÛÓdoor side down with Janet inside it.

“Not only is she trapped in it,” said Troy, “but it’s disgusting and she’s screaming.” Finally, two guys lifted it up and, with the wind still blowing, it fell back over the other way. After they finally got it straight she came out with a few bruises but at least she hadn’t been sloshed. She stepped onto the starting line and we laughed ’til we cried.”

Photo: Marge Bellisle keeps an eye on the paparrazi while making a seamless handoff to Sue Mazlowski.
Photo by FitzFoto

According to Kelly, that scene‰ÛÓand her face‰ÛÓis still remembered in Falmouth and now a part of race lore. “I can’t even get out of my car in Falmouth before someone mentions where the bathrooms are,” she said. “That story will never die out.”

Whether it’s the running of the marathon itself, the Guinness, dancing to the Ba-Ha Brothers, Fitz and Michelle, the Felines, the New England Runner All Stars, or — oh help, no, not a Porta-potty‰ÛÓthere are bound to be more colorful subjects for stories spinning out of this year’s Cape Cod Marathon Relay. Stay tuned!

Cathy Utzschneider is coach of The Liberty Athletic Club and MOVE as well as national site coach of www.women-running-together.com.

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