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May 31
, 2008


A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

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May 31, 2008

Ending The Freihofer’s Boycott

Despite what Weston did to Troy, The Wife ran this year in the Freihofer’s Run For Women and made good time

The Wife ended her one year boycott of the Freihofer’s Run for Women, which was held again this year in Albany on May 31. She did pretty well, particularly considering that she downed a fair quantity of red wine the night before at the Palais Royale after the Critical Mass bicycle ride.

The Freihofer’s is only a short 5K (3.1 miles) race, but it always attracts some three to fourt thousand women, and no men. Along with the heavy advertising, perhaps this bit of gender discrimination is the reason why women come here to run from all over the country. And every year the race attracts a number of very serious runners.

By her watch, The Wife ran the race under forty minutes, which is good for her. It takes her several minutes to get to the starting line after the clock starts, so her official time is much slower. This is terribly unfair, it seems to me that technology could be utilized to fix this problem. Oh well, maybe eventually.

Madison Avenue, Albany May 31 2008
Madison Avenue, Albany May 31 2008

The Wife boycotted the race last year because of the unwanted unnecessary demolition of the historic Friehofer’s bakery building in Troy. The building was in excellent shape, solid as a rock, quite attractive even after years of neglect, and a major landmark. The story going around was that the building owners have been hot to sell the land it sat on to some sleazy drugstore chain.

Judging by his lust for destruction, Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian hates his City, possibly even more than Albany’s demolition king Mayor Jerry Jennings hates his own City. At any time Tutunjian could have stopped the destruction of the bakery building with a single word. But despite his phony assurances to the citizens, he chose not to.

The Troy Freihofer's Building, Now Gone
The Troy Freihofer's Building, Now Gone

When The Wife saw the photos of the demolition in the daily rag, she burst into tears. My friend Russ Ziemba worked for nine years to keep the building intact, and even arranged for a sale to a responsible buyer. But the City of Troy administration found a way to block the sale.

A week after the take down, Russ told me that he was very much in mourning. “It’s like a member of my family died,” he said. “I feel it deep inside, and it won’t go away.”

Freihofer's Building Being Destroyed
Freihofer's Building Being Destroyed

The company called Freihofer’s, of course, no longer exists. The once upon a time regional bakers that employed so many people, handed out bread during the floods of 1913, and sponsored fabulous events like the Run For Women, has been killed and cannibalized. All that’s left is the name, which still fools some old timers into trusting the advertising.

An international corporation called George Weston Bakeries LTD (sometimes called “The Company”) vacuumed up Friehofer’s in the 1990s. This massive combine, based in Canada, owns some fourteen supermarket chains. They also own quite a few familiar supposedly competing brands of baked products, such as Entenmann’s, Stroehman’s, Thomas’, Arnold and Wonder Bread.

It was the Weston corporation that fought the local citizenry of Troy for nine years and demolished the Friehofer’s bakery. Who is Harry Tutunjian going to listen to, his constituents? He knows on which side his corporate bread is buttered.

The Leaders
The Leaders

Well, it didn’t do The Wife any good being the one woman out of many thousands who didn’t show up for the race and didn’t tell anybody why she stayed home. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one sues the corporation, does anyone notice? Since she hasn’t the time or energy to organize a boycott of Weston, she’s back in the race. Lucky thing for Weston.

Madison Ave. As It Ought To Be
Madison Ave. As It Ought To Be

I’ve got say that it is great to stroll out into the middle of Madison Avenue when it’s empty of all automobiles. I could not even imagine standing still in the middle of the intersection with Lark at any other time without seeing my life pass before my eyes. What would it be like to always have that kind of freedom, no fear of deadly cars on public streets?

It’s worth it to watch this running parade, to see the massive numbers of females go by. The density of moving bodies on the street when the runners take off has to be seen to be believed. And I totally missed seeing the Wife as she took off, and she completely missed seeing me standing in the middle of Lark, surrounded by runners.

Spectators Surrounded At Lark Street

The two leaders tore into the home stretch neck to neck not even five minutes after the last of the stragglers passed by me trotting in the opposite direction. If this race gets any more popular, the organizers may have alter the course so that the head of the snake of runners does not bump into its own tail.

But I did notice that as the two leaders rounded the turn out of Washington Park they bumped up against the two police motorcycles serving as an escort. The motorbikes, in turn, appeared to be hemmed up against the runners because of the stupid media truck in front of them that once again got in the way. I can’t say why the cops on motorbikes were there, perhaps they were supposed to be a buffer for the media truck.

This same interference happened in 2002 when sight impaired runner Marla Runyan, who won by a long lead, was prevented from breaking the record time because of the slow moving media truck that rolled in front of her. Perhaps the solution is to banish the selfish media truck from coming within 1000 feet of the runners. Or get rid of it all together and let the runners run.

Note How The Runner In Front Is Trying To Pass The Motorcycle
Note How The Runner In Front Is Trying To Pass The Motorcycle

One thing that distinguishes this race is that because it is so popular, all sorts of women run in the Freihofer’s who normally do not run races. As in most races, in the front of the pack you see the serious runners. These are followed by the health fetishists, who are followed in turn by the out-of-shape and older folks huffing and puffing in the rear.

In this one there were an astonishing number of chubby women and ...dare I say it?... really fat women. Quite a few of these tubby women finished the race with respectable times. Once again, I wonder if this is an effect of the combination of saturation advertising and the animal attraction of being one of thousands of females all in one place.

The event has got to be a good thing if it drags the unhealthy off their couches and away from their deadly TV sets for a few hours, out into the urban fresh air of Albany which is much cleaner than the suburban air, encouraging these women to pump their chubby thighs and use their hearts for something other than forcing bacon fat through their arteries.

All Kinds Of Women
All Kinds Of Women

So far the Weston corporation has not tried to kill the annual race, although I fear that it does not jive with their bottom line. I heard the race announcer make sure to say that the run was “sponsored by Freihofer’s and George Weston Bakeries.” Next year they might call it “The Weston Run for Women, brought to you by Friehofer’s.”

The run has become a tradition, which is why the Weston corporation grudgingly continues to hold it. But corporations are by nature impermanent and irresponsible. I expect that eventually the run will be canceled because it costs too much and brings in no revenue to the corporation. That would be a shame indeed.

Will the City of Albany or some other government entity pick up the tradition and continue the race when Weston gets bored with it? I’m thinking of the Turkey Trot in Troy or the Stockade-athon in Schenectady, both major runs sponsored by their respective cities. Such foot races are celebrations of urban public space, a vital sort of advertising that helps create healthier cities.

The Wife In Blue Streaking To The finish
The Wife In Blue Streaking To The finish

As I said, The Wife came in to the home stretch in good time, far from the end of the pack. These 5k races are easy for her, she doesn’t even have to get pumped up for them anymore. Indeed, she surprised me, I didn’t expect her to sneak up on me so fast. Once again, I could only get a good photo of her butt as she whizzed past tearing up the pavement.

After streaking into the finish, the Wife joined me at the corner of Madison and S. Swan Street. She was soaking wet, which at first I thought was sweat. “They’ve got a fire hose!” she said happily, all red faced and dripping.

We hung out waiting for the very last racer, a 97 year old woman with her two companions. She did not run, she walked briskly and steadily for someone her age. Coming down the home stretch she leaned a bit on one of the arms of her companions, but she did not falter. They say she set an age record for completing the race, one that will be hard to beat.

The 97 Year Old Woman Crossing S. Swan Street
The 97 Year Old Woman Crossing S. Swan Street

While we waited for her, The Wife was bubbly with oxygen. “At what age do you stop running?’ she wondered. “Um, when they publish your obituary?” I offered helpfully. “No, no,” she said. “I mean, when do you stop running and have to walk?”

Before I could manufacture an intelligent sounding answer, she continued with “Will I still be running when I’m 97? Will you still come watch me run? You’ll be two years younger than me!”

We’ll just leave that right where it is.


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Posted by: Al Maikels
Posted on: 06/02/2008
The FRW is a great event and was one of the first sporting events that promoted the fact that women could compete, sweat in public and still be women.

Posted by: Laurie Schaible
Posted on: 06/04/2008
kudos to Lynne. I have often thought of running or walking in a race, but never had the courage...too vain I guess.

Freihofer's was a wonderful local company, as you have pointed out, and is sorely missed. My father was a Freihofer deliver man; I actually have a picture of him standing next to his truck. I remember as a young child, climbing in the back of the truck, looking up in awe at all the neatly stacked cakes, pies, cookies and breads. The smell was indescribably delicious. One of my favorites was the spice bar with thick vanilla frosting...yum. Of course we thought the day old stuff was the best!

Ah well...another one of those ' back in the day' stories.
At least we all have our I sound like an old fogey? God willing, I will age as well as the 97 year old.

Thank you for sharing.

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