It’s a safe bet that Colby College’s first starter at one of its home races this weekend will not finish in a time that’s fast enough to keep his spot on the team.
But, cut the guy some slack: he’s 65 years old, and he has a few other things on his plate.
Colby President William D. “Bro” Adams will be forerunning one of the first-ever competitions at the Quarry Road Recreation Area in Waterville, Maine, this weekend — his way of punctuating the completion of a trail system that he hopes will be a draw for both his college and the surrounding community.
Adams, who cross-country ski raced for his New Hampshire high school, said he’s looking forward to the challenge — he just wants a decent head start.
“I don’t know how much time they give the forerunners, but I don’t particularly want to be lapped by the field in the first two minutes,” he said in a phone interview. “Hopefully, I’ll be upright, and working hard, and having fun.”
Adams, who started his term as Colby president in 2000, has been an enthusiastic booster of the school’s cross-country ski program for years, occasionally riding his road bicycle with team members and, once, he said, even competing in an end-of-season time trial.
“That was pretty embarrassing,” said Adams.
He has also made a habit of cross-country skiing once or twice a week during winters on the school’s converted running trails, which go right past the president’s house.
Under Adams’ direction, though, Colby has invested what he said was close to $300,000 in the development of a big upgrade, in the form of the 10 kilometers of new race trails at Quarry Road.
The project had several other big donors, but the college’s role in developing the system was instrumental, according to Pat Cote, the former director of the New England Nordic Ski Association whose wife, Tracey, coaches the Colby cross-country team.
“I think everyone would agree that there were several close-to-dead-end points in the project where Colby came in to save the day,” Cote said.
The Cote couple was out skiing with Adams earlier this winter when, Pat said, it occurred to them to float the forerunning idea.
“It’s the first major event, and Bro personally, hugely supports the project,” said Cote, who is acting as race director this weekend. “He stays in great shape. He’s not going to be setting the course record, but I think people will be pretty blown away when they realize it’s the president of the college.”
Adams jumped at the suggestion. He owns a set of Colby ski team warm-ups, and said that he would even consider slipping into a White Mules spandex uniform if the Cotes supply him with one.
Coincidentally, Adams’ brother Mike is an executive at Amer Sports, the parent company of Atomic and Salomon, so he’ll be sporting those two brands’ skis and boots, as well.
Adams hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll be forerunning on Saturday or Sunday; he said he also has to make an appearance at Colby’s home alpine races at Sugarloaf in Kingfield, and attend a pair of receptions.
Regardless of the day, though, Adams clearly relishes the opportunity to promote Waterville’s new venue, which he said he’d like to see hosting even more high-profile events in the future—perhaps even a national championships.
Before any of that happens, though, he’s going to have to negotiate his way around this weekend’s race course, in front of a home crowd.
“Maybe we’ll all regret this after Sunday,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to it.”
Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.