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Springtime in February

Unseasonably warm weather made Breakheart Reservation a fun place to play, exercise and picnic in shorts and t-shirts

By Mark E. Vogler

Visitors came from neighboring communities for some springtime recreation at Breakheart Reservation this week. With temperatures hovering in the high 60s on Tuesday and climbing into the low and mid-70’s on Wednesday, kids on their February vacation made the most of their time outdoors, dressed in t-shirts and shorts, as they walked, hiked and cycled across the trails through the woods.

“I’ve been coming here for two years – mostly in the summer,” Zuleyka del Valle of Lynn said as she sat with friends and relatives on a blanket spread across the ground, enjoying a pizza picnic. “The weather is good. This is the first time we’ve done this in the winter,” she said.

Saugus native Stephen Boudreau – a fit and frequent visitor who has been running the Breakheart trails for more than half a century – said this week was probably the best February running weather he ever encountered. “I can never recall the weather being this great in February. It’s either too windy or too snowy,” said Boudreau, after completing a 70-minute run over the trails.

“I’ve been running up here since I was 15 years old, and I’m going to be 71 in a couple of months. And I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve never seen back-to-back days like this since I’ve been up here running,” he said.

“Normally, if I were to run this time of year, I would be in a sweat suit – or if it were really cold, on an exercise bicycle inside or playing senior basketball in Everett, so this is one of those days you really have to treasure,” he said.

Boudreau, a 1965 Saugus High School graduate and track star and coach, never quit running and over the past year has introduced a new generation of Saugus youths to running the same trails he has enjoyed. He helped his friend and exercise buddy Chris Tarantino bring back cross-country running as an official Middle School sport last year. And they have plans of expanding the running program to elementary school grades this year. “Breakheart is where Coach T and I bring the young kids to train every Saturday morning to do fun runs … We also use Breakheart for Belmonte Middle School cross-country meets. And we had four home meets last year,” Boudreau said.

“We introduced the kids to running on the trails. Breakheart is the hidden jewel of Saugus. On any given day, you can see numerous people up here running, exercising, walking their dog, spending time with their kids, bicycling or just enjoying nature. And on a day like today, it’s pretty special,” he said.

Tarantino, a 1990 Saugus High School graduate, has a reputation for mentoring young athletes in track and cross-country. He himself learned as an athlete under the late and legendary Sachems coach William L. MacNeill, for whom the track and field behind the Belmonte Middle School was named.

Though 25 years younger than Boudreau, both worked hard as student athletes under Coach MacNeill. “Coach McNeil used to have us run from the high school down Main Street onto Forest Street over the Fellsway into Breakheart … a two-mile course and back to the high school. He would follow us on his bicycle,” Boudreau recalled.

It was a great winter day to be out on a bicycle this week at Breakheart.

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