In pigeon racing, the stakes aren’t as high as the competitors

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HERKIMER, N.Y. — At 6:35 a.m., under a blood-red sky, 1,075 pigeons sip water in a ventilated trailer in the Wal-Mart parking lot before the Greater Boston Homing Pigeon Concourse race to Boston. They are athletes, thoroughbreds of the sky, but they are also rookies, all born in 2013.

I am an aging news veteran, and a victim of gravity. But I have a heavy foot, an old Honda Civic, a GPS, and a Fast Pass.

The weekly pigeon race begins in 25 minutes, and I am an unofficial entrant.

Weeks earlier, while visiting the Braintree Racing Pigeon club headquarters, the old-timers there told me it would be nearly impossible to beat the birds back to Boston in a car.

Inspired by 64-year-old Diana Nyad’s recent swim from Cuba to Key West, I called top pigeon racer Dave Urmek, 60, and offered to race.

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