By John Goralski
When John Myers took over as the Apple Harvest Road Race director, the annual 5-mile race attracted about 500 runners and a handful of workers. Over the last decade, that number has tripled.
With armies of runners winding down by the finish line and legions of Little Fritters circling the town green, it’s become a logistical nightmare for police as church goers pour into the center of town and parade enthusiasts fight for space along Main Street.
So, for the second time in as many years, race officials have pushed up the starting time. On Sunday, Oct. 6, the 5K road racers and 5-mile competitors will burst from the starting line at 8:30 a.m. at the same time as the 2-mile participants leave the YMCA. The extra 15 minutes should help ease congestion on opening day of the yearly festival.
“We crept up 15 minutes last year, and now we’ve moved the start to 8:30,” said Myers. “I think that’s going to help out with some traffic control with the end of church services. Also, it gives us a little more time before the Apple Harvest parade, and that will give us a little break.”
The annual race swelled to over 1,500 participants in 2013 with about 300 runners challenging the traditional 5-mile race and more than 900 competing on the 5K course. In the past few years, hundreds of non-runners have swarmed onto the town’s rail trail for the annual 2-mile walk, and everyone sticks around for the annual Little Fritter Fun runs that attract more than 150 toddlers and pre-teens.
“I never really thought it could get this big, and I still think it can get bigger,” said Myers. “Every year we seem to get more and more people involved. It’s become a traditional, good, old-fashion road race. There are a lot of gimmicks out there for road races, but we’ve kept this as a pure hometown race.”
The days of big changes, heavy marketing, and celebrity runners are behind him, so Myers and his throng of volunteers have spent the last few years tinkering with small changes and customer service. This year will be more of the same.
“We’ve been working all year with the police to make sure that we’re doing all we can for course safety,” he said. “We’ll have more and more volunteers on the course to help runners stay on course, and this year we’re going to post volunteers at every intersection along the route to help out those 12 policemen.”
Myers expects the number of runners to finally crack 1,000, and that sparked the only real change to the actual course. Instead of funneling runners into a tight corridor on Center Street at the end of the race, runners will turn right onto Main Street and finish on the other side of the town green. It will also help runners to avoid any hidden perils at the finish line like they did a few years ago when a small puddle of cooking oil from a vendor’s tent caused havoc at the end of the race.
“I think the runners will really like the new finish line,” said Myers. “It was just so narrow coming down that final stretch, and this will allow us to broaden out the finish and separate the fast 5-mile runners from the slow 5K runners so that everyone will have their own area to finish. That was the only change that we made to the course. Instead of going that extra 10 feet to turn down Apple Alley, they’ll make a right before the town green.”
Once again, Myers expects the local elementary school runners to compete in the Y-Cup challenge, while the middle school runners compete in a DePaolo vs. Kennedy duel.
In recent years, the race has seen an influx of group runners like the Blue Knight soccer teams and Team Lauryn that have used the event as a fundraiser for local scholarships and charities. Myers said that it has all helped continue the feeling of community that has become a staple for this local event.
It’s one reason why race officials have created a website with tips on running, information about fundraisers and groups, and results from past races. The website can be accessed through the YMCA (www.sccymca.org).
“This really is a community race,” he said. “We’re hoping that this will continue to grow. We want the website to be a place that people can gravitate to for running information. Eventually, we hope to add other races to the site so that people know where races will be on any given weekend.”
Registration for the races is already underway on-line and at the YMCA membership desk. The cost for the 5-mile and 5K races remains $20 ($25 on race day). Cost for the Little Fritter Fun Runs and the 2-mile walk is still $15 ($20 on the day of the race).
In addition, Jolene Miceli will continue to enlist local musicians to join in on the celebration. Last year, guitarists played for runners at the early registration, but Myers envisions musical performances throughout the route in upcoming years.
Musicians or volunteers should contact John Myers at the YMCA for more details at (860) 621-8737.
By John Goralski