By John Goralski
John Myers has already heard the rumors trickling down through running circles, and the talk never fails to bring a smile to his face. Plainville Elementary School is gearing up for their second title defense in the annual Y-Cup competition at the Apple Harvest Road Race, but other schools are boasting about their chances to capture the trophy.
Last year, a small wave of elementary school relays spilled onto the 5K course for the second consecutive year. Torrential rains couldn’t deter them. Growing numbers of adult runners didn’t scare them, and that’s one more reason why the annual Apple Harvest Road Race has become a unique event.
“Last year was the youth movement, and I see that continuing,” said Myers, the race director. “There’s a big running boom going on in this town right now. When I go to races now, every one seems to be just packed with people with kids, adults, people of all ages and abilities. It’s not about winning. It’s about people on their own health journeys.”
The Apple Harvest Road Races is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 4 as a kick off for opening week festivities. Once again, the event will feature four separate options so that participants can get involved regardless of their physical abilities. Myers said that the race has helped to bring together everyone in the community, and it has become one of the signature events in the town.
“It’s our hometown race, and this is the one that people really lock into,” said Myers. “This year, we’re going to see even more groups signing on.”
The Y-Cup continues to be a favorite for young runners, and Myers said that it’s allowed elementary schools to organize running groups to bolster health goals. Varsity athletes at the high school have used the race as a conditioning and team-building exercise.
In recent years, fundraising groups like Team Lauryn have sprung up to raise money and awareness for local charities. This year, Myers expects the local National Guard armory to send a contingent of runners to the race.
“They’ll be all dressed up, and I think that will fit in well with the theme for this year’s Apple Harvest Festival,” he said. “It’s all about recognizing our arms services people. That’s going to be a nice presence, and it will allow us to honor them and thank them for their service. Hopefully, along the way when they run through people’s neighborhoods, they will get a good applause or salute. It’s another group coming out to our local race.”
The race, itself, serves as a fundraiser for community efforts. Costs are kept down because the race is run by volunteers. Proceeds help fund the YMCA annual campaign which provides financial assistance to local families, after school activities for vulnerable neighborhoods, and Camp Sloper scholarships to assist families in need during summer vacations.
It’s another thing that separates the Apple Harvest event from other regional events.
“The Hartford Marathon Foundation and JB Sports in New Haven do races. They do a fabulous job, but it takes a lot of money away from the community because there’s a cost for their services,” said Myers. “We’re trying to keep doing this with volunteers, and that helps us get more money into the community.”
It helps that the race has more local sponsors than ever before. The Law Offices of Sheffy, Mazzaccaro, DePaolo & Denigris has signed on as the YMCA Community Running Partner. Parsons Buick has signed on as a title sponsor, while a host of others have contributed resources as gold sponsors.
One of the biggest partners continues to be the Southington Police Department.
“I can’t say enough about how the police have supported this. They’ve embraced it and done such a good job with the traffic, especially around the town green,” said Myers. “We meet every year before the race, and we have a wrap-up after the race. We’ll continue to tweak everything that we do to keep it a safe race.”
Registration is already underway for this year’s competition, and pre-registration is already booming. Last year, heavy rains kept registration low on race day, but the race still saw numbers that rivaled its biggest years.
That’s why race officials have been busy in the off-season trying to find ways to accommodate the growing numbers of pre-registered competitors. This year, officials have launched a beefed up web site to assist registrants and fans.
“It has a lot of information about the race,” said Myers. “We’re going to continue to grow the site, so that it provides a place for people to go to. This has become a year round effort.”
The website can be accessed with links from the town’s web site (www.southington.org) or from the YMCA website (www.sccymca.org). The new site features a course map, past results, training tips, and pictures, along with links to sponsor websites and registration forms. Pre-registered runners will still get a free t-shirt, but they can upgrade to a high tech running shirt for an additional fee.
Competitive runners still vie for the coveted 5-mile road race title. Runners of all levels compete against the clock on the 5K course, while others opt for the 2-mile walk/run as a chance to stretch their legs before the Harvest parade.
The three events are scheduled to begin simultaneously on Sunday, Oct. 4 at 8:30 a.m., followed immediately by the Little Fritter Fun Runs, a crowd favorite. Myers continues to welcome any assistance.
“We’re still looking for help from local groups like the Cub Scouts, Brownies, or Boy Scouts,” said Myers. “We’re hoping to get groups involved. Maybe they’ll be manning a water table. Maybe they’ll be helping out along the course. It will be good to see them out there, in their uniforms, helping out and getting some exposure for their groups.”
For more information, contact the Southington YMCA at (860) 621-8737.
By John Goralski