By BRIAN JENNINGS
The 36th annual Southington Apple Harvest Festival Road Race is set to kick off on Sunday, Oct. 4, but there are some changes to this year’s event.
In previous years, the 5-mile road race and the 5K road race started at the same time. This year, however, the races will stagger from their start at the top of Columbus Boulevard. The 5-mile runners will start at 8:30 a.m., and the 5K athletes will start at 8:45 a.m.
“Based on how our course is, there’s a point where the 5K and the 5-mile come together,” said race director John Myers. “By starting off at the same time in the past, the 5-mile people were coming into a 5K pack that was slower. They literally had to weave through the roads to get their place here. So now, by starting the 5-mile 15 minutes earlier, they go out a little father on the course. When they meld in now with the 5K race, it’s almost like the same pace is coming together all the way through the race. Your fastest 5-milers and 5Ks are coming together now, which is going to add a whole new element to the race.”
Myers said that he talked to runners from both races, and they said that they love it. Myers went on to say that it’s going to add an extra amount of energy and competitiveness to them. Making a change in the start times of both races brings the possibility that there could be a 5-miler that crosses the finish line first, which has never been done before in the Southington Apple Harvest Festival Road Race. The 5K runners will have different colored bibs from the 5-mile runners, in order to be able to tell them apart.
Another big change to the event is the return of four-time Boston Marathon and four-time New York City Marathon winner Bill Rodgers.
“It’s always a thrill to have Bill here,” said Myers. “I had a chance to ask him to come to our race for the first time about 10 years ago, and he said, ‘Yes.’ He was really the guy that inspired a generation to run. He’s just a regular guy’s guy that gets a lot of people out on the roads running to be healthy. The fact that he was an American winning these national and international marathons brought running to a whole different area.”
Myers said that they have had Rodgers run in the Southington Apple Harvest Festival Road Races four different times, and he’s always a crowd favorite.
“When he’s talking to you, there will be a line that is 50 deep behind you, and he’ll just stay locked in on you,” said Myers. “Meanwhile, we have to keep him going because there are 50 people behind him, and he has to keep signing these things here.”
The event contains a festive atmosphere with an experienced race committee, plenty of volunteers, and refreshments. The courses are full of scenic routes and a ChronoTrack Timing B Tag System will be present at the end of the races to record runners’ times at the finish line. There are no dogs allowed on the course, and baby strollers have to start in the back of the group at the starting line.
All entrants that pre-register before Wednesday, Sept. 23 will receive a t-shirt. Entrants now have the option to upgrade their t-shirt to a Sport-Tek® Competitor™ tee for an additional $5 for short sleeve or $8 for long sleeve. Awards will be given to first, second, and third-place winners in each age division in the 5-mile (10-15, 16-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80 and older) and 5K (8-10, 11-13, 14-16, 17-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80 and older) with no duplicate award winners.
The first-place Southington male and female racers in the 5-mile will receive the Dave Gworek Memorial Awards. Proceeds from the races will go towards the Southington YMCA’s Annual Campaign.
If you don’t want to run in either the 5K or 5-mile race, you can also participate in the 2-mile walk, which starts at the Southington YMCA and mostly covers the Southington Linear Trail. If you are a youngster, you can participate in the Little Fitter Fun Runs, which is a variety of fun runs around the town green.
The Little Fitter Fun Runs will begin after the road race, at approximately 9:45 a.m. with t-shirts and medals presented to all of the entrants.
Kids in grades 4-5 can also participate in the Y Cup, which involves three-member relay teams for the 5K. Registration for the Y Cup will become available at Southington elementary schools in September. Plantsville Elementary School won last year’s Y Cup.
Myers said that he thinks there will be more kids and more teams coming out to compete this year, which will help grow the youth of Southington’s running.
“Last year, we worked with Coach Dan Dachelet on bringing the Knights Cup,” said Myers. “We’re trying to start the running boom earlier in our town. That’s how we’re going to eventually, really compete at the high school level. If we’re solid in the elementary and middle school level, we can see some great things happening there.”
Prices for events prior to race day are as follows: 5-mile/5K ($22), 2-mile walk ($10), and Little Fitter Fun Runs ($10). Prices for events on the day of the race are as follows: 5-mile/5K ($27 from 7 to 8am), 2-mile walk ($15 from 7 to 8am), and Little Fitter Fun Runs ($15).
All registrations for the event will be accepted at the Southington YMCA or you can register online at www.sccymca.org/apple. Online registration ends at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 1. If you want a preview to the race, you can pick up a pre-race packet on Friday, Oct. 2 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or Saturday, Oct. 3 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Southington YMCA.
In recent years, teams have used the event as a charity fundraiser. The Southington YMCA can register your team with their online registration site, which will give you fundraising opportunities.
The Southington Apple Harvest Festival Road Races is looking for sponsors, musicians, and volunteers. So, if you want to get exposure for your company, add music to the festive atmosphere of the event, or give back to and support the running community of Southington, you can contact Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“One of the things about our race that separates us from others is that we have an army of volunteers out there,” said Myers. “There are over 100 volunteers keeping the roads safe, making sure that we have refreshments for people, keeping it organized and flowing well. If people want to volunteer and get a feel for it, I’d be happy to have them and they can contact me.”
For more information on the Southington Apple Harvest Road Races, visit their webpage at www.sccymca.org/apple.