Ollie Road Race —USATF-NE Championship, Terrific Organization, Years of Tradition, Neighborhood Pride
For 68 years this race has served the running community and the community at large, and now it has evolved into a major New England classic!
Posted Monday, 21 July, 2008
The Ollie Road Race! What are you looking for when you sign up for a road race? Do you want to support a worthy community charity, compete against the best New England runners in a championship event, take a leisurely jog or walk with family and friends, or enjoy a terrific post-race celebration with delicious food, drink, and entertainment? The Ollie Road Race boasts all of the above! No matter what kind of a runner you are, from beginning jogger to marathon qualifier, or top 5-mile racer to walker, the Ollie Road Race in South Boston is where you should toe the starting line on Saturday, September 6.
Now celebrating its 68th year, the race has become a running celebration for the South Boston community. Lauren Proshan of Conventures, this year’s coordinator of the Ollie Road Race, said, “While most races are for one type of runner, the Ollie Road Race is friendly to runners across the board. We strive to accommodate elite athletes who appreciate a well-marked course and look for their final results quickly; however, we’re also cognizant of the fact that we have many runners working on their first five-mile race.”
“At the finish line there is a great post-race party with entertainment and complimentary beer provided by neighboring Harpoon Brewery. New to this year’s event is a Runner’s Expo, offering goods and services to participants and spectators from a variety of companies,” Proshan stated.
The Ollie course is mostly flat and fast, taking in some of Boston’s most striking waterfront scenery. Starting at the Bank of America Pavilion on Northern Avenue, the course passes the Harpoon Brewery, enters the Boston Marine Industrial Park with a view of cruise ships at the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal, then passes the Medal of Honor Park and the Vietnam Memorial, and heads out to historic Fort Independence via William Day Boulevard, which borders Pleasure Bay. The out-and-back course follows the same route on the return except for a short run down East First Street.
Last year the race attracted 1,500 runners. And according to Proshan, “This year we’re really trying to focus on growing support for the South Boston Neighborhood House (SBNH) by attracting new runners and building a strong sense of community.” But Proshan assures runners that there will be no hard sell. “Come and run – there is no pressure for fundraising; we want people to see and understand the amount of work accomplished by the SBNH.”
The South Boston Neighborhood House has been providing services to the families of South Boston since 1901, when Olivia James opened the house to “support family and neighborhood life in South Boston,” according to the organization’s Website. In fact, the Ollie Road Race takes its name from Olivia and was originally started as a race for young men, but eventually evolved over the years to become a community festival to benefit the SBNH.
Kathy Lafferty is someone who knows the SBNH very well. A sixth-generation member, she is now the Assistant Executive Director, and watches her own children take advantage of this key South Boston social agency.
According to Lafferty, “The race had been a fundraiser for a number of years, but this year our focus is to help people get to know the organization more, and to get involved if they wish. The race has evolved,” said Lafferty.
“It used to be a smaller scale community race until about six years ago when it was turned into a two-day event with kids races on Sunday. People always knew the run was over a great course but the runners didn’t always know about the cause. This year we want to let them to know about the SBNH a little bit more and offer opportunities to participate,” Lafferty continued.
Lafferty emphasized that while program materials will be available, runners will not be pressured in any way. “We’re not haunting them!” she laughed.
The South Boston Neighborhood House has been serving generations since its founding in 1901. Based on the settlement house model that aims to serve all parts of a community, the SBNH serves families from babies to senior citizens with a variety of programs addressing literacy, after school activities geared to working parents, and by operating the only full-time senior center in South Boston.
Lafferty notes that a common scenario has a grandmother in senior center, a grandchild child in Early Education, and a mother in the Morning Mom & Me Program, which illustrates how services touch and help entire families. One of the big struggles in the South Boston is substance abuse. While SBNH does not offer a treatment program, they have stepped up to provide help to affected families by working with kids at a young age. Lafferty said, “Oftentimes, kids are an at-risk community. The city around them is always changing.”
If you are interested in taking the next step in helping the SBNH with its programs, consider Ollie Road Race Challenge: Run for the Ollie – Race to the Finish Fundraising Program, which helps you help the SBNH with giving categories of $100, $250, or $500.
If you’re around on Sunday, be sure to take in the youth races, where it seems all of South Boston comes out to cheer on children racing distances between 100 meters and 1.2 miles. All young runners leave with a medal, t-shirt, and book. The day finishes with a block party and carnival.
The Ollie Race starts Saturday, September 6 at 10:00 a.m. at the Bank of America Pavilion on Northern Avenue in South Boston. Free parking is available near the start and shuttles will bring runners in from outlying lots.
The total purse for the Ollie Race is $6,000. Top prizes are $300 for first, $200 for second, and $150 for third in the Overall Individual category. Prize money is awarded through the 60+ age groups.
Prize money for the USATF-NE Team competition is $350 for first, $250 for second, and $150 for third. Prizes are awarded through the 60+ male and female team age groups.
In addition, awards will be presented to the top three male and female finishers (excluding money winners) in each age group category, plus top male and female South Boston finishers, top Clydesdales and Fillies, and top male and female non-USATF teams (based on the combined times of top three finishers). Individual trophies will be awarded to the first teen finisher, the five-mile Open race winners, first male and female South Boston finishers, and members of the “Ollie” team.
If you don’t want to run or walk, but still want to be part of this great event, consider volunteering for many of the jobs that make this race possible.
On-line registration is open until Friday, September 5 at 5:00 p.m. and costs $25 for the 5-mile run and the 2-mile walk. Post-registration fee is $30.00 for race day registration which will open at the Bank of America Pavilion starting at 7:00 a.m.
Youth races will be held on Sunday September 7, and the registration fee is $10.00.
Raffle tickets for a chance on an overnight stay in a Boston Hotel, dinner and Red Sox tickets for two are available for $20 each or three for $50.
If you’d like to run or walk with five or more teammates, you can receive a $3 per registrant discount by mailing the team’s registration forms together to:
Attn: Ollie Road Race
One Design Center Place, Suite 718
Boston, MA 02210
So remember, it’s a rare race that has it all – competitive and recreational running, leisurely walking and jogging, a great organization in support, children’s runs, food, beverages, entertainment, a flat course with beautiful scenery, and free beer. Where will you be on September 6th??