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home > races/results > usa: massachusetts > the 35th tufts health plan 10k for women – a celebration of empowerment, passion and accomplishment

The 35th Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women – A Celebration of Empowerment, Passion and Accomplishment
Start strong, finish stronger--celebrating 35 years and running strong, the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women is truly a testament to the power of women and a celebration of women’s health and fitness. Join the excitement on Columbus Day, Monday, October 10, 2011, and experience the new course!

The 35th Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women – A Celebration of Empowerment, Passion and Accomplishment

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By Noreen Cohen
Posted Tuesday, 20 September, 2011

Welcome to the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women, a Columbus Day tradition, where Olympic athletes, aspiring elites, seasoned veterans, and first timers run together amid a scenic Boston-Cambridge backdrop. Get ready to lace up on October 10, 2011 for this signature Boston event and see why it continues to be a memorable racing experience year after year for women runners of all ages and abilities. The Boston Common Parade Grounds at noon is the place and time to be as thousands of women runners will have the opportunity to revel in a race that honors and celebrates their dedication and commitment to living a healthy lifestyle.

From its humble beginnings in 1977 as the Bonnie Belle Mini Marathon to its present day status as the premiere all women’s race, the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women has a lot to cheer about. History, prize structure, depth of field, and a commitment to excellence are some of the contributing factors to the race’s success over three decades. It is no wonder that the race is consistently selected by USA Track and Field (USATF) as the USATF National 10K Championship for Women (17 of the last 18 years). In addition, the race is also part of the 2011 Women’s USA Running Circuit (USARC), a USA Track and Field road series featuring national championships. Results from all of the championship races are used in determining the standings on the circuit and who is eligible for prize money.

A Strong Start
The streets of Boston’s Back Bay and Cambridge will be closed to traffic and are the ideal setting for this exciting, fast and mostly flat race. Runners start on Beacon Street at the crosswalk between the Boston Common and the Public Garden near Cheers. In order to ensure a smooth start, runners will seed themselves according to their pace. The ChronoTrack B-tag (chip embedded in the race bib) timing system assures everyone her time will be precise as she crosses the finish line (net time begins when runners actually cross the starting line.) The course is changed from previous years over the first four miles, so please check the race website for details.

As a participant in this event many times I can tell you it is impossible to stand at this starting line and not feel a surge of excitement, anticipation and camaraderie. This is really different. Look around, you are in good company! The paths that women have taken to get here may be different, but there is a definite “we are in it together” feeling. That is just one of the things that make this race so special, and the feeling of camaraderie so palpable. “Just look at this—today we are the story,” said one young woman, bouncing in anticipation of the start last year.

New Course
And they’re off by the thousands! The anticipation and high spirits of the starting line continue as runners thisyear head straight out (westbound) on Beacon Street to the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge. This year runners will cross the Mass Avenue (Harvard) Bridge both ways because of construction on the Longfellow Bridge. From Beacon Street the field turns right on Massachusetts Avenue and across the bridge over the beloved Charles River into Cambridge. As runners turn right off the bridge they will head east on Memorial Drive and they hit the two mile mark while soaking in the scenic river view on their right with the famed halls of the MIT campus on their left. There will be a turn-around right after two miles and the course heads westbound on Memorial. Many runners make the most of the fun and energizing tradition of shouting as they zip under the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge anticipating the three mile mark just ahead. What a sight as this multi-colored multitude streams across the bridge and along the Charles!

Runners set their sights on the Boston University Bridge as they continue to head west on Memorial Drive. What an amazing thrill it is to see the frontrunners that have already completed the turn-around at The Boston University Rotary, speeding their way down the eastbound lane of Memorial Drive. The sight of the elite field is certainly awe inspiring and it is guaranteed to be an exhilarating experience—a very personal experience you must gain for yourself.

This year the four mile mark is just before the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge, as the athletes turn right on Massachusetts Avenue and the Harvard Bridge and do not pass it as in past years. Once runners make the turn on to the bridge the course is the same as before.
“Once you make the turn you see thousands of women of all ages and abilities spread out for miles along the Charles River course—just awesome,” says 35-year participant Mary Tyler.

Cheers from the spectators and the sound of upbeat music as well as the frequently occurring breeze off the river, gives the pack enough kick to cross over the bridge to begin the tour Boston’s Back Bay and the homestretch.

The course turns east onto charming, tree-lined Commonwealth Avenue. Here runners pass the five mile mark. It is fitting, that it is here that the sense of accomplishment begins to gain a foothold in hearts of the throngs of runners. The last stretch of the race is the journey from Hereford Street to Arlington Street at the Public Garden. Then a short distance up Boylston Street and back to Charles Street, the finish line waits amid cheering spectators, families and friends cheering you on to your strongest ever 10K finish! Yes, we are in it together, and we did it together!

Amenities include split times for each mile and six fluid stations. The course is very nearly flat with a picturesque start so typical of Beantown.

Please see the very informative race website for information on registration, packet pickup, awards, schedule, Expo Pavilion, the course, transportation, Kids' Fun Run/Walk, race etiquette, training, general information on the race and the city of Boston, and more.

Finish Stronger
Three-time race winner, Race Spokesperson, and 1984 Olympic Champion, Joan Benoit Samuelson points out that it is not unusual for this year’s spectators to become next year’s race participants – that is the power of this unique race in inspiring women to take an active role in their health and wellness by setting goals and meeting challenges without compromise. Joan certainly takes that message to heart as evidenced by her record setting performance in Boston at the 2008 Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials. She set an American record in the 50-54 age group with her 2:49:08 effort. She was also the only person participating who was also entered for the event’s inception in 1984.

Joan has won the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women three times, including breaking the course record with a performance of 31:39 in 1983, a mark that still stands as the second fastest time, just one second off the current course record, 31:38 by New Zealand Olympian Ann Hannam. Joan still runs the race, and very well, speeding through a 6:02 per mile pace in 2006, then improving to a 5:56 pace in 2008 for a 36:49 that easily won the 50-59 age group. “All the women in this race inspire me!” she said.

Joan’s combination of outstanding performances with staying power over the years continues to make her an uplifting inspiration for runners of all abilities. "Now that I'm further back in the pack I gain inspiration by both the faster elite runners and the slower runners who have turned to running and set finishing goals for themselves," she concluded.

Fantastic Field of Athletes
The Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women attracts a solid collection of elite and Olympic runners as well as international running stars each year. Where else but at the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women can you rub elbows with such a dazzling cast of runners?

Last year Molly Huddle won her third consecutive title, running 32:00 to edge Genoveva Kegan by four seconds. She also beat Kegan in 2009 (by five seconds) at 32:07; Huddle made history by winning the 2008 race by just half a second (32:51.2) over Aziza Aliyu. Deena Kastor, Olympic Bronze Medalist in the marathon, won in 2007 with 32:01, and also won the USA Women’s Marathon Championship that year,
You can expect yet another strong field at this year’s race that is guaranteed to thrill and inspire, including the indomitable Joan Samuelson, and many more. If you are looking for inspiration, you are sure to find it among these fantastic elites.

There is a lot of history and an impressive list of milestones on the race website, including all top three runners each year, closest finishes, best times, along with many interesting and historic photos.

Awards and Prizes
The race includes a total purse of $44,150 and awards at many levels will be presented. The overall winner will receive $4,000, with the first American getting $7,450 for capturing the National 10K Championship. The cash prizes for the National 10K Championship go ten deep, while the cash awards for the overall winners, masters and wheelchair go three deep. The top five USATF Association teams will also receive cash awards. Corporate teams are also recognized with awards. Age group awards are in 10-year increments through 80+, with 14 and under and 15-19.

Commitment to Support the American Diabetes Association
This year as a result of the vote of participants, Tufts Health Plan will present a $10,000 cash grant to the American Diabetes Association as part of their ongoing commitment to join the fight against this increasingly prevalent disease. Both Tufts Health Plan and the American Diabetes Association have been instrumental in promoting fitness plans for women that include healthy diets, cardiovascular information and training, and daily exercise.

Marie Fitzherbert Award
Another Award that is unique to this race is the Marie Fitzherbert Award for Perseverance. Marie Fitzherbert ran the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women for 27 consecutive years, never missing a race from 1977 to 2003; even while undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer, she persevered to cross the finish line one more time. In honor of Marie’s determination and perseverance, this award singles out a runner each year with the same commitment to health, fitness, family, involvement in the community, and, most importantly, perseverance through adversity. Please check the Website for the remarkable story submitted by Elise Williams, the 2010 winner of the Marie Fitzherbert Award for Perseverance, and the youngest winner. The 2011 winner was just announced: Michele Howard!

35-Year Runners: Follow Them
A special group of eighteen women have made the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women an important part of their lives for 35 amazing years, ever since the race’s inception in 1977. Each one of them is a marvel in her own right and collectively they are a tribute to the commitment to a healthy lifestyle that the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women celebrates. The bond that they share with one another is highlighted by the words they use to describe the race. Here are just a few: accomplishment, pride, self-fulfillment, joy, exhilaration, camaraderie and tradition.

“This was my first race in 1977—it was less intimidating for me to run in an all women’s race. It was a thrilling experience to run with a bunch of women who were encouraging each other to the finish,” stated 35-year participant Sandy Miller. And that is still true in 2011!

“Seeing mothers running with daughters, sisters and babies; also running with the same friends year after year—that is my favorite thing,” says Janet Spriggs, who has run them all. “It keeps me running throughout the year, knowing I want to run this race.” She continued.

Mary Tyler added, “This race always encourages women to run, and I like that tradition, the focus on women’s fitness.”

Although their reasons for running and the paths they have taken over the years may be different, their fierce loyalty to this race is one story that they all have in common. To learn more about each of these remarkable women, please check the website

Event Activities
There is a Fitness Run/Walk for Kids: Kids join the fun and meet new friends! At 10:30, kids will have the opportunity to participate in a Fitness Walk around the historic Boston Common led by Olympic Gold Medalist and Race Spokesperson, Joan Benoit Samuelson. There is no better way for children to be introduced to the many benefits of fitness than this! Kids will enjoy entertainment, face painting, and a healthy snack following the walk.

Health and Fitness Pavilion: It is all happening here starting at 9:00! Check out a variety of goods and services from leading brands in the health and fitness industry. The whole family will want to get in on the fun of sampling food and beverages and enjoying fitness related activities. Clothing and accessories can also be purchased here. Come join us before the race or after crossing the finish line.

There are many events and activities planned on race day so get there early! Don’t miss out on a terrific fun filled morning.

Join in the Pre-Race Stretch, Post Race Stretch: Listen to the music and get race-ready with a professionally led warm-up session at 10:50 a.m. There will also be post-race stretches at 1:00 p.m. Take advantage of the complimentary Bag Check. Check your bag between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Everything must be picked up by 2:00.

Awards Ceremony: Once everyone has cooled down, individual and team awards will be presented at 2:00 p.m. on the Boston Common Parade Grounds.

Race Organizers
This terrific event is directed and managed by Conventures, Inc., New England’s largest special events agency focused on integrated event planning, public relations and marketing. For over three decades, Conventures, Inc. has had experience in worldwide event management including athletic, maritime, social and educational events. Strategic planning, budgeting, marketing, promotion as well as site planning and preparation are all a part of their expertise.

Conventures manages several other popular races including the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge, The Boston AIDS Walk, and the Annual Marine Corps Honor Run, as well as events around the country. Please visit their website at for more information.

About Tufts Health Plan
Since 1979, the Tufts Health Plan has been committed to providing a higher standard of health care coverage and improving the quality of care for every member. Tufts Health Plan, through their philosophy, their people, and their innovation, offers a local health plan with a national reputation for excellence. No one does more to keep you healthy. Learn how they have earned that distinction. Visit for information.

Start Strong Finish Stronger
Let’s Race! Get ready to have the time of your life this Columbus Day in this unique celebration of women’s health and fitness. Come join the fabulous festivities and family fun on the Boston Common. Experience for yourself why the thrill of this starting line is like no other. Feel the excitement that only this finish line can deliver, for this is the place where a commitment to healthy living deepens, where courage and confidence grow, camaraderie soars, where small steps lead to big things for thousands of women.

For registration information, visit the website at



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