Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women – Started Strong and Getting Stronger
Start strong, finish stronger--celebrating 34 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.
Posted Monday, 13 September, 2010
On Monday, October 11, 2010, when the gun goes off at noon to start the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women, it will be the 34th consecutive year for this classic Boston running tradition. Back in 1977, just five years after Frank Shorter triggered the start of the “running boom” with his gold medal in the 1972 Olympics Marathon, the scene would have been quite different than it will most likely be for the 2010 event. However, the race started strong even in its first year when it drew over 2,000 runners, about 1,800 more than were expected.
In the early years, the field would have reflected many of the elite local or regional runners fortunate enough to have cut their teeth in girls’ high school or college track programs. One such runner was high school senior Lynn Jennings, the 17 year-old winner of the inaugural event, who would go on to win the title here five more times, and make bronze or better a record 13 times. But the top spot the following year went to another northern New Englander, the swift young Joan Benoit of Maine. And the rest, as they say, is history. Joan Benoit Samuelson is currently the spokesperson for the race.
When Conventures, Inc. presents the 2010 Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women at Noon on Columbus Day this year, it is expected that about 7,500 runners and walkers of all ages and abilities will take off in unified celebration of health and fitness, like a moving stream flowing down Beacon Hill and historic Charles Street toward the river of the same name.
Elite racers and recreational joggers alike join together in a field that is varied and international, and all are attracted to this event for many different reasons. Some are drawn to this race with the hope of setting a PR (personal record). With a course almost as flat as the Charles River itself, and the supportive crowd and generally cooperative weather, this is the place to do it. Other participants are just trying to finish—maybe they’ve started a new exercise program to get in shape, and this is their first race after months of training. Or maybe they toe the line at the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women because that is what they have been doing every Columbus Day for decades, and they wouldn’t consider being anywhere else.
Many women are also attracted to this event because it is an all-women’s race. There is something about an all-women’s race that builds a sense of camaraderie in addition to the competition. Not that mixed races aren’t great, but there are really two events going on in one race—the women’s race and the men’s. At a race such as this venerable 10K, it is just one race, a wonderful emblem of collective strength!
Once again, some runners will be attracted by the opportunity to compete in the USATF 2010 USA Women’s 10K Championship. The Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women has been the USA national championship 16 times in the last 17 years—making it the place in the United States for women to run a 10K race.
In addition to the USATF National Championship, the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women also participates in the USA Running Circuit (USARC), a USA Track & Field road race series consisting of a group of races in which standings determine prize money as well.
Oh, to Run a Flat, Fast Course!
Runners start on Beacon Street and follow a short downhill sprint, before flattening out onto Charles Street, arguably one of the classiest streets in the city, lined with shops and restaurants at the base of Beacon Hill. At the end of Charles Street, the runners approach a slight incline at the Longfellow Bridge as they head over the Charles River to Cambridge. The bridge drops the pack onto Memorial Drive in Cambridge, where runners head west along the river with a full view of the Boston skyline on the left, including the famous CITGO sign in Kenmore Square, and the domes of MIT on the right. This stretch along the river is one of the most popular running routes in the metro area, and thousands enjoy the views here every day. One of the highlights for many runners is that the entire route is closed to traffic.
Participants in the Wheelchair division also have a police escort for an additional safety precaution.
Once the field reaches the Boston University Bridge, it loops around the rotary there and heads back along the eastbound lane of Memorial Drive. For many runners this affords a great view of the lead pack. It is such a treat, especially for those not in the front to watch the elite field coming head on. To be in the race, but to see and cheer on the frontrunners as well, is truly a rare double treat.
There is then a turnaround along Memorial Drive, as athletes head back west toward Massachusetts Avenue and the Harvard Bridge back toward Boston. Back within the city limits of Boston, the course takes a left onto Commonwealth Avenue toward Arlington Street and the Public Garden. On Arlington Street runners take a quick loop around the Public Garden as thousands of downtown employees—who don’t have the day off-- line the streets on their lunch hour to cheer the racers. The finish of this course is fast and dramatic along Charles Street, the wide, flat roadway that dissects the Garden and the Common; it is where spectators, many of them families of the runners, cheer the finishers along.
The Streak is Strong
Given that the race has been around for so long, there are a number of women who have come to the race each year it has been held. They have become an impromptu club over time, and are recognized at a special pasta dinner for invited guests the evening before the race. One such member of this elite group is 88-year-old Louise Rossetti of Saugus, who will walk the course with her good friend Sandy Cosco again this year. Louise doesn’t even have to register for the race; she is just entered automatically by race organizers. With each passing year, the list of “streakers” will get smaller, but they continue to thrive as a sorority and symbol of athletic strength and perseverance.
One such streaker is Judi Masters, of Westborough, Massachusetts, a proud member of the club. Acknowledging that she is a approaching the 60 year-old mark, Judy says, “I plan on running this race for as long as I am able. Every time it approaches I think, ‘Is this the year to stop?’ No way, it’s too important to me. It is a commitment I make to myself to keep running it each year,” says Judi. Not only does Judy embody the strength and tradition that is this race, but she is also a perfect example of the inter-generational spirit to be found at the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women. Judi remembers when she and her daughter ran together pushing her granddaughter in the stroller. Now she is trying to convince her granddaughter, aged 9, to run along with them! This is exactly what makes this race so special.
Another runner, Jane Rasmussen of Tenant’s Harbor, Maine, recalls her most memorable race year was running while undergoing radiation for breast cancer. With the support of her running club, she was able to finish, but the fact that she had the strength of will to just start the race is the remarkable part of Jane’s story.
Joyce Barrett, of North Attleboro, actually finished the 2003 race in a baby jogger, pushed along by her running friends! Joyce had suffered a broken leg in a bicycling accident, but was still determined to finish. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of stories like this at the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women.
The Race-Day Activities
There are many events scheduled for participants on race day, so organizers encourage everyone to get to the site early. The popular Health and Fitness Pavilion will open at 9:00 a.m. where participants can learn about dozens of goods and services available from the health and fitness industry. This includes samples of food and beverages, clothing and accessories for sale, as well as fitness-related activities.
For the youngest would-be runners—both girls and boys—a special 1K race is held at 10:30 a.m. Race organizers are committed to the theme of “Start Strong, Finish Stronger,” and how it encourages young people to appreciate the power of life-long exercise. Joan Benoit Samuelson will lead this “race,” which gives the children a good chance to participate in the event along with mom. There will also be entertainment, healthy snacks, and fun activities for the kids to enjoy.
Beginning at 10:50 a.m., runners will prepare for the race with professionally led warm-ups and stretches courtesy of Boston Sports Club, accompanied by music to add to the energy. Coaches will also lead post-race stretches at 1:00 p.m.
The Prizes and Awards
For the fleet of foot, there is also the prize money to consider, with a first place prize of $3,900, while the top American will claim $7,350 for capturing the 10K USATF championship. The cash prizes for the National 10K championship go 10 deep. Cash prizes are also awarded to the top three finishers in the Masters and Wheelchair divisions. The top five teams in the USATF Associations teams will also receive cash awards, ranging from $700 to $200. To be eligible for this prize, all team members (three to five members with the top three times counted) must belong to the USATF association (officials will be there to expedite signing up for membership in USATF). Corporate teams are also recognized with awards, and all teams must be declared by race morning.
In the spirit of health and fitness, which the race represents, Tufts Health Plan will also present for the fifth consecutive year a $10,000 cash award to the American Heart Association.
Another award that is unique to this race is the Marie Fitzherbert Award for Perseverance. Marie Fitzherbert was a runner at the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women for 27 years, even finishing the race while undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer, and the award in her honor recognizes an individual who demonstrates a commitment to health, fitness, family, community involvement, and perseverance through adversity. All entrants are encouraged to submit a personal story describing why they or someone they know qualifies.
Two age-group divisions recognize fast young runners, age 14 and under, and age 15-19. And in 2009, the winner in the 14 and Under 14 category was Lee Milne of Dover, Massachusetts who averaged 6:14 minutes per mile. From the Open (20-29) to the 80 and over division, awards are in 10-year groupings.
The Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women is produced and directed by Conventures, Inc. Conventures has 34 years world-wide experience with athletic, maritime, social and educational events for which they manage strategic planning, budgeting, site planning and preparation, marketing and promotion.
Start Strong, Finish Stronger.
This is the slogan and theme for the event, “Start Strong, Finish Stronger.” This sentiment resonates with many of the diverse participants—elite racers, walkers, new mothers, first time participants, older runners, and those overcoming some of life’s physical and emotional challenges. It’s a lovely scene to see the stream of women who start strong amidst the colored balloons on Beacon Hill every Columbus Day at noon. It’s a show of strength, determination, camaraderie and pure joy to see the same women finish stronger a little while later on Charles Street. The Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women is a celebration of empowerment, passion and accomplishment.
For registration information, visit the website: http://www.tuftshealthplan.com/tufts10k/.