Bradford Valentine Race a great race in the heart of the winter.
Every February, across the United States, candy, cards, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine.
Posted Monday, 2 February, 2004
This tradition takes on a different twist at the First Church of Christ in the quaint village of Bradford, Massachusetts.
For those not familiar with Bradford, Massachusetts, it is a borough of Haverhill (pronounced HAY-VRILL not HAVER-HILL) located in northeastern Massachusetts; about 32 miles north of Boston on the New Hampshire border; and only 16 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. This is an area that is rich in history and Yankee ingenuity. This is where Louis B. Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer fame got his start. Rowland Hussey Macy opened his first department store here before leaving for the Big Apple to seek greater fortunes. And who could forget colonialist Hannah Duston who made her daring escape in 1697 from 10 Native Americans who were holding her hostage. I bet she could have used a good pair of racing flats.
Haverhill is also the home of Bob Montana creator of the Archie Comic Strip depicting his days as a student at Haverhill High School (HHS). Montana called HHS Riverdale High in the comics presumably because of the influence of the Merrimack River. "The Thinker" stills sits outside at HHS's front entrance. Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and Reggie are all based on Montana's real-life friends at HHS and their teenage adventures
Creative minds come up with creative ideas in this community, so it should be no surprise that one of New England's most creative road races takes place here every February. The Bradford Valentine Race was started as a fundraiser to help the First Church of Christ replace its deteriorating steeple. Thirteen years and one steeple later, the race is thriving and is a favorite in the Merrimack Valley. Under the able direction of John Burke this event has grown over the past thirteen years and in the process raised over $75,000 for the historic church's restoration.
What makes this event unique? In a word, Lots!
There are two race courses; a 5 miler (USATF Certified) and a 3.7-miler or six-kilometer. Both are loop courses and runners can choose between races. Teams however must have one member run each course, but more on that later. Both races start and finish near the picturesque Bradford common. Director Burke describes the terrain as New England rolling, but please keep in mind that he lives in a town name HAVER-HILL. Runners for both events start together, but the six-kilometer runners take a right about a ¾ mile into the race. Both join up again before the finish. Results are all sorted out with the use of the WinningTime Chip scoring system.
Haverhill has always been the home of some of New England' elite. The great Tony Sapienza called Haverhill home and Dave Dunham of Mt. Washington fame lives in Bradford. However it is Dan Verrington, another Bradford resident that has been the dominant force in this event. Over the past six years, he has won the five miler five times. The challenging course and excellent organization draws out some of the region's fastest runners along with runners who are looking to just have a good time. "We get runners from New York, Greater Boston, Portland, ME and Lebanon, NH," says Burke. This widespread appeal is a testament to the event's popularity. Some participants get into the mood of the day and come dressed in holiday costume.
All team winners receive a half-pound of chocolates
The couples' competition is one of the most unique aspects of the race. This competition features four divisions that include open male/female, husband/wife, father/daughter and mother/son. What makes this team race different from others is that one team member must run the 6K race and the other team member must run the 5-mile race. Megan and John Valentine of Vermont appropriately won the father/daughter team competition in 2003. All team winners receive a half-pound of chocolates along with a commemorative plaque.
If you are looking for amenities, then this is your race. All finishers will receive a Whitman Sampler box of candy and a Carnation flower along with a long sleeved T-shirt. The flowers are donated by the title sponsor Flowers by Steve. Each race has individual awards for the top 3 male/female overall finishers as well as the first male/female in each age category (14 & Under, 15 - 19, 20 - 29, 30 - 39, 40 - 49, 50-59, 60 - 69, 70 & Over). The after race festivities include an ample supply of refreshments that include homemade soup and bread, warm cider, fresh fruit, yogurt and coffee. There is also a raffle where a bucket is placed in front of each raffle items, participants are asked to place their raffle ticket into the bucket near the item they want. All entrants are eligible for the raffle.
it is one sweet heart of a race
The race goes on regardless of the weather. In the past the conditions on race day has ranged from fair to cold and from dry to icy, so expect the unexpected -- remember this is February in New England. So draw a big heart around February 14 on your race calendar for the thirteen Bradford Valentines Race -- it is one sweet heart of a race.