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home > races/results > usa: massachusetts > the 28th bobby bell road race—running tradition in the merrimack valley

The 28th Bobby Bell Road Race—Running Tradition in the Merrimack Valley
Founded in 1987, the Bobby Bell Five Miler provides a blend of old school road racing traditions with several innovations, including gender grading so all compete on an equal basis. It’s the only major road race in the Merrimack Valley that has gender graded scoring. You will be treated to a terrific post race party and buffet with adult beverages and music in a delightful atmosphere. It will run on Sunday, October 12, 2014, the day before Columbus Day in historic Haverhill, Massachusetts.

The 28th Bobby Bell Road Race—Running Tradition in the Merrimack Valley

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Bobby Bell Road Race Website

By Skip Cleaver
Posted Tuesday, 7 October, 2014

The Bobby Bell Five Miler has created a loyal following over the years and is returning for the 28th running. The race starts and finishes on historic Washington Street in Haverhill adjacent to the Lasting Room Bar and Grille, which hosts the incomparable post race feed and party with many, many awards and raffle prizes. Post race they provide a catered buffet with taps flowing and music filling the air. Traditions, yes! Enjoyment, yes! This is an early fall road race that is a cut above, and where running the five mile course is only the beginning.

Check the results on the race website and you can see that some of New England’s best have raced here. You will also notice that in two instances since gender grading was introduced, two women, Christen Doneski and Tina Dowling, have captured the overall championship. Craig Fram of nearby Plaistow, New Hampshire holds the course record of 24:40 set in 1996. Bobby Bell Race Website

The host Lasting Room Bar and Grille is located in the heart of the Merrimack Valley at 122 Washington Street, Haverhill, MA 01932. Check them out at: The Lasting Room, then check them out in person and note the friendly, traditional pub atmosphere that includes a great bar and a rear deck overlooking the Merrimack River—a spot runners love on Bobby Bell race day.

Following a challenging five miles, runners can look forward to the traditional catered dinner including delicious pasta, salad, bread, desserts, and more which runners always rave about. It helps that friendly, efficient bartenders keep things moving along, and a professional DJ has the place rocking.

The 28th edition takes place on October 12, 2014 with the road race starting at 11:00, preceded by the Joyce Moriarty Memorial Walk starting at 10:30 a.m. Packet pick-up and late registration will begin at 9:00 through 10:45 a.m. But don’t wait; save $5.00 over the race day fee and get your shirt—T-shirts go to the first 260 runners and first 70 walkers to sign up.

A Most Rewarding Race
Awards are plentiful in this race. All runners, regardless of gender, compete in the same categories-and there are many: 19-and under, 10-year age groups through 80+, weight categories 190-210 pounds, 211-225, and 226 pounds and above. There is a masters (age 40 and above) for weight at 190 pounds or more, plus separate divisions for police and fire.

The gender grading is a simple .88 conversion, which is a nationally tested and proven grading system. Female race times are multiplied by .88 and the conversion is included in all results. For example, a woman running a 30:00 time would be listed as 26:24; a 34:00 would equate to 29:55, etc.

Despite giving out only one set of awards instead of the traditional women’s and men’s, they still provide MORE awards than most races, including 5 for 19-and under, an impressive top 12 for open runners (to 39), 10 for 40-49, 8 for 50-59, 6 for 60-69, 4 in the 70 to 79, and 3 for 80 and over. All other weight and service division awards go to the top three in each. That’s an incredible 69 race awards. Not only that but runners have a very high percentage chance of getting a random raffle award; there are so many, thanks to a long list of contributing sponsors.

In fact, you can see by the listings of sponsors and raffle prize contributors on the website that this is a true community event. And it is all about the charities: The Sapienza Fund, Moriarty Fund, and other deserving Haverhill Charities.

Experience and Dedication Produce Wonderful Results
These guys provide an enjoyable experience under the exceptional race direction of Dave LaBrode, who has guided this event for all 28 years. He is the Founder. From beginning to end—pre-race, course and support, and amenities with big time fun at post race food and awards, the Bobby Bell Five Mile is exceptional. With the Bobby Bell Five Miler you have the best possible combination at work: Terrific organization so things run smoothly, a challenging but fair course, a competitive race history, a great venue, innovative scoring, and an unbelievably supportive community.

The Course—the Neighborhoods of Haverhill
The course is essentially a clockwise loop starting and ending on Washington Street near the railway overpass. Please see the excellent course map provided on the race website.

The first mile is flat and very straight followed by rolling terrain and a few hills approaching two miles. There are not many turns and a lot of residential streets. Much of the last mile is down, finishing with a long flat and straight stretch along Washington Street. This is not an easy course but it is fast, as indicated by the winning times over the first 27 years. This is an enjoyable five miles, making that post race celebration all the more desirable. Owing to enthusiastic spectators, the post race bonanza/party will be in full swing and simply awaiting all runners and the awards and raffle.

The City of Haverhill
It is conveniently located along Interstate 495 on the New Hampshire border in northeastern Massachusetts, and is served by both the MBTA Commuter Rail and Amtrak’s Downeaster—both running out of Boston’s North Station. It includes the town of Bradford.

Haverhill was founded in 1640 by settlers out of Newbury, and is sometimes known as “The jewel in the crown of the Merrimack Valley”. It was originally known as Pentucket but was renamed in honor of Haverhill in England. There are about 61,000 residents. It was incorporated as a city in 1870. Much of the city, including about 300 businesses and dozens of homes were destroyed in a great fire in 1872.

Despite that devastation the city continued to expand as a manufacturing powerhouse. Early on it was home to mills using the power of the expansive Merrimack River for grist mills saw mills. Woolen mills, tanneries and shipbuilding were also huge in their day. But Haverhill was best known for producing shoes and hats. Early in the 1900’s the city produced at least 10% of the nation’s shoes. It dominated USA shoe manufacturing for 180 years.

A lot of work has been done recently to improve the city including a state of the art parking facility near Washington Street and the train station and boardwalks and boat ramps along the river.

The Lasting Room Bar and Grille on Washington Street is housed in an historic brick building; the name comes from the tradition of actual “lasting rooms” which were part of shoe manufacturing where lasts were made and used to shape shoes. Washington Street was originally Merrimack Street but was renamed after George Washington visited the town in 1789.

You will be running through history.

Be There—Nothing Like This One
Whether you have done all 27 previously, or are considering this event for the first time, be sure to register for one of New England’s outstanding running experiences.

You have a great chance of walking away with an award or raffle prize, and even if you don’t the post race party and meal are rewards in themselves. Put your own stamp on this great race and racing tradition.

Make this one a top priority on your autumn race calendar and set some goals and make some traditions of your own:

We will see you there!



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