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home > races/results > usa: massachusetts > the new charles river run, — extra special race in an extraordinary place

The New Charles River Run, — Extra Special Race in an Extraordinary Place
The New Charles River Run is an outstanding event built on a long-running tradition. Seven miles or 5K on June 27th — some things you just have to do. Some races just have to be run

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By Skip Cleaver
Posted Monday, 17 May, 2004

Take a great idea and make it even better. Mix an intense dedication to the sport with a heavy helping of nostalgia, and you create the New Charles River Run. That’s what Race Director Paul Collyer, the Somerville Striders Athletic Club, and the Community Running Club have done. They have recreated an outstanding event—the Charles River Run—a 1973 to 1995 product of the first running boom. Such luminaries as Marathon Man Bill Rodgers, and wheelchair pioneer Bob Hall and many other stars made the original Charles River Run special.

The New Charles River Run, now in its fourth year, represents the best of the past and presents the tremendous amenities and technology of the present and the future of running. It is the new running boom. MIX 98.5 Radio, a close neighbor of the Daly Field Recreation Area where the race begins and ends, will supply a variety of music and Turkey Hill ice cream to add flavor and flair at the finish. There will be a wide variety of post race goodies, in addition to the ice cream. Granite State Race Services will use the ChampionChip computer timing system, a state-of-the-art race timing system that allows the presentation of awards and posting of times very quickly.

This is one very rewarding pair of races, both the 5K and the seven-miler. There will be 14 age group divisions in both races, plus eight Clydesdale and Fillie divisions, and six wheelchair divisions in each race. There will be $1,600 in cash awards in the seven miler, and team awards in 10 divisions (three score) also for the seven-miler only. And there will be six awards for the top walkers in the 5K (walkers are not participating in the seven-miler).

For runners, wheelers, and walkers in both races, participating in this unique riverside race provides plenty of reward in and of itself. The courses are exceptionally flat, measured, and fast, and the river views are excellent. Everyone will run along the water for most of the race, and finish at the very edge of this beautiful river. This is the reincarnation of the Charles River Run of old—and it is pure gold.

“I wanted to bring this one back,” said Race Director Collyer. “This is a great course,” he said, “I think the nicest on the Charles River.” And the Charles presents some great courses. No wonder it’s banks have the highest concentration of runners anywhere in the world. Additionally, few races anywhere have a post race party that can match this one—bigger and better every year.

The other major Charles River race is called the Head of the Charles Regatta, and it is the largest single-day rowing event in the world—held the third weekend in October. The New Charles River Run could easily be named the Heart of the Charles Grand Raceway. You do not want to miss it on June 27th.

Dead Runners Society World Conference 12, 2004

The World Conference of the Dead Runners Society will be having their World Conference in Boston on the weekend of June 25 to 28, and they have chosen the New Charles River Run as the host race during the conference, hosted by the Massachusetts Chapter of the DRS. Perhaps they face the reality that some runners are dead, placing a greater responsibility on the rest to really enjoy running and life. Check out the Website for DRS.

Daly Field and Recreation Center

Daly Field is on Nonantum Road (the extension of Soldiers Field Road) in the Brighton section of Boston. It is on the south shore of the river just west or upstream form the North Beacon Street Bridge. It is just a little more than seven miles upriver from the Museum of Science adjacent to the boat launch. There is some parking at the site, Daly Field and the boat ramp, but it is best to park on the Watertown side of the river at the corner of Charles River Road and North Beacon Street at the Arsenal, Harvard Business School Publishing. It is near the bridge, and a short warm-up walk from there to Daly Field and Rec Center. The race begins and ends at Daly, and post race awards will also be there.

Registration and Number, ChampionChip, T-shirt Pickup

Marathon Sports, another of the generous race sponsors, has agreed to provide registration and pick up at four locations the week of the race. In each case, the stores will be open for registration from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Beginning on Monday, June 21 at the Wellesley store for Marathon Sports, followed by the Brookline Store on Tuesday, June 22, the Boston Store on Wednesday, June 23, and the Cambridge Store on Friday, June 25.

Registration, number and T-shirt pick up will also be available on Thursday, June 24 at the Marsh Post, American Legion, 5 Greenough Blvd., Cambridge (near the Eliot Bridge) from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. This is also the site of the Post Race Party.

Lastly, number, chip, and pickup will be available on race day at Daly Field from 7:45 a.m. to race time.

About those Shirts, and the Artist who Created Them

The race Website says, “We take great pride in our T-shirts. They are always very colorful, creative, and of good quality.” This is an understatement. They are beautiful; they are a work of art. Whether you run the 7-mile or the 5K, you are going to love the way you look in this shirt.

Amy D. Porter is a Bostonian and a marathoner. She is also an accomplished triathlete, and has won her share of races and honors in both sports. She is the designer of the New Charles River Run T-shirt. Creative, busy, and multitalented would not begin to describe Ms. Porter. She owns a Masters in Social Work, a Doctorate in Law, and has been an entrepreneur in several businesses. She has also attended the Massachusetts College of Art, and is creatively engaged in landscape painting (especially scenes up and down the Charles), along with birds, and animals, including her dogs. She has also found time to start a dog-sitting and dog-walking business in Cambridge, Happy Dog.

In addition to paintings of the banks of the Charles, she is a regular runner along its paths. She ran the 100th Boston in 3:19, and was 267th out of 9,000 women. She is particularly fond of races along the Charles River, which is why she was drawn to this one. She loves traveling, and never leaves home without her running shoes. She will find time to run and enjoy the views along with hundreds of others.

Charles River Trivia

There are so many fascinating facts about the Charles River and the Charles River Basin it is impossible to recount them here, but try your mental cross training on a few questions. Answers below.

  1. How many bridges are there between the Charles River Dam or the Museum of Science, and the dam in Watertown?
  2. What was unusual about the Massachusetts State House Dome—visible from many locations along the river--on Beacon Hill during World War II?
  3. When was the first bridge built across the Charles River in Boston?
  4. What national landmark in Cambridge had two very famous residents in different eras, and who are they? Hint—one has a Charles River Bridge named for him.
  5. How far was the Boston Common from the waters of the Charles in the 1600’s and 1700’s?
  6. How many years were there between the founding of Harvard and the founding of MIT?
  7. For how many years was Harvard the only college in America?
  8. When was Arthur Fiedler’s first performance along the Charles as Conductor of the Boston Pops?
  9. And for how long did he conduct?
  10. Where does the Boston Marathon Course cross the Charles River?
  11. For how many years was the Charles a tidal estuary after the founding of Boston?
  12. How far is a round trip run from the Museum of Science to the Galen Bridge and back?
  13. What is the unusual pattern for the street names in the Back Bay bordering the Charles?
  14. How many boating facilities are there along the Charles River Basin between the Charles River Dam and Watertown?
  15. Which three of the present bridges were built first?

Beneficiaries of the Race

There are three major non-profit beneficiaries from the race: The American Legion, Marsh Post of Cambridge, is both a sponsor and a beneficiary, as they support a registration night and also host the post-race party. The May Institute is dedicated to, and leaders in, research of autism, behavioral health, brain injuries, mental retardation, and many other special needs and special education. And the Somerville Track PAC; it provides college grants and scholarships for deserving Somerville High School Students, especially those participating in track and cross-country programs.

The Charles River—Historic Resource

The Charles River was home to Native Americans for at least 9,000 years before European contact. There are at least 16 archeological sites along the Basin where evidence has been found. The most extensive and continuous of them was at the present day location of the Arsenal in Watertown and the Perkins School. The region was still tundra after the retreat of the glaciers, but the people came for the abundant fish and waterfowl in the river.

The ocean levels rose gradually up until reaching near present day levels about 3,700 years ago, and forests eventually covered the land with the milder climate. There is a myth that Leif Erickson sailed his longboats into the harbor and the river several hundred years before the English and French came calling in the early 1500’s. The English settled Boston and several surrounding towns in 1630, and found the Charles both a highway and an obstacle to movement.

The headwaters of the Charles are near Exit 18 of I495 in the area where Bellingham, Milford, and Franklin come together. It winds some 73 miles before reaching Boston Harbor, and has become a tremendously valuable recreational resource. It was not always so.

A little over a century ago the community leaders of the bordering towns determined to convert polluted tidal mud flats full of industrial and human wastes into a water park to serve the region. This effort resulted in the Charles River Basin. For nearly a hundred years efforts were made to fill and reclaim the tidal mud flats, and the land area of Boston and Cambridge grew. Industry along the river was widespread and heavily polluting. The Brighton Abattoir had exclusive right to slaughter all cattle within a six-mile radius, creating a stench on the water and the flats.

The most significant change came with the building of the Charles River Dam under what is now the Museum of Science (built on the park atop the dam in 1951). With that dam, water levels became controlled and constant, and the salt water and tides were eliminated. Nine miles of shoreline was slowly converted into the Charles River Basin and esplanade of today.

Parkland and Structures Today

Basin parks and river shoreline holds boat houses and yacht clubs, playgrounds, swimming pools, bathhouses, performing arts locations, picnic areas, athletic fields, parks, benches, boat launching ramps, statues, bridges, fish ladders, and monuments. There are miles and miles of running and bike paths, accessible by walkways and 12 pedestrian bridges. There are 11 rowing boat houses, and four for sailing. Public access to rowing and sailing facilities, canoes and kayaks—and lessons—highly unusual in other regions, seems natural here. Up river from Watertown is another four miles of river greenway and protected wetlands.

The scope of events at these facilities is truly amazing. It is an exciting multi cultural region with visitors from around the world, and thousands of them run along the Charles. There are over 50 colleges and universities, and more than 740 high tech companies in the immediate area. Many of these students and employees run, and they often run along the Charles. There is an intriguing diversity in this Basin—runners everywhere.

Hundreds of these students and employees—all ages and backgrounds—will participate in the Charles River Run. The Charles River Dam and Basin was designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark in 1981. The New Charles River Run should be declared a social and athletic national landmark. It is that good.


  1. The nine-mile stretch of the Charles from the museum to Watertown dam has 12 bridges: Longfellow (1906), Harvard (also called Massachusetts Avenue Bridge—1891, restored 1990), the Grand Junction Railroad Bridge, which actually goes under the BU Bridge (1934), Boston University (1928), River Street (1926), Western Avenue (1924), Weeks Memorial Footbridge (1927), Larz Anderson Bridge (1913), Eliot Bridge (1951), Arsenal (1925), North Beacon Street (1917), and Galen Bridge (1907).
  2. The State House dome was painted gray-black during the war because it was potentially used as a target/landmark, especially the dome in bright moonlight during blackouts.
  3. The first bridge was “Great Bridge” built on wooden pilings in 1662 near the present Larz Anderson Bridge.
  4. Longfellow national historic site in Cambridge was the residence and headquarters of George Washington when he took command of the Continental Army in 1775. He resided there until the siege of Boston forced the British to depart in 1776. Poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, for whom the bridge was named, later owned the home.
  5. The Boston Common was at the waters edge through the first two centuries of Boston growth. The area including the Public Garden was filled in and reclaimed from the tidal mud flats, as was all of the Back Bay.
  6. Harvard was founded in 1636 in New Towne, renamed Cambridge in 1638. MIT was established 225 years later, 1861.
  7. Harvard was the only college in America for 63 years, from 1630 to 1693 when William and Mary was founded in Virginia. Yale was established in 1701.
  8. Arthur Fiedler first conducted in 1929.
  9. And he continued for 50 years, to 1979. There is a large bust of him and a footbridge over Storrow Drive named in his honor.
  10. The Boston Marathon course crosses the Charles River at mile 16 at Newton Lower Falls, the lowest point in the course until mile 23 in Boston.
  11. The Charles River remained tidal for 280 of its 374-year history. It was converted to fresh water in 1910, although much of it had been filled by then.
  12. Running from the Museum it is a 17.5-mile round trip to Galen Bridge and back.
  13. The streets of Back Bay were planned and laid out in a grid about 1880. They are alphabetical from A to H, alternating three syllables and two syllables: Arlington, Berkley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester, and Hereford.
  14. There are 20 boating facilities: 4 sailing, 11 rowing, 4 yacht clubs, and the public canoeing and kayaking facility; there are 10 public landings.
  15. Technically the Harvard Bridge is the oldest (1881), but was rebuilt in 1990. The three oldest are Longfellow (1906), Galen (1907), and Anderson (1913).


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