The James Andromedas Five Miler
A Celebration of Our Olympic Heritage as Lowell gears up for the James Andromedas 5-Mile Road Race.
Posted Tuesday, 25 May, 2004
James Andromedas could see his breath as he jogged around Lowell’s North Common on a cold and raw March morning. On this particular day he decided to forgo his usual regiment of throwing the discus and shot put because the implements were too cold to handle. Jogging would be the only outdoor activity this day.
On his third lap, he passed a man with a young boy. “Mr. Andromedas,” the gentleman shouted out. “Best of luck at the games.” The young boy stared in amazement as his dad explained that the man running around the common was none other than James Andromedas the great Greek athlete who would be competing in the Olympic Games in Antwerp.
The year was 1920 and Andromedas had just received word from the Pan-Hellenic Athletic Club of Athens, Greece that he had been entered in the running high jump, the pentathlon and the 14-pound stone throw. However the Pan-Hellenic club was poor and Andromedas would have go abroad at his own expense.
Fast-forward 81 years to 2001. Local Greek community activists Charlie Tsapatsaris and George Ellopoulos come up with an idea to honor Lowell’s greatest Greek athlete with a five-mile road race and family festival. The idea according to Tsapatsaris was to “bring the flavor of the Olympics to Lowell.” And what better time to do it then the summer of 2004 with the Olympic games being held in Athens? According to Tsapatsaris “the original Olympics had art, music, dancing and athletics and that is what we plan on bringing Lowell.”
As he boarded the trans-Atlantic boat that would carry him from New York City to Europe, Andromedas wondered what lied ahead for him. These were the first Olympic games in eight years. The 1916 Games were not held due to World War I. Much of Europe laid in ruin from the ravages of the war but still 29 countries (one more than participated in the war) sent a record 2,600 athletes to the Games. Andromedas realized that he was fortunate to be competing. Although he was endowed with great athletic gifts, without the funds raised by the local Greek community to pay his expenses he could not have made the trip.
The Lowell Greek community has always been known for its philanthropy and the Andromedas 5-Miler follows in that tradition. Local businesses have stepped up to contribute financially to the success of the event. Major sponsors include the DeMoulas Foundation, Trinity Ambulance and WNDS TV 50. The Special Olympics is the main benefactor of the race and several Special Olympians will be on hand to light the caldron to start the event.
The race will feature over $2000 in cash and merchandize prizes. The first 600 entrants will receive t-shirts and the overall winners will be crowned with laurel wreaths from Olympia, Greece. According to Tsapatsaris the race is geared towards “fun for the entire family.” The after race festivities will include clowns and face painters, DJ Nick Diamond, the Greek band Ta Pethia (the boys), Greek Food and delicacies and balloons – lots of balloons.
When James Andromedas arrived in Antwerp, construction of the Olympic stadium had not been completed. He was housed in cramped quarters and had to sleep on a folding cot. None of this mattered however, because he was going to participate in the Olympic games – the greatest sporting event on Earth.
This was a special time. He witnessed the first official Olympic flag, with its five multicolored, intersecting rings, being flown. He got to hear Belgium fencer Victor Bion uttered the Olympic oath for the first time. And he got to see 23-year-old distance runner Paavo Nurmi of Finland. Nurmi won the 10,000-meter run and 8,000-meter cross-country, took a third gold in the team cross-country and silver in the 5,000-meter run. It was a glorious Olympics!
The first James Andromedas 5-Miler should also be a glorious event. The course will run through the Lowell National Historical Park with its restored 18th century mill buildings. Most of the run is on bike paths that run adjacent to the majestic Merrimack River. The race will start and finish at Boarding House Park the site of the Lowell Folk Festival and numerous summertime concerts. There is plenty of free parking nearby.
Even though Andromedas did not medal at the 1920 Olympics, he was treated as a hero upon his return to Lowell. After his Olympic experience, he worked with young athletes and marketed a liniment known as "Andromedas Rub" in area drug stores. James Andromedes, Lowell's greatest Greek athlete, died in 1929, nine years after his Olympic experience at the age of 45 of lobar pneumonia.
Andromedas’ legacy will be remembered on June 27 with the first running of the James Andromedas 5-Miler and the Lowell Olympic Festival. Many area Olympians will be on hand to salute the games along with local and national Greek celebrities. So plan to make a day of it in Lowell to celebrate our Olympic Heritage by running the James Andromedas 5-Miler. You will glad you did.
In addition to the road race several other events are planned. On the evening of the race, “A Salute to the Olympians” Musical Extravaganza will be held at the Lowell High School auditorium at 7 pm. Performing will be the Brass Band Quartet and Michael Lally’s Standing Room Only Players. Olympic and folksongs will be performed by the choirs from Lowell’s three Orthodox churches. A total of 90 performers will perform. General admission is $15 and students and senior $10.
On July 1 at 7:30 PM international Greek folk singer and composer Eleni Kelakos will kick off Lowell’s Summer Music Series at Boarding House Park. The event is co-sponsored by Lowell National Historical Park and the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Admission is $5.
On September 29 through November 12 an art exhibit celebrating Hellenic heritage and honoring the Athens-based 2004 Summer Olympics through the art and culture of ancient Greece will be held. Everything takes place at the Whistler House Museum of Art and the Parker Gallery at 243 Worthen Street. Exhibits featuring mosaics, ceramics, paintings, sculpture and folk art be regional artists will be displayed. The opening reception will take place October 2 from 2-4 PM. There will be Greek wines, food and live music and admission is free.