Celebrate Valentines Day with the great, friendly Bradford Valentine Race.
This is a fantastic little race with a strong history and a little bit of Cupid's touch thrown in. Falling on February 12th in the scenic town of Bradford, 30 miles north of Boston, this is a perfect mid-winter interlude for lovers, runners and friends.
Posted Saturday, 22 January, 2005
How do I love the Bradford Valentine Race? Let me count the ways…
- Great, friendly, mood like a bunch of old friends getting together to break the winter doldrums with a race.
- Special Valentines Day celebration with flowers, chocolates and fun.
- The unique couple’s competition, where one half of a couple runs the 6k and the other runs the 5M.
- The beautiful NE countryside course.
- Excellent course support and community involvement.
- The strong local competition and tradition.
- The cool long sleeve t-shirts and great homemade post race goodies.
February 12th is the middle of the deep winter in New England and most runners are tempted to stay inside, huddling together for warmth. The Bradford race helps fill this gap between New Years and spring with a warm, lighthearted event. The event consists of a nice country road 5 miler and a shorter 6k (3.7M), for the less ambitious.
This race has a great family-gathering feeling like a comfortable get together of old friends. The sort of feeling you got when your mom had hot chocolate and a crackling fire waiting for you after a day of sledding when you were a kid.
This will be the fourteenth year since the First Church of Christ community put on the initial race to raise funds to replace the steeple on their historic church. Although the race has grown over the years, it is still small enough to be hassle free, well managed and friendly with around 600 total runners. The church now has a new steeple but the race goes on as a favorite community event to fund additional renovations.
The Bradford Valentine Race is a local Valentines tradition. The main sponsor, a local Florist – Flowers by Steve – kicks things off by making sure that everyone gets a Valentines flower just for showing up. In addition, all finishers get a box of chocolates. Category winners get big boxes of chocolates with their medals.
The ‘way-cool’ invention of this race is how it caters to, and encourages couples. Not just husband-wife, but father-daughter, mother-son and a catch all ‘male-female-open’ are the couple categories. The rule is that one member of the couple has to run the 5M and the other has to run the 6K. The couples with the lowest total time win the category. How’s that for forcing you to work together for a common goal!
In fact, of the 600 or so participants 240 were members of couple teams. Here’s your chance; go kick that recalcitrant family member in the behind and start your couples training program!
Nice New England Course
In 1890 the Gazette contained the following description of Bradford:
Bradford is beautifully situated on the right bank of the Merrimack River, in the northwesterly part of Essex County. Its bounds are Haverhill on the north (separated by the river), Groveland on the east, Boxford on the south, and Methuen on the east. Its assessed area is 4,546 acres, including 578 acres of woodland. The land is handsomely diversified by hill and valley. The soil is generally productive, and the climate healthful.
That description from 125 years ago rings true today as well. The course for the Bradford Valentine Race runs through the handsomely diversified hill and valley. The race starts at the town common and traverses rolling hills and New England countryside. It goes through country roads, past the Bradford Ski Area, and the Bradford Country Club, amongst horse farms and rural neighborhoods to finish back at the common.
The 5M and 6K start and finish together with the 6K merging back into the 5M course around the 3 mile mark. Race director John Burke describes the course as “rolling hills”, but others who have run it say it’s pretty fast. One veteran added, “The final mile is great for those that like to run down other runners. It's mostly flat to gradual downhill and if you haven't toasted yourself early on, you can really get to feel good about yourself on that stretch.”
The race is well marshaled, well marked and well managed after over a decade of practice. The 5 mile course is USATF certified and has professionally timed timing by Bay State Race Services using the WinningTime chip timing system.
Just like Mom used to make…
The race amenities include yummy post-race homemade treats including homemade soup, homemade breads and hot cider. Since you never know what the weather is going to be like in February, (this race goes on sun, rain or snow), it’s good to know that you have some warm food and a dry long sleeve t-shirt to snuggle up in at the finish. In addition to the eats, there is more fun with raffles and prizes waiting for you. The community puts its heart into making runners feel at home.
Local race – Local talent
Haverhill and its surrounds have always been a hotbed of running and racing. The Bradford race always draws out the fast local crowd for the 5 miler. Dan Verrington, is the Johnny Kelly of this race having won 5 of the last 7. Last year he finished third to well know local racer Dave Hinga from Worcester, Ma and up-and-comer Casey Moulton from nearby Pelham, NH. Casey flew 5 minute miles to beat second place Hinga by 1:23.
These guys are animals, but you don’t have to be a speedster to enjoy the Bradford Valentine Race. The majority of the participants are just there to have fun and enjoy this running oasis in the middle of February.
As you can see from the “Box-‘O’- Chocolates” chart below, the New England area was well represented last year. Strangely enough there was also some poor soul from Kentucky who must have gotten lost looking for a horse farm.
On February 12th 2005, the Bradford Valentine Race will once again present you with the opportunity to get together with someone special and have some fun. This is a warm, good natured event with lots of camaraderie and a little impishness to keep things interesting.
Mark your calendars so you can get the other half of your couple up and elope to the Bradford common for a 10:00 AM date. Maybe you can renew your vows while you share a smile with these good folk and work off that holiday excess.