Tuesday Evening in Newburyport; Must be Yankee Homecoming Time!
When the weather gets warmer and the days get longer it is common for the New England running scene to see evening races.
Posted Monday, 24 July, 2006
What most of the those evening races have in common is their day of the week. Most are Wednesday through Saturday. Why? Everyone knows earlier in the week, let’s say Tuesday in particular, would be a ridiculous night for a race. Nobody would show up for a Tuesday night race. Right?
Okay, Alex, go ahead and tell them.
One of the largest nights of New England racing will be renewed on Tuesday night August 1st, 2006 when well over 2,000 runners converge on the town of Newburyport, Massachusetts for the Yankee Homecoming 5K/Ten Mile races.
From its humble beginnings in 1960, when Eisenhowser was president and 30 runners finished the first Yankee Homecoming, the race has grown to one of New England’s largest events. In 2005 there were 1,207 5K finishers and 1,436 finishers. Keep in mind that in the mid to late 1990’s the ten miler was a New England Grand Prix race. When the organizers dropped out of the New England series the belief was the event would lose participants. Instead the numbers have grown, especially on the 5K side.
A race that draws that many runners means a lot of folks traveling to Newburyport from outside the immediate Merrimack Valley and Seacoast Massachusetts/New Hampshire area. That means many have to fight the commuter traffic to make it to Newburyport on a weekday night. So, it begs the question: why drive up Routes 495 and 95 in the middle of a work week to spend an evening in Newburyport, Mass. For non-runners the answer would be some of the area’s best boutiques and many fine restaurants, all in a picturesque ocean community. But since the only sightseeing runners are interested in are mile markers, water stops, and the finish line there must be a reason for the road trip.
Begin with history. The Yankee Homecoming race began as an eight miler and was held during an era foreign to today’s typical runner. In 1960 nobody knew from T-shirts, split times, and the only chips we cared about came in cookies (the edible kind, not off the internet). Through the years the race has been a who’s who of the New England and Northeast running scene. The men’s course record for the ten miler is held by Simon Karori, a familiar sight at the Boston Marathon in the early 1990’s. Karori set the Yankee Homecoming record in 1994, running 48 minutes, one second. For a number of years the ten mile race was a New England championship race, bringing the best clubs to the race. Prize money totally $5,000 for the ten mile race guarantees the field will always be strong. The 5K history, while younger, has also seen some of the best of the New England running scene as well. Recent 5K winners include Both races have age categories in five year increments.
The course accounts for part of the reason for the big turnout. Newburyport is a sightseers dream. With the sun setting on the old federal style homes and the run through the waterfront section of town runners get a wonderful view of a New England seaport town at its best. Runners finish to large cheers as an announcer calls out names. As one writer once put it, “it is a surreal racing experience.”
Part of that experience comes from the spectators. The race has been around so long that people take its name for granted. What do you think “Yankee Homecoming” stands for? The race is part of a week long celebration in Newburyport so you can imagine the festive atmosphere that surrounds the race. Folks line the street during the first half of the course when the runners are downtown. In the last five miles the course weaves through a residential section of town. It is a disappointment if there aren’t at least five parties or barbecues during that part of the race. Some of those parties occur during the hilly portion of the race, making the climb more pleasant. It feels like a mid-summer’s smaller version of the Boston Marathon.
While on the subject of the course it is important to note the important news about the 2006 Yankee Homecoming races. This year it’s “back to the high school”. For years the race started in front of Newburyport High School. Then construction took over and the race start and finish moved to the Nock Middle School. After much consideration town officials have decided that for safety and traffic control the race is better off with its traditional location. Experienced Yankee Homecoming runners know the routine. Registration will take place on the lawn in front of the high school. The finish will be in the parking lot at the school.
While rich in history the race has also kept up with the times. In the mid-1990’s it was one of the first to place its applications on the internet. In 2006, for the fourth year in a row, the race will be timed using the Winning Chip timing system, resulting in quicker and more accurate results. There is also online registration and a website for the race with plenty of photo’s.
All the work for an event this size requires an organization committed to doing the job right. In 1960 the race was organized by the Newburyport Jaycees. In 1980 the Newburyport Lions Club took over and have been running things since, with Jon Pearson serving as the race director. Dozens of volunteers spread out from the registration and start area to points all over town make sure the runners are taken care from start to finish.
One obstacle that runners often have to battle is the heat. This is New England and it is early August. Some nights the runners have cool conditions to run in but on other occasions the temperature can rise to an uncomfortable level. Not to worry. The Lions Club has official water stops while the spectators also chip in. Almost every mile someone will be out there handing out something to drink but one word of caution. If one of the cups being offered comes from a spectator it may require proof of being 21 or over before consumption.
And when all is said and done there is plenty of post-race refreshments. From the ice cream to the hot dogs, to the cookies, and variety of liquids, runners can celebrate their 5K or ten mile run in fine fashion.
There was a great scene in the old “Seinfeld” TV show. The gang was talking about days of the week, how they each had a “feeling”, how you feel on Friday or on the weekends. They agreed one day did not have such a “feeling”.
“Tuesday does not have a ‘feeling’,” one of them said.
Jerry and his friends obviously never traveled to Newburyport, Massachusetts to run a road race on the Tuesday night of Yankee Homecoming week. Otherwise, they would have known.
Its the feeling of fun, especially, if you are a runner.
Need to know more? The race’s website is www.yankeerace.com.