Running the USATF-New England Grand Prix
Join the USATF and enjoy terrific road races and high level fun. Seven events over seven months—New England leads the way for regional Association Championships.
Posted Wednesday, 10 January, 2007
The USATF-New England Grand Prix is primed and ready for a banner year, with participation expected to be at record levels for all seven events. Each race will serve as the New England Championship. New England has more running clubs per square mile and more runners per capita than any other region of the country. It is no wonder New England leads all 57 USATF Associations when it comes to championship events and an outstanding Grand Prix Series.
The USATF-NE Grand Prix kicks off its 23rd year with the New Bedford Half Marathon in New Bedford, Massachusetts on March 18, 2007. And it will close with the outstanding Dunkin’ Donuts Cape Cod Marathon in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Check this for longevity and terrific organization—both of these bookend events will race for the 30th time. Thirty Years each!
Four of the other five races will be held in the esteemed Merrimack Valley, hotbed of running, and the other will be an outstanding tour of the revitalized neighborhoods of South Boston.
What variation in both distance and landscape: Two are urban races, four are rural small town tours, and one is an iconic American tourist destination. All are tremendously well organized.
And it is not just the first and last races that have experienced organizing committees and volunteers. The Groton 10K is entering its 16th year, and the Harvard Apple Harvest Ramble is celebrating 15 years. Bedford Memorial 12K will run for the 33rd time, and the Ollie Five Miler in South Boston doubles that with 66 years of experience. Westford is the newcomer with seven years, but has excellent organization and sponsorship—and what a great course.
The Dunkin’ Donuts Cape Cod Marathon is the dean of the championship races. This will be the 21st time it has been named the New England Championship. The New Bedford Half Marathon is close behind, having hosted the championship as part of the Grand Prix 15 times. The Bedford Rotary 12K is a seven time USATF-NE championship event; the Ollie Five Mile is in its fourth consecutive year, and the Apple Harvest Ramble returns for its second turn. The Groton 10K and Westford 5K are hosting the championship and participating in the Grand Prix for the first time—and deserving they are.
Championship races are voted in by the membership, with all attending USATF members getting one vote. Any USATF sanctioned race can bid to become the New England Championship. Sometimes excellent races are excluded, simply because they conflict with another race already included, or because members must choose between two or more excellent, highly qualified events.
At one time participation was voted by the participating clubs, but that became unwieldy with such variation in club size. Even before that, championship events were chosen by Long Distance Running Chairs and Association leaders. The one-person/one-vote process has gone well, according to USATF –NE Association Executive Director Steve Vaitones. “The selection meetings are our best attended sessions, " he said.
New Bedford Half Marathon
The 30th annual New Bedford Half Marathon will be run in downtown New Bedford, an historic port on Buzzards Bay and Rhode Island Sound. New Bedford shows its seafaring heritage with the course overlooking the harbor and the seafood at the post race celebration. It is a well organized, terrific event that was host to a world record by Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway (1:08:32) in 1989. Geoff Smith, British marathoner, holds the men’s course record of 1:02:05. It is a runner friendly, reasonably priced race that is very deserving of its championship status. See www.newbedfordhalfmarathon.com.
Groton is a beautiful, rural course that is entirely traffic free. It has beautiful rolling terrain with scenic vistas and historic buildings seen in every direction. Groton is the idyllic, quintessential New England Village, and home to the Nashua River Watershed Association, among many other organizations. The race is pre-registration only, so there is no race-day hassle. It has chip timing. It is family friendly, with an accompanying 5K, 2K, and Tot Trot. The event is proudly presented by the Squannacook River Runners, sponsors of some terrific trail races you will want to return for. Go to www.grotonroadrace.com.
Westford is a near neighbor of Groton, and shares some of the same idyllic course perspectives—the historic village and the farms and fields. The course has just enough roll to keep things interesting, and just enough to show off the scenic byways. It also enjoys terrific organization—staff and volunteers who really care about the sport and about runners as guests. It has an accompanying 10K and family fun run, and is unusual in that it has a 2:20 p.m. start. It also has chip timing. It benefits the Westford Charitable Foundation. Westford and Groton are only 45 minutes form Boston and 35 minutes from Manchester.
Bedford Rotary Memorial 12K
This race has outstanding organization, as does the accompanying 5K (some run both races-the starts are an hour and 45 minutes apart). The course a figure 8, and is mostly flat with a noticeable upgrade at 3 miles. It is another of the pleasant, mostly rural courses. They have held this race for 33 years. It was originally a Memorial Day event, and it still has that theme. It is easy to get to, just minutes off the Everett Turnpike and Interstate 293, but retains the rural character the region is known for. Chip timing returns, and it is one of few 12K’s in New England and the northeast. John Mortimer holds the men’s record (36:36, 2004), and Diana Bowser the women’s record (43:38, 2000). Several national age group records have been set on this course (Barbara Robinson, 70-75). See it at www.rotarybedford.com/BRMRR.
The Ollie Five Miler
The Ollie Road Race has terrific venues, including the Bank of America Pavilion, and it has some terrific sponsorship, including Harpoon Brewery, a neighbor in South Boston. The race is now almost entirely flat, and will run the new course out to the historic waterfront fort. Harbor views, the impressively rebuilt South Boston harbor side, the historic neighborhoods, the Boston skyline, and dynamic facilities and festivities make this one very special. There is also a series of youth races, with every young participant receiving a medal and a book. It will be a memorable championship experience. Boston Marathon legend Uta Pippig has been a special guest—and participant—the last several years. Go to www.ollieroadrace.org.
Harvard Apple Harvest Ramble
Harvard is famous for fruit orchards, and the race does not disappoint in that regard. The start and finish are located at the Fruitlands Museum (worth a special trip), and much of the 10-mile course winds through orchards, fields, and country roads lined with stone walls. Yet it is only a few minutes off Route I-495 and Route 2. It has cash awards for individuals and teams, as do all the USATF-NE Grand Prix Races. This is a really pleasant time to run in the Harvard area—fall foliage and the scent of ripe apples make this special. Some may be tempted to stop and bite into a juicy one right off the tree. This is the Nashoba Valley, and you won’t be disappointed. Check in at www.harvardraces.org or www.fruitlands.org.
Dunkin’ Donuts Cape Cod Marathon
This is an absolutely beautiful course, a counter-clockwise loop with tree-lined roads, bogs, harbor views, ocean vistas, and the sweet, historic town of Falmouth. It is hard to believe it has been 30 years. They have it down to a science, and it is one outstanding event. The accompanying Sovereign Bank Marathon Relay adds to the adventure. You will impressed with the course, the organization, and the post race party. This is a true vacation destination—but without the summer crowds. It is the ideal, most beautiful, most relaxing time to visit the Cape. This is one terrific event with terrific sponsorship. Don’t miss this one—what a way to cap an outstanding series. Go to www.capecodmarathon.com.
The New England Association
The USATF-NE Association is one of the best organized and most dynamic in the country. It has been a model for others, and has been rewarded with many USATF National Championship events. All New England runners and all New England clubs should take advantage of the opportunity to belong, participate, and reap the benefits of being a part of it all. There are many hard working volunteers, officers, and chairs (please check out the Website for an update on the leadership positions at www.usatfne.org who work very hard to make the sport enjoyable and beneficial for all New England runners.
The USATF is the governing body, and oversees records and all aspects of competition. They also certify courses and sanction races, offer insurance for member clubs, and help everyone benefit from the sport, which is so often taken for granted.
The work of the New England Association has resulted in many accolades, including individual, club and event recognition. There are many programs at all levels, from Track and Field, through road races, cross country, ultras, Junior Olympics, and the USATF-NE Mountain Running Circuit—a six-race circuit unique in the USA and highly regarded.
“We have been asked to present workshops on our Grand Prix organization and concept at national meetings,” said Vaitones. That seems pretty high praise and a deserved compliment.
Executive Director Steve Vaitones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617)566-7600. The New England Association President is Ken Robichaud, available at email@example.com.
Background on the Grand Prix
The New England Grand Prix was the brainchild of then President of the New England Association, Peter Stasz. Mr. Stasz saw participation in championship events declining, oddly enough, because there were too many. Each group had their own championship—women and men were separate, as were masters women and men separate from each other and the open runners. According to Peter Stasz there were championships at many different distances, including one-hour, two-hour, 50 K, 50 miles, and on many others. This was also true on a national basis.
He worked with others in the New England organization to establish a basic six or seven race series that individually would serve as championships for everyone at each given distance: 5K, 10K, 15K, 20K, 25K, 30K, and Marathon. “We were all headed toward metric distances in those days,” said Stasz. Of course there were also those who wanted traditional English distances too, and in the end there was a compromise.
Both Stasz and Vaitones agreed, separately, that the Grand Prix and Championship Designation should always come down to the best races, even if they include odd distances at times. The five mile and 8K are basically the same distance, and the Half Marathon has taken the place of 20K, now a very rare commodity indeed.
The organization was TAC (The Athletics Congress) from 1980 through 1991 when it became USATF. Stasz initiated the Grand Prix in its present form in 1985. It has expanded and changed, but the essential ingredient was always the team (member running clubs fielding teams in each age group). In fact, there was no individual scoring in the first year, only team scoring (Stasz’s Greater Springfield Harriers won the first one). That got everyone’s attention, and the many other clubs were then off to the races, so to speak.
Individual scoring began in 1986 for the open divisions. Individual masters scoring started in 1988, with men’s seniors (50 and over) in 1989 and women’s seniors in 1991. Veteran men (60 and over) were added in 1994, with women veterans added in 1995. Since 2002 men 70 and over have been recognized separately.
Team scoring remains the backbone of the Grand Prix, with significant prize money offered by nearly all championship races.
Meeting the Challenge—Exceeding Your Expectations
Distance runners, as with athletes in most sports, rise to the level of competition and respond to challenges. In other words, you will not get better unless you are pushed, and until you determine to push yourself with this level of competition. This is true. Not only will you improve and get great satisfaction from achieving or exceeding goals, but you will enjoy the camaraderie of the entire team, and have the satisfaction of contributing—all teams score in this Grand Prix.
The Grand Prix for This Year
Participants in the 23rd annual Grand Prix will experience quality events and excellent organization at each race. Everyone predicts greater participation and excellent competition in all age groups this season. Here is the list of events for 2007:
Date, Event, Location
Sunday, March 18-- New Bedford Half Marathon; New Bedford, Massachusetts
Sunday, April 29-- Groton Road Race 10K; Groton, Massachusetts
Sunday, May 6-- Westford Road Race 5K; Westford, Massachusetts
Saturday, May 19-- Bedford Rotary Memorial Road Race 12K; Bedford, New Hampshire
Saturday, September 8-- Ollie Road Race Five Mile; South Boston, Massachusetts
Sunday, September 23-- Harvard Apple Harvest Ramble 10 Mile; Harvard, Massachusetts
Sunday, October 28-- Dunkin’ Donuts Cape Cod Marathon; Falmouth, Massachusetts
There have been many outstanding performances, individual and team, individual race and series as a whole, during the 22 years of Grand Prix history. You can review and compare the results on the Association Website. But it is clear that runners in New England have made their mark—here and around the world. Competition in these events raises the level of performance for all—every individual who participates and every club and team. The only qualifying standard is that you belong to the USATF. Every team scores—every team from any USATF club.
Fifty three individual women have won championships or age group championships in this Grand Prix. And forty three men have won. Twelve different clubs have won team championships in the men’s contest, and 10 clubs on the women’s side.
Many, Many more clubs have scored and been recognized, along with thousands of USATF members. The Central Mass Striders have won more age group championships than any other—30 for the men and 20 for women. The Greater Lowell Roadrunners have won 11 men’s titles and 7 women’s crowns. Merrimack Valley Striders have won 9 women’s titles, and Liberty Athletic Club six. Whirlaway Racing Team has eight men’s crowns.
Dave Dunham and Craig Fram have the most individual titles with 8 each, while Carie Parsi and Lisa Senatore have won four each—and those in two different divisions, a sign of consistency and longevity matched by few. In fact, Sue Maslowski of Nashua, New Hampshire, now Chair of Women’s Long Distance in USATF-NE, is the only other woman to win individual titles in different divisions.
Four men have done it: Fram, Bill Riley, Larry Olsen, and John Barbour.
Are you Ready? Join USATF and Challenge Yourself and Teammates!
Run the 2007 Grand Prix. It is unique in the country! It is right in the middle of the hotbed of running; take advantage—take the challenge.