The Westford Road Races—The USATF-New England 5K Championship, the Grand Prix and Family Fun
The village of Westford will host the New England Championship for the first time, but the scenic 10K and Family Fun Run are also big draws.
Posted Monday, 19 February, 2007
The USATF-NE Grand Prix moves to the Merrimack Valley this spring for two races in neighboring towns, and Westford is the site chosen for the 5K Championship. It will be a terrific loop through the charming town center and rural stone wall-lined roads on Sunday, May 6, beginning at 2:20 p.m. There will be an outstanding 10K to accompany the championship 5K, as well as a Family Fun Run with prizes for kids. This is the first time in its seven-year history that the Westford Road Race will host the New England Grand Prix, and they are primed and ready with an outstanding event. Excitement is building in Westford.
The USATF-New England Grand Prix begins its 23rd year on March 18 with the New Bedford Half Marathon in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The second Grand Prix event will be held in Groton, Massachusetts, which borders Westford; the Groton 10K is slated for April 29. Then the Westford Road Race runs as the third event of seven in the 2007 New England Grand Prix—one of the most highly rated of all USATF Association series in the country.
Westford was chosen to host the Championship because of outstanding organization and a record of success. The routes of both the 5K and 10K races are closed to traffic, and both are chip timed. Both are USATF certified, of course. The 5K offers prize money for both USATF teams as well as individuals with a total purse of $3,500. Other amenities include discounts for USATF teams of five or more members, a super post race spread of food, along with raffles, unique T-shirts, and music on the historic town common where both races finish.
Westford is easily accessible, and the village center is only slightly more than a mile off Interstate 495 (Exit 32). And yet the area where the races are held seems much more rural and remote, with historic buildings and colonial architecture. Standing on the town common, you would never know you were near the epicenter of the high tech industry, with Westford itself the home of several tech companies. But the ancient roadways on which the races will be contested were originally built in colonial times. The stone walls, so prevalent on this course, were the efforts of those first colonial farmers—many of them Minutemen.
Westford was originally part of Chelmsford, settled in 1635; it was incorporated as a separate town in 1729. In addition to Groton and Chelmsford, Westford is bordered by Tyngsboro to the north and Carlisle, Acton, and Littleton to the southeast through southwest.
Race headquarters—registration, packet pick up (11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.), and race start—will be at the Abbot Elementary School at 25 Depot Street, just north of the village center and the town common. Abbot, by the way, is an historic name in Westford. The Abbot Worsted Company was the first in the nation to use camel hair to make yarn. And Joel Abbot was a naval hero during the War of 1812, and was Commander of the Boston Navy Yard.
There will be plenty of parking at or near Abbot School, but you should get there early for this unusual mid afternoon start, because the roads will close at 2:00 p.m. There will be plenty of activity with the family Fun Run stepping off at 2:00 p.m., followed by the 5K Championship at 2:20, and the 10K at 2:25.
The Westford 5K serves as the USATF New England Championship for both individuals and teams, and is the third in a series of seven Grand Prix races. It will be followed on Saturday, May 19, with the Bedford Rotary Memorial Road Race 12K in Bedford, New Hampshire; then on Saturday, September 8, with the Ollie Road Race Five Mile r in South Boston, Massachusetts; on Sunday, September 23, the Championship and Grand Prix move to the Harvard Apple Harvest Ramble 10 Miler in Harvard, Massachusetts; and finally on Sunday, October 28, the series closes with the 30th annual Dunkin’ Donuts Cape Cod Marathon in Falmouth, Massachusetts.
Excellent, Traffic-Free Race Course
The Westford 5K is a fast, USATF-certified clockwise loop course that begins on Fisher Way near the Abbot School, a wide starting area. The 5K runners start at 2:20 p.m. heading south toward the town green. (The 10K, starting five minutes later, will begin by heading the opposite direction on Fisher Way.) All three events will be on closed, traffic-free courses, part of an exciting town happening. Both the 5K and 10K head toward the town common—quintessential New England—passing the Community Center and Town Hall on Main Street, then the 5K splits left on Lincoln Street, after which it crosses to Hildreth Road. There is a right turn on Flagg Road at 1.62 miles, heading northwest. At 2. 57 miles the course joins Forge Village Road, which then becomes Main Street. Then there is a fast, straight finish to the front of the J.V. Fletcher Library adjacent to the northern tip of the triangular town common.
The 10K follows some of the same rural roads, but is primarily a counter-clockwise loop which splits right at the common, heads west on Forge Village Road, followed by a left on Cold Springs, a right on Patten, and a hard left on Concord Road (Route 225). The half way mark is just beyond the turn onto Concord Road. There is a left on Hildreth at 4.15, and another left on Flagg a half mile later. From the turn on Flagg the course is exactly the same as the last 1.5 miles of the 5K, and to the same fast finish line.
Westford village center sits on a ridge, so upon leaving the center there is some downhill, and upon returning to the common there will be a general up slope. But the last half mile is generally flat and very fast. Chip timing will be provided by Baystate Race Services.
Awards and Records
As noted, there will be cash awards for USATF teams in the 5K. Awards include $300-$200-$125 for open teams first through third, and $225-$125-$75 for masters teams. Senior teams will earn $100 and $50 for first and second respectively, and the Veterans Champ will take home $50.
Individual cash awards will be $250-$150-$100 for the top three women and men. Age group prizes will be given to the top three in ten-year divisions.
Christa Carrara set the 5K women’s record in 2005 with 18:11, and Wilson Perez set the men’s record in 2004 with 15:45. Casey Moulton set a new 10K mark last year at 32:11; and Cathy Pearce set the women’s record with 40:14 in 2004. It is very likely the 5K marks will change on May 6, 2007.
Kids Win Too
After the Family Fun Run from Abbot School to the common, kids will receive a ribbon and a special prize.
And they all get free Richie’s Slush.
Tradition and Folklore
Westford has a very interesting history, and is an inviting, attractive town with great traditions. Once a thriving producer of granite, specialized yarns, and fruit, it has become part of the high tech universe. But the charm of the small New England village remains. And that charm is on display with these race courses.
Tradition has it that the area was visited by Scottish explorers in the year 1398, well before Columbus landed in the Caribbean. There is a stone on the town common that some claim is the burial marker for one of the Scots. Another folk tale has Paul Revere riding through town on his famous adventure on April 18-19, 1775. He did not, but his son did go to school at Westford Academy, the prestigious public high school. And there is a bell cast by Revere in the school lobby.
The Westford Road Races are creating a new kind of tradition, but what an interesting locale.
Westford is Special
There are many 5K’s in the New England region, but if you like competition and excitement this is one you should not miss. These races are well organized, well attended, and well managed, and you will enjoy the course as well as the post race celebration. This event makes an ideal addition to the Grand Prix, and the 5K Championship will be very competitive. The 10K will have a very interesting field in one of those rare instances where one race is a New England Championship, but the accompanying race has traditionally been the more competitive of the two.
But whether you participate in the Championship, the 10K, or the Family Fun Run, Westford is definitely the place to be on May 6th.