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home > races/results > usa: massachusetts > run the ollie! a 67 year south boston tradition – alive and well, and better than ever!

Run the Ollie! A 67 year South Boston Tradition – Alive and well, and better than ever!
On Sept. 8th 2007 come join a neighborhood race with a catchy name that epitomizes everything good about our sport.

Run the Ollie! A 67 year South Boston Tradition – Alive and well, and better than ever!

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By Christopher Russell
Posted Monday, 6 August, 2007

Do you like…
A sight-seer’s course with history and landmarks?
Ollie’s got it…
A world-class competitive USATF-NE race?
Ollie’s got it…
A neighborhood race that has the ‘where everybody knows your name’ feel?
Ollie’s got it…
Top-notch race organization with decades of history and experience?
Ollie’s got it…
An agency that makes a real difference in real local peoples’ lives?
Yeah, Ollie does that too…
Rocking post race party with beer a-flowin’?
Geez, it’s South Boston; of course the Ollie has that!

Did you know that the Ollie Road Race was recently voted one of the top road races in New England by New England Runner magazine readers? Ollie’s got it!

Unique and special…
The Ollie really is a unique offering. To use a worn cliché, ‘it has all the bases covered’. It seems there are 1,000 races to choose from on any given weekend in the fall. Sometimes it feels like the sport is getting diluted. Then you confront a gem like the Ollie, and it reminds you what local road racing is all about.

The Ollie does so many things – and it does them all well. The Ollie is a great example of the local race that delivers on its vision and mission year after year after year…The big difference is that this local race happens to be on the waterfront in South Boston and happens to attract A-list competitors. And yet somehow the Ollie is still the quintessential neighborhood race, hanging on to its flavor and staying true to itself.

Great organization and tradition – logistically they put on a solid, well run event.
The Ollie first ran in 1941. This makes it one of the oldest races in the USA. This kind of history lends authority and leverage to the organization of the event. The Ollie has grown up and lived in the hot-bed of local distance running. They know how to put on a world-class event. Reading the participant list from the over the years is a who’s who of local legends with the likes of Bill Rodgers and Uta Pippig, who made her master’s debut here. This isn’t a fly-by-night organization. These guys wrote the book and grew up with the sport. Logistically, you’ve got nothing to worry about when you run the Ollie.

Here’s a smattering of comments about last year’s race from the race director’s file…

“Great race. I do 1-2/month, by far the most organized I have been to.”
“This was a great race. Lost of great athletes, which made me run faster.”
“It was the best and most professional well organized race I've ever participated in. Thanks!”
“Another fun year. Keep up the good work. Beer and food were awesome!
What a great event!”
“I told all my friends that didn't run that this is a "must do" race for next year!”
“I absolutely loved the entire event. The volunteers were awesome!”
“I love the new course. I will definitely be running this race in years to come, and the volunteers were awesome.”
“Great race, extremely well run, new course well marked, abundance of volunteers, awesome post race party. It's obvious a lot of work is put into the planning of this event.”

There you have it…after 66 years they’ve got the organization figured out! Venture down to Southie and find out what a well organized and mature race feels like.

The event has stable support. The Title Sponsor for the 6th straight year is John Hancock Financial Services.

Making a real difference in real peoples’ lives…
The Ollie Road Race is sponsored by and benefits the South Boston Neighborhood House. Since 1901 the Neighborhood House has been helping families with a variety of high impact community based programs. Initiated as one of the original settlement houses in the country, the Neighborhood House offers a variety of services, including preschool and school age child care, family literacy programming, a senior center, and adolescent services.

What impresses me about this organization is that they are not another faceless mega-charity funding a race. The South Boston Neighborhood House is a community-based agency with a bunch of real local folks making a direct difference in the lives of real local families. That is the kind of hands-on, local and efficient support that you can see and feel.

A cool apropos example of this hands-on approach is the award of books. In support of literacy every kid who runs one of the races gets a book. That’s wonderful. What a nice touch.

The first races were for boys beginning in 1941! The name Ollie comes from the name of one of its founding fathers, Olivia Buckminster James. The current event spans two days. The 5 mile Ollie Classic is on Saturday along with a 2 mile harbor walk for the less competitive but still aggressively ambulatory. The following day the event continues with a series of kids’ races and a carnival. Check out the website for details and you can get your rug-rats to burn some energy!

The South Boston Neighborhood House is a private, non-profit settlement house.
The mission of supporting neighborhood and family life and valuing the importance of a strong family identifies the Neighborhood House with the community. They are committed to improving the quality of life for all families.

The Ollie Road Race is one of the many activities that connect the Neighborhood House with the South Boston community. Each year as a result of the event the Neighborhood not only gets funding support, but also attracts new volunteers and community partners to extend their vision. Check it out, runners as a sub-species tend to be a giving sort, maybe you’re the next community volunteer making the difference in a young person or a local family’s life?

South Boston Course
One of the things about the Ollie that gets underplayed, (probably because they live there), is that this is a cool course. If you’re competitive, it’s a flat-fast 5 mile suitable for a PR try. If you’re a mid-packer it’s a friendly neighborhood event with a great party. If you’re from out-of-town, it’s a great tour of South Boston.

In the 5 miles of the Ollie you’ll tie in 300 years of Boston - 17th century fortifications - state-of-the-art convention centers – the harbor that the Pilgrims sailed – working class neighborhoods…All this makes the Ollie a cool course worth experiencing.

Boston has retained much of its history and flavor over the years and combined it with urban improvements. The Ollie makes a point of metaphorically tying in the new waterfront venues with the traditional strong South Boston neighborhood.

The Race starts and ends at the Bank of America Pavilion – a bright shiny entertainment facility on the waterfront. In the intervening miles the Ollie transects the old South Boston neighborhood and makes a circuit on the waterfront. You get some nice harbor views including a visit to Fort Independence on Castle Island.

Yes, that’s right. There is a granite fort within walking distance of Boston. Fort Independence was first built by the British in 1634. At one point it was rebuilt under the supervision of Paul Revere. The current structure is a classic 17th century ‘star fort’.

Bottom line is that the Ollie is definitely worth a day trip whether you like the history or want a fast time.

I’ve got a challenge for all of you. If you live more than 10 miles from the Prudential Tower, you really don’t know about Boston. Do you want to see the Boston that you see on T.V. and in the movies? You know the Boston I’m talking about – where characters speak in a dialect bereft of R’s and sit shoulder to shoulder in Irish pubs? Would you like to take a field trip to a real Boston neighborhood and see the real thing? Come to the Ollie and get a guided tour!

USATF-NE 5 Mile Championship
While this is an event for everybody, the racing at the Ollie is a world-class field. For the fourth year in a row, the Ollie is the USAFT-NE 5 Mile Championship Race. What this means is that all the fast local runners and elites turn out and blow the doors off for 5 miles. The USATF-NE series gives points to clubs that run the races in the series. The competition is fierce. Local pride is on the line with the cash prizes. The addition of these fast runners gives the event a great excitement. The USATF events that I’ve been to this year have all had a palpable buzz that was cool to feel even though I was finishing well back in the pack. It seemed to make everything better for everyone.

Last year almost 1,000 people finished the 5 miler; more than 100 of them broke 6 minute miles. Koichiro Nagata from Japan took the men’s title with a 24:04, averaging 4:49 per mile! Emily Raymond from Medford, Ma (pronounced “Medfud” ) and the GBTC finished first for the ladies with a 28:47 or 5:46 per mile.

Lots of fun!
Even though there are some studly-fast whippets running this event It is in no way exclusive. It is at heart a neighborhood race and still has that welcoming friendly feel.

The kids will have fun at the carnival on Sunday, but you will have fun at the beer-fest on Saturday after the race. The Harpoon Brewery and chowder from Kelley’s Roast Beef provide the local flavor as participants get raucous and rowdy in the neighborhood like only the denizens of South Boston can!

Easy to get to
Now, you may be thinking that Driving into Boston is a pain in the #$%%... You don’t have to drive. Take the train, the MBTA or even the water shuttle. The race is easily accessible from South station or the Silver line. Boston is a compact city and a good walking city. If you decide to drive there will be parking available because it’s the weekend.

The schedule of events
Saturday’s Schedule September 8, 2007
- 7:30 a.m. Registration tables open
- 9:50 a.m. National anthem
- 10 a.m. Race and walk begin
- 11:00 a.m. Awards: Volunteer Awards
- 11:30 a.m. Entertainment

Sunday’s Schedule September 9, 2007
- 9 a.m. 10-14 Year Old Race (1.2 Miles) and Awards
- 9:30 a.m. 8-9 Year Old Race (1/2 Mile) and Awards
- 9:30-10:30 a.m. Magician with balloons
- 10 a.m. 6-7 Year Old Race (1/2 Mile)
- 10:30 a.m. 5 and under 100 Meter Dash
- 10:45 a.m. Awards: Volunteer Awards
- 11 a.m. - Carnival Games and Art Activities
- 11:30 a.m. Reptile Show

Classic, organized, interesting and motivational!
I love it when I get an interesting writing assignment from CoolRunning. The Ollie Road Race is one of the most interesting events that I’ve had the privilege to learn about this year. I have to pinch myself sometimes when I remember how lucky I am to have grown up in New England, in the shadow of Boston, one of the cradles of road running. We grew up in a place that has things like the Ollie, where people have been rolling out of bed and running the same race for 60 odd years.

Do yourself a favor and make a sortie into South Boston this fall on September 8th to run the Ollie.

  • Join a 67 year tradition
  • Enjoy a mature and organized event
  • Make a difference in a great cause
  • See the USATFNE champs compete
  • Check out the Southie neighborhood scene
  • Have a blast!


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