Yankee Homecoming 10-Miler and 5K: A New England Tradition
Everything you need to know about the Yankee Homecoming races can be summed up in one word: Tuesday.
Posted Friday, 1 June, 2007
That’s right, a day of the week. How does a day of the week define a road race, or in the case of Yankee Homecoming, two races? Think about it. When the 46th running of the Yankee Homecoming Ten Mile and 5K races take place on Tuesday night, July 31, thousands of New England runners will converge on Newburyport, Mass. If that many people will drop everything and make their way to a road race on a Tuesday night there must be something special about the event. It must be worth re-arranging schedules, battling highway traffic, and staying out late for a Tuesday night race. Not to mention the chances of warm weather on a summer evening.
So it has been for decades. A running event that started with less than 50 now draws close to 3,000. Such is the history and tradition, the lore, and the lure of the Yankee Homecoming races.
It stared in 1960 with 30 runners who finished the original distance of eight miles. As word spread and the running boom grew so did the Yankee Homecoming event. A shorter race was added (the distance alternating between 3 miles and 5K) and so did the race’s popularity. In the mid-1990’s the event hit its peak when over 2200 finished the ten miler and close to 1000 ran the shorter event.
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 race was a New England championship race, bringing the best clubs to the race. Prize money totally $4,300 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. Both races have age categories in five year increments with running shoe gift certificates offered as prizes.
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. It feels like a mid-summer’s smaller version of the Boston Marathon.
Over the years there have been small alterations to the course. Construction at Newburyport High School forced a move to the Nock Middle 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 2007, for the fifth year in a row, the race will be timed using the Winning Chip timing system, resulting in quicker and more accurate results. The race also had to adapt to construction at Newburyport High School which served as the start/finish area for years. A move to the Nock Middle School a few years ago was thought to be temporary. When the new location appeared to be better logistically the change became permanent.
All this 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 mid-summer. Some years the runners have been lucky to have cool conditions but on other occasions, like 2006, the temperature has risen. 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.
This year’s Newburyport races will be held on July 31. For 2007 the fee for registering for either race is $18 until July 8, $23 until race day and $25 on race day. Proceeds benefit the Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund. T-shirts will go the first 1,200 entrants in each race. Start time for the 5K will be 6:30 with the ten miler starting at 6:35.
Need to know more? The race’s website is www.yankeerace.com.