Yankee Homecoming—Tradition and Championship, and the Old Course is Back!
Back to the Future: The old 10 miler, always a favorite, is returning to the old course; and this in the same year this traditional go-to event is part of the USATF-New England Grand Prix and Championship.
Posted Tuesday, 27 May, 2008
The Yankee Homecoming Ten Miler and 5K are traditional Seacoast favorite races—a warm evening of tradition, scenic beauty, fierce competition, and just plain fun. This year the 10-mile returns to the USATF-New England Championship status and Grand Prix—definitely a win-win-win for the USATF, the runners, and the race organizations.
For 15 years, up to 1998, this 10-mile gem had a terrific course. It was fast and scenic, and was a big part of the tradition-building and added to the terrific reputation. Things changed in Newburyport, and traffic considerations due to commercial development made the course impractical. Now however, with improved infrastructure and access, the race can return to the best of the four different 10-mile courses; in fact, according to Race Director Jon Pearson, this traditional course was preferred by the police department, sealing the change. So the start, finish, and everything in between is reverting to the 1998 route. The 5K course remains the same.
The 2008 Yankee Homecoming Ten Miler and 5K will be held on Tuesday, July 29 in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
How high is this race in terms of many runners’ esteem and priorities? Respect. If there is one word that describes how runners in New England feel about the Yankee Homecoming Ten Mile and 5K races it is respect. Sure, the respect has been there for a long time, after all the race is 49 years old. Let’s also remember that, for years, the races have drawn close to 3,000 runners to Newburyport, Massachusetts on a Tuesday evening in the summer. So it was a logical selection that symbolizes the prestigious place this great race has earned in New England. After a ten year absence, the Yankee Homecoming Ten Miler is again part of the New England Grand Prix. In 1998, ironically the last year on the old course, was also the last Grand Prix appearance.
The USA Track and Field New England Association selects seven races held throughout the seven month season to match the best runners and running clubs against each other in individual and team competitions. To be part of the series a race must appear at a selection meeting, make a presentation, and await a vote of USATF-NE members. If the members think a race deserves to be in the series then runners obviously think highly of the event.
The 2008 Yankee Homecoming Ten Miler will be the fourth stop on the 2008 New England Grand Prix. In other words, a very special race will be even more special than usual, and more interesting and competitive. More runners will show up, representing running clubs from all over New England and perhaps many more competitive runners will be there. In 2008 expect a field that is as fast as in the 90’s and running on the fast, traditional course
What makes the selection even more remarkable is the willingness of hundreds of runners to travel to Newburyport on a Tuesday night. Runners by the dozens have to make plans to leave work early, or take the day off, and travel to Newburyport for a mid-week race. Why would they do it? It is one of the oldest New England races, yet an event that has evolved to keep up with the times.
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 the race’s popularity grew by leaps and bounds. In the mid-1990’s the event hit its peak when over 2,200 finished the ten miler and close to 1,000 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. 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.
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 enthusiastic cheers as an announcer calls out names. As one writer once put it, “it is a surreal racing experience.”
A lot 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 many parties or barbecues during the latter portions of the race. It feels like a mid-summer’s smaller version of the Boston Marathon.
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 and promotional advertising on the internet. In 2008, for the sixth 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.
For a few years the course was changed to finish at another school in town. When the construction was completed the race went back to the high school. Now, in 2008, the race steps back in time and goes back to the days of finishing on the field behind the high school. Spectators will be able to sit in the stands and enjoy the finish while runners get to enjoy the post-race party on the football field.
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 has 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.
It can be warm! 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 been right up there. 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 refreshment. From the ice cream to the hot dogs, to the cookies, and a variety of liquids, runners can celebrate their 5K or ten mile run in fine fashion.
Can you hear Aretha Franklin singing?
This year’s Yankee Homecoming Ten Mile and 5K races will be special. Don’t delay. For 2008 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 6:25 with the ten miler starting at 6:35.
Need to know more? The race’s website is www.yankeerace.com.
Need to know more? The race’s website is www.yankeerace.com.