The B.A.A. Half Marathon Through Boston’s Emerald Necklace
Yes, this is a real gem--presented by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund and the B.A.A., running in Beantown and Brookline on October 12.
Posted Monday, 29 September, 2008
Imagine a 13.1-mile road race within a major metropolitan area that runs almost entirely through park land. It is October in New England with foliage painting a gorgeous backdrop for running. The Boston Athletic Association was ahead of it’s time when they decided to hold a half marathon along the Boston-Brookline Emerald Necklace Park System. The 8th Annual B.A.A. Half Marathon, presented by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund, is definitely a Boston race with a twist…the start and finish are not in an asphalt “forest” of parking lots and skyscrapers. This race, to be held on October 12th, is a wonderful example of city streets coexisting with the greenery and the beauty of Mother Nature.
The greenery of the “necklace,” extends approximately 6 miles to the turnaround loop of the 13.1 mile race. A majority of the undulating course is lined by parkland. The combination of the Boston Athletic Association’s track record (no pun intended) of excellence, combined with the history and beauty of New England in the fall is the reason that 5,000 participants registered quickly, and it closed out only weeks after registration opened.
Frederick Law Olmsted
Though the race course was designed by Dave McGillivray, B.A.A. Boston Marathon Race Director, and the B.A.A. staff, some of the credit of course design should be shared with Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted was the father of landscape architecture and he was the designer of the Emerald Necklace. His vision was to create a unique linear park system - a place where “the parkway would create a sure route from the heart of the city a distance of six miles into its suburbs” and where the beauty of landscape would transform the spirit.
This incredible urban community resource also has ties to New York and shows that Boston and the Big Apple have much more in common than a fanatical love/hate relationship between sports teams. Olmsted’s vision and creativity helped create perhaps the most famous park in the world, New York’s Central Park, which some may describe as the crown jewel of Manhattan island; it’s a focal point. The Emerald Necklace is not “central” in the same way. The B.A.A., being very community oriented, is hopeful that the popularity of the race will translate into more people visiting and using the park. This race also serves as a terrific fundraiser for Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund. Yes, it is a community resource and effort worth the attention it is receiving.
“What people may not know is the significance of the entire Emerald Necklace. Central Park is a defining aspect of New York City, and yet we have a park too, designed by the same person, but I don’t think many people realize it,” said Marc Chalufour, B.A.A. Communications Manager. “If you live in Boston and work in Boston all you have to do is get over to Kenmore Square and from there it begins. Running is not the only activity for this gorgeous space…people bike, walk, even cross country ski in the winter. It’s an amazing luxury to have this resource right here in our own backyard.”
Olmsted sought to advance a sense of shared community and dedicated service to the community among people. Almost two hundred years later his vision is still a reality. The Boston Athletic Association shares his vision of community. Since the event's inception, a portion of the entry fees is directed towards the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, a non-profit organization working to restore, preserve, maintain and promote this historic 1,000 acre park system.
Run this Course
This course is beautiful, yet hilly, so runners should be out there to enjoy themselves and the spirit of competition and not set their sites on their personal best. There is always a good crowd out there cheering everyone on-great community fun in itself. The rolling course features a combined loop and out-and-back route, beginning and ending at Roberto Clemente Field in the Back Bay Fens neighborhood of Boston (also known as the Fenway). With a start on Park Drive adjacent to Roberto Clemente Field, the course proceeds through the Riverway and over Route 9 into Brookline. The course then passes Jamaica Pond and the Arborway on its way to Franklin Park, which serves as the turnaround point for runners. Though the zoo is otherwise closed to the public on race morning, the runners go through the gates and are treated to a glimpse of some of the animals enjoying their quiet Sunday morning. Returning from Franklin Park, the course follows the Arborway to the Jamaicaway to the Riverway before finishing back in the Fenway neighborhood at Roberto Clemente Field.
Very Rewarding, and the Stars Run
A total of $30,000 in prize money will be awarded to the top overall, masters and wheelchair finishers. Past participants have included John Kagwe (two-time New York City Marathon champion), Timothy Cherigat (2004 Boston Marathon champion), Lornah Kiplagat (20K world record holder), Valentina Yegorova (Olympic marathon gold medalist), Jen Rhines (two-time U.S. Olympian), and Peter Gilmore (three-time top-10 finisher in the Boston Marathon). A new men's course record of 1:02:20 was set by Tom Nyariki (KEN) last year, while the women's mark of 1:10:57 was set by Marie Davenport (IRL) in 2003.
The 8th Annual B.A.A. Half Marathon has the expertise of the Boston Athletic Association, the backdrop of the City of Boston, the cool crisp autumn days, beautiful scenery, and all the while celebrates that rare combination where urban streets and buildings meets a lush green landscape. Any of these individual merits would be enough to produce a great experience for participants. When you put them all together, it’s an unbeatable combination whose reputation extends outside of New England to runners’ race calendars across the country.
If you missed out on registering for this year you should be “green” with envy… Emerald Green. Come watch the race, and take a run through this beautiful, enjoyable urban gem.