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home > races/results > usa: new hampshire > the 30th annual mill cities relay--nashua, new hampshire to lawrence, massachusetts--competition and tradition

The 30th Annual Mill Cities Relay--Nashua, New Hampshire to Lawrence, Massachusetts--Competition and Tradition
It is a running tradition in the Merrimack River Valley like no other; it is the only club relay in the USA where all participants belong to a member club, and the one of the oldest relays in the country. This year it will run for the 30th time on December 8, 2013: Five legs along a 27-mile course--250 teams, 20 clubs, seven towns, two states, one river!

The 30th Annual Mill Cities Relay--Nashua, New Hampshire to Lawrence, Massachusetts--Competition and Tradition

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Mill Cities Relay Website

By Skip Cleaver
Posted Sunday, 17 November, 2013

On Sunday morning, December 8, 2013 at 8:00 a.m. a brick will be dropped on the road in Nashua and over 250 team members--over 1,200 participants on five different legs total--will speed off on the relay trek along the Merrimack River to the Claddagh Pub in Lawrence, Massachusetts. This will be the embodiment of running in the Merrimack Valley, one of the greatest hotbeds of running in the world.

Tradition is the rule in this contest as it has been since it’s founding in 1984, and the course will be very similar to the original. The MCR will begin at the Dr. Crisp Elementary School, 50 Arlington Street, Nashua, New Hampshire, only a few blocks from the old YMCA (the original starting point for the first 27 years).

The five legs will be 5.45, 4.75, 2.55, 9.50, and 4.75 miles along much the same course as was laid out for the first relay; see course details below.

The Mill Cites Relay was founded in 1984, one year after the famous Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon. But unlike the legendary Oregon race, it is an invitation-only event where members of 20 clubs, the Mill Cities Alliance, compete for overall and age group division honors. As always it will be an exciting competition and a record number of teams are expected from the twenty member clubs. Records have been set in each of the past five years for highest totals of points for the top three clubs, most teams, and most participants.

Sixteen of the member clubs are based in Massachusetts, and four in New Hampshire, although 12 essentially straddle the border between the two states. Registration is limited to Mill Cities Alliance clubs. This relay has traditionally been the first Sunday in December but has been moved to December 8th because of the Thanksgiving weekend.

There will be, as always, a terrific post race celebration at the Claddagh Pub in Lawrence with plenty of food and beverages provided. Music will fill the air and awards will be handed out, each one a brick with a brass engraved plate symbolizing the Mill Cities and the strength of running in the Merrimack Valley. This is one of the most festive post race parties as hundreds--all MCR participants--will celebrate and enjoy the completion of the 30th annual Mill Cities Relay.

You can visit for more information on the background, awards, course, photos and previous results for this truly unique event.

The Championship, Top Three Clubs and the Prestigious Mill Cities Trophy

The Gate City Striders, based in Nashua, New Hampshire, won their fifth consecutive Mill Cities Championship and sixth overall in 2012. They set a record with 127 points, breaking their own scoring mark of 117 set with their 2010 victory and tied in 2011. They also set a record for the largest point margin (18). Prior to Gate City’s sequential wins the record was 90 points set by the Merrimack Valley Striders and the Winner’s Circle Running Club in their classic 2007 dual—Merrimack Valley captured the victory with a tiebreaker. In 2012 the three top teams all exceeded 100 points. See the scoring descriptions below.

Gate City is one of three founding clubs along with the Greater Lowell Road Runners and Merrimack Valley Striders. Close behind came the Winner’s Circle Running Club, which joined the Mill Cities Alliance in the second year, 1985. Those four early members of the Mill Cities Alliance are the only ones to win the championship, despite the addition of 21 others over the years. These four clubs have won all 29 Mill Cities Relay Championships; four other clubs have finished in the top three: Somerville Road Runners—three times second, three times third; North Shore Striders, four times third; Athletic Alliance and North Medford Club each with one third place finish. The top three clubs have the honor of having their names engraved on the base of the trophy each year; an elite honor in this hotbed of national running.

The Winner’s Circle Running Club had an amazing run of finishing among the top three clubs 26 years in a row, 1986 to 2011, including five consecutive Championships (2001 to 2005). This remarkable record includes eight championships; they have 16 second place finishes and were third twice. They have finished first or second 24 times with 26 top three slots, an amazing accomplishment. Greater Lowell Road Runners and Gate City Striders each have 18 top three awards. The other club to win it all was the Merrimack Valley Striders; they have four championships, including a tie with Greater Lowell in 1998, and have made the top three 13 times.

The Trophy—of course the goals of all member clubs are participation, camaraderie, and celebration of the sport; and secondarily to earn a place on the coveted Mill Cities Trophy as the Champions or top three clubs of the Merrimack Valley. The sizes of clubs in this organization vary; the smaller clubs can be very competitive within the divisions where they field teams. To score an age division top three is a great honor, and any team to score in the top three wins a coveted brick award with brass engraved plate.

The trophy is as unique as the event itself, and is nearly three feet tall. The beautiful hardwood base carries brass plates with the names of the top three clubs engraved each year. The enormous trophy was artfully designed and built by Ken Camire, brother of Dave Camire, founder and long-time Director and Commissioner of the Mill Cities Executive Committee. It was built from salvaged mill machine parts and gears, obtained by Tom Carroll of GLRR when a mill in Lowell was being gutted and remodeled. The trophy was introduced in 1985. Several years later the base of the trophy was replaced by cabinet maker Ken Whitcomb of the Greater Lowell club. The champions hold the trophy for one year.

Note: Thanks go to Glenn Stewart of the Greater Lowell Road Runners and Michael Wade of the Gate City Striders for many of the photos within this article.

The Phil Quinn Award

The annual Phil Quinn Award is a very meaningful presentation for all participating clubs and members. It is given for outstanding, meaningful and lasting contributions to the sport of running in the Merrimack Valley. Phil Quinn helped to found the Gate City Striders, served on the club's executive board for six years, and co-founded the Mill Cities Relay and the Applefest Half Marathon, among other events. He now resides in Montgomery County, Maryland.

In 2013 the Phil Quinn Award will be presented for the 23rd time. It has been awarded annually since 1991 as determined by the MCR Alliance Committee and member clubs. Dave Camire, who also co-founded the event and guided it for 26 years, was the first Phil Quinn Award winner in 1991. Camire is the only person to direct two different clubs to the championship-Greater Lowell, of course (he is a GLRR Hall of Fame runner), and the Gate City Striders.

The Phil Quinn Award winner for 2013 has yet to be determined. A list of past Phil Quinn Award winners and all results are listed on the MCR Website,

Other Awards

The second place club receives the Marty Cardoza Award, named for the event co-founder. And the third place club is given the Jack Pierce Award, named for the long-time GLRR President and key committee member. Other awards include the Dave LaBrode Participation Awards and the Sharon Yu Above and Beyond Award. Both LaBrode and Yu have been long-standing members of the Board of Directors, and both are Phil Quinn Award Winners.

Since 2000 bricks have been presented to teams placing 1-2-3 in their division. There are now 15 age group divisions, with bricks with brass engraved plates the awards for first, second and third in each division: women, coed, and men’s divisions in the following age groups: open (18-39), masters (40-49), seniors (50-59, veterans (60-69), and super vets (70+).

All participants are given a unique MCR logo award, such as a mug, gloves, key holders, hats, carry-all bag, wine and beer opener, stainless steel water bottle, etc.

Attractive MCR clothing, memorabilia and beer sales have helped to fund the relay and celebrations, including vests, caps, shirts, and mugs. Committee member (and Phil Quinn Award Winner) Marshall McCloskey has handled the inventory and sales for years.

The Member Clubs and Expansion

The inaugural in 1984 was a booming success, and the word got around to others in the Merrimack Valley. A new club has to be nominated by an existing club and then voted on by the membership of the Alliance.

There are currently 20 member clubs in the Mill Cities Alliance, reaching the 20-club threshold with the addition of two in 2009. There are no plans at this time for further expansion. Five other clubs were members in the past, but either disbanded or simply left competition over the 30-year history. Current members:




Based In

Greater Lowell Road Runners




Merrimack Valley Striders




Gate City Striders




New Hampshire Athletic Alliance




Andover Striders




Winner’s Circle Running Club




North Shore Striders




Gil's Athletic Club




Whirlaway Racing Team




Somerville Road Runners




Greater Derry Track Club




Squannacook River Runners




North Medford Club




Sandown Rogue Runners




Melrose Running Club




Shamrock Running Club




Mystic Runners




Wicked Running Club




The Goon Squad



N. Andover

Tri Fury



N. Andover

Course Along the Merrimack and Through History

The Mill Cities Relay is a five-leg, 27-mile journey that begins at the Dr. Crisp Elementary School, 50 Arlington Street, Nashua, NH and finishes at the Claddagh Pub on Canal Street in Lawrence, MA. It has always included five legs, although the distances and handoff locations have varied over the years with a few minor changes to the route. The end point has shifted several times, but has finished at the Claddagh Pub since 2006.

When the brick is dropped the course travels north on Arlington Street; turning right on East Hollis Street bridging the Merrimack into Hudson. The course parallels the Merrimack going south along Route 3A, with the first of four exchange points at the Sears Warehouse, 68 River Road, Hudson, NH (just beyond the BAE facility near the Hudson, New Hampshire/Tyngsborough, Massachusetts border).

The second leg runs south to the Greater Lowell Technical High School, 228 Sherburn Avenue, Tyngsborough, MA, and exchange point number two. Leg three continues south on Route 113 into Lowell and the U-Mass Lowell Bellegrade Boathouse on Pawtucket Boulevard, the third point of exchange following the shortest leg at 2.55 miles.

From there the longest leg, 9.5-miles, travels east along the river, partly on bike paths but mostly along Route 113 to Route 110 into Dracut and Methuen to the fourth and last exchange at the Griffith Industrial Park on Route 110 in Methuen. The last leg of this remarkable Relay continues on Route 110 heading northeast along the river, crossing under I-93 heading into Lawrence on Water Street to Canal Street. The relay finishes at the Claddagh Pub at 399 Canal Street, Lawrence, MA. Legs are 5.45, 4.75, 2.55, 9.5, and 4.75 miles. The Merrimack River is in sight during most of the event, with some of the course along bike paths immediately adjacent to the river's banks.

Running in the Merrimack Valley

The Merrimack Valley and the mill cities along its banks have a powerful running legacy with many national and world class runners having developed and competed there. One of the mill workers, Henri Renaud of Nashua, New Hampshire, was the winner of the Boston Marathon in the searing heat of 1909. Several Olympians and champions have originated in this hotbed of running. And unlike many regions where participation is the watchword, the Merrimack Valley has traditionally been a center of competitive running.

The Finish, the Party, the Celebration of Running and the Mill Cities Relay

From the beginning the post race party and camaraderie have been the focal point, and this tradition remains. Even though it was founded as an end-of-season get together, runners are exceptionally competitive by nature; and from the beginning competition was intense—and so have been the celebrations. Yes, they are naturally competitive; however, most runners also like to talk about running and like to party. And at the Mill Cities Relay it doesn't take long for the competitive edge to cool, with lots of brewed refreshments and ample servings of food that usually includes chili, pasta, salad, liquids, cookies and chips. Camaraderie and mutual respect are always evident among and between all clubs in this end-of-season bash. The food-fest and music are only interrupted briefly for the presentation of awards, during which time the hall goes quiet.

Keeping Score

Divisions have been expanded to include 15 categories. They include women's and men's open, mixed open, women's and men's masters (40-49), and mixed masters, women's and men's seniors (50-59), and mixed seniors, women's and men's veterans (60 and over) and mixed veterans, and finally women’s and men’s super veterans (70 and over). All divisions require 5 person teams except female seniors, female veterans, mixed veterans, and all three super vet divisions. The latter groupings are 3-person teams with sunshine start (last three legs). Mixed teams must have a minimum of two females (one female, mixed vets and super vets).

In 1998 the scoring format was changed from total time to points and remains essentially the same today. The point system is more advantageous to smaller clubs, because points are awarded according to the number of clubs participating in any given division; that is, awarded based on club participation in each division. For example, if all 20 clubs enter teams in the men's open division, the first place team in that division will be awarded 20 points, the second team 19, on down to the 20th team, which receives 1 point. If there are four clubs participating in the women's veteran's division, the first place team would receive 4 points, the second place team 3 points, and so on. (There is obviously more than one team from each club in any given division, but only the first from each club scores. Again, this insures that smaller clubs are not disadvantaged.


"This race belongs to the clubs, and having run for three decades as a strong, viable event is quite a significant milestone." Dave Camire, Co-Founder


Administration: The Commissioner and the Board of Directors

For 26 of 30 years of the Mill Cities Alliance it was directed by Commissioner Dave Camire, one of the founders. The other two founding fathers, as noted, were Phil Quinn of the Gate City Striders and Marty Cardoza of the Merrimack Valley Striders; both have awards named after them. Dave Camire has been the driving force behind not only the founding of Mill Cities, but also its controlled growth and expansion. He was formerly the President and then coach and competition coordinator for Greater Lowell Road Runners for many years and is in the Greater Lowell Hall of Fame. He also coached the Gate City Striders for years. He is the President of Yankee Timing Company, and most famous for founding Cool Running in 1995, the first-ever running website.

In 2010 Jessica Costa of the Greater Lowell Road Runners was elected President/Commissioner. She is Vice President of the Greater Lowell Road Runners and director or coordinator of several other events. The Mill Cities Alliance is headed by a Board of Directors including Secretary Treasurer Steve Moland (Gate City), along with Directors Dave LaBrode (Andover Striders), Sharon Yu (Winners Circle), Stan Klem (Gate City), Glenn Stewart (Greater Lowell), and Skip Cleaver.

The Mill Cities Committee is made up of members from each of the 20 clubs with each member club getting one vote on all questions. The committee is responsible for all planning, event operations and coordination. They oversee the responsibilities of each club and all volunteers; they are charged with planning and coordinating all aspects of the event.

The Mill Cities Alliance and Relay, an Organization and Event Like No Other

There are many excellent running events in and around the Merrimack Valley of New England. There are long-standing traditions and many reasons why road racing is strong and intriguing for so many in the valley region. Mill Cities is a highlight. Five-person teams have one runner on the road and four in support at any given time. It is a unique event, a most enjoyable one that is cherished by clubs and participants. As with the region, there are strong traditions and a long history behind the Mill Cities Relay.

Those who want to participate must join one of the member clubs. The running clubs of the Merrimack Valley share love of the sport, and they are good at it. They share the philosophy, expertise, dedication, persistence, ingenuity, and enthusiasm that are long-held traditions of the Valley generally. And those attributes are evident in the creation and continued development and operation of this unique and wonderful event, the Mill Cities Relay.

It is one of the outstanding events in New England racing. As with the first 29 years, this will be a terrific post race celebration at the Claddagh Pub with plenty of food provided and beverages for all. Music and laughter will fill the air before and after the Award Bricks are handed out. Mill Cities symbolizes and demonstrates the strength of running in the Merrimack Valley. This is one of the most anticipated events and most festive of post race parties, an ideal location to enjoy the 30th annual Mill Cities Relay.

Please visit for more information on the organization, background, rules, news, awards, course, photos and previous results for this truly unique event.



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