The Second Annual Ashland Half Marathon and 5K, Running at the Original, Historic Boston Marathon Start
The Ashland Half-Marathon and 5K will run for the second time on Sunday, October 27 at 10:30 a.m., at Marathon Park in Ashland, Massachusetts. Set at the original Boston Marathon starting line and running in late October to take advantage of the cool temperatures, the half marathon winds its way along a picturesque 13.1-mile figure-8 course through Ashland's foliage-lined roads and lanes and will include a team option this year. The 5K racers will cross the starting line at the same time as the half marathoners. Both races finish at Marathon Park.
Posted Thursday, 17 October, 2013
The first 27 Boston Marathons began in Ashland and the Ashland Half-Marathon begins and ends at Marathon Park, the historic spot where 15 runners crossed a starting line scraped across the dirt road in front of the iconic Metcalfe’s Mill as the very first “Boston” began in 1897.
As with the inaugural last fall, Ashland Half Marathon and 5K competitors will follow in the paths of the greats, among them Clarence DeMar, a seven-time Boston champ, first winner John J. McDermott, speed demon Sammy Mellor, and Native American wonder Thomas Longboat. The half-marathon course shadows the original route of “Boston” through Ashland as well as the present day race’s path across town.
“Ashland’s pretty, but it's not easy; It's challenging. It's for real.”
The course is a mixture of flats and hills, at some points running parallel to the Sudbury River and at others skirting Ashland State Park. It includes a hilly stretch in mile 10 that was labeled “The Green Street Monster” after last year’s inaugural race.
“Ashland’s pretty, but it's not easy," said Bill Rodgers, Boston Marathon icon who will serve as race ambassador again this year as he did for the 2012 running. "It's challenging. It's for real.”
The second Ashland Half-Marathon and 5K will offer runners many great experiences and benefits. But best of all is the opportunity to run in the footsteps of legends!
A Few Highlights
Participants will have a chance to meet, greet and compete with two members of running’s true royalty: Bill Rodgers, a four-time winner of both the Boston and New York Marathons, and Bobbi Gibb, most likely the first woman ever to run any marathon anywhere and a three-time Boston winner.
They offer a challenging figure-8 half-marathon course, which Rodgers compares to the famous Falmouth 10K route for its beauty, and also to the hilly road from the Plains of Marathon, Greece into Athens, in legend the path followed by the very first marathoner, Pheidippides, on his fatal errand around 490 BC. The course received rave reviews from many quarters after last year’s inaugural race.
Ashland provides a host community where the residents, public officials and business leaders joined together last October to roll out the welcome mat for the inaugural field of 760 runners of all levels and paces. Their outstanding organizational efforts will continue for this October 27 and a field expected to double in size.
On Saturday, October 26, race weekend will kick off with the unveiling of six plaques in Marathon Park, detailing some of its history. They will hold a race expo on Saturday also with an opportunity for packet and goodie bag pick up, while other Saturday events are rapidly taking shape. For related event updates for Saturday and race day check with the race website: www.ashlandhalfmarathon.com.
The 2012 field was thrilled to run with the legendary Rodgers who, in turn, was happy to serve as race ambassador, advising runners on a variety of subjects, posing for pictures, signing autographs, shaking hands and entertaining spectators. He created a tremendous amount of goodwill with his one-of-a-kind style and bonhomie while the very presence of Gibb, who may run the 5K this year, captivated many of the female runners, who comprised over 60 percent of the 2012 field.
Rodgers will be signing his new book at the expo, "Marathon Man: My 26.2 Mile Journey from Unknown Grad Student to the Top of the Running World". He likes the fall date for the race. "Road running is an endurance sport, a cardio sport and you must train. The cooler weather in the fall helps you with that," he said. "I like to run in the cooler weather. Every runner does. "It's better to run a half-marathon in the fall."
Ashland’s History no Longer a Mystery
Now labeled Marathon Park and marked by a sign donated by The 26.2 Foundation of Hopkinton, the Pleasant Street location in Ashland was the site of Metcalf’s Mill, the original starting point for Boston’s marathons (1897-1898). The starting line was then moved about the Ashland neighborhoods for distance corrections until the course was stretched into Hopkinton in 1924 to conform to Olympic standards.
“This is an important piece in the project to turn Marathon Park into a regional, even national, attraction” Steve Greenberg
The Ashland Sports Authority, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit incorporated in 2013 and registered in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has dedicated the proceeds from the race and its future editions to further rehabilitate Marathon Park, arguably the cradle of the worldwide running boom. This will commemorate the marathon’s great pioneers with an eye toward establishing a future museum nearby featuring “The Ashland Era” of the marathon and distance running history in general.
The Ashland Half Marathon provides a picturesque and challenging course plus an exciting team option added this year. It has veteran organizers, Squanto Productions of Quincy, Massachusetts, and a fall event date competitive runners crave. Participants and spectators have easy access by car or by public transportation with the Ashland stop on the Boston-Worcester MBTA line just steps away from Marathon Park. There is plenty of free parking nearby. Thus the Ashland Half-Marathon and 5K are on track to become a special race and a family-friendly event to be celebrated for many years to come.
They Have Planned Well for You, Before and After
Saturday’s a 3-1/2-hour race expo will feature walk-up race registration, and the dispersal of numbers and race packets and goodie bags to those pre-registered. It will provide opportunities for the public to interact with Rodgers and Gibb. About two dozen vendors are expected to be at this expo.
After the race, a party will be held on the grounds of the nearby VFW post, featuring delicious food as well as beverages provided by the Long Trail Brewery and Barefoot Wines. There will be medals for all half-marathon finishers and top three overall and top three age group medals in all divisions, half marathon and 5K. Winner’s names will be engraved on the “Bill Rodgers Cup”. See more details on awards and the cup at www.ashlandhalfmarathon.com
Dedication for Plaques in the Park to Provide Historic Details and Inform Visitors
The unveiling ceremony on Saturday morning will be a celebration of Marathon Park’s history with runners and the general public being joined by members of the press, local luminaries, distinguished members of the running community, and local and state officials.
“This is an important piece in the project to turn Marathon Park into a regional, even national, attraction,” said Steve Greenberg, president of the Ashland Sporting Association, in reply to questions about the six plaques to be mounted on permanent podiums around the park.
“When people see these plaques and can read about the events, the history, surrounding this place, they’ll understand how important this spot is for runners, fans of the sport and, really, historians in general,” said Greenberg. "And we're committed to making this a great destination for everyone, not just runners.”
Four of the podiums were already in place in the park, left over from a previous effort to rehabilitate Marathon Park, Greenberg said, while two new podiums were purchased along with the plaques from a New Jersey company that supplies similar items to national and state parks attractions.
Four of the plaques are 36 inches wide and 18 inches deep and feature stories and rare photographs about some of the more notable Boston Marathons between 1897 and 1923 and the events surrounding them, including one plaque dedicated to DeMar, the legendary seven-time Boston winner who began his first three triumphs in Ashland.
The two other plaques are 36 inches tall, one 18 inches wide which contains tabular information about the 27 champions who started in Ashland, while the other is 30 inches across and will hold summaries of all 27 races. All the plaques are a half-inch thick, constructed of a customized high-pressure laminate material with a graffiti-resistant coating.
Stephen Flynn Describes the “Wild West” of Road Racing
When it was decided that the plaques were a necessary part of the start-up plan to improve the park, a long-time Boston-area newspaper man and sports enthusiast was commissioned to develop them.
“When this project was brought to me, I thought it would be interesting, but I didn’t know it would be this interesting,” said Stephen Flynn. “This period in Ashland was like the Wild West of road racing.” “There were a lot great runners coming through here, real champions in running circles, of course,” said Flynn.
“But, along with these top-notch runners and Olympians, these races also had their fair share of scoundrels and odd fellows, and a bunch of other curious events that make it all fun. I hope that comes across on the plaques.”
Flynn, who became a founding member of the ASA, said he relied on books and pamphlets on early marathon events as prime sources while developing these plaques.
“Thank heavens for those guys, the authors,” said Flynn. “They did the vast majority of the legwork, found the things that make these plaques interesting. I just compiled, translated their stories, if you will, and tried to fill in the blanks with some of my own research.
“We credit these authors properly, all together on one of the plaques, but I wish I could thank them all personally,” he said. “I don’t know how they put all this together, the sheer amount of labor required before computers. It’s amazing!”
There will be a reception held nearby following the ceremony and the public is invited. See more at www.ashlandhalfmarathon.com
Foundations of the Sport
Rodgers agrees that Ashland deserves its rediscovered notoriety. "Ashland's place in the sport's history had been put to the back of people's mind after the marathon starting line was moved back to Hopkinton to match the Olympic distance."
He has likened the town's spot in sports history to Hall of Fame hometowns such as Springfield, Massachusetts, for basketball and Cooperstown, New York, in baseball.
"Isn't there a place like Ashland for football?" Rodgers asked in a 2012 Boston Herald article, before quickly answer answering his own question regarding Canton. "It's like (James) Naismith in basketball. Hockey, baseball, probably all the sports, have that special place where they all started," he said. "Ashland's like that for running,” he concluded.
Greenberg said that a design team associated with the Rhode School of Design is currently working with an engineer to formulate plans for an expanded park, an open space for all to enjoy along the Sudbury River. “It’s all part of a plan to connect the park with a distance-running museum and year-round multi-purpose function center being planned for a refurbished VFW building one lot away.”
Please register now and save some money; fees increase October 1. Speaking of saving, create a team of five or more and have your registration fee refunded. Team or individual, this will be a terrific and unique event. Everyone, it seems, is targeting the half marathon distance; and here is your opportunity. You can register and find all the details at www.ashlandhalfmarathon.com.