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home > resources > rose maguire’s great mill girl chase 5k--the only one of its kind in new england

Rose Maguire’s Great Mill Girl Chase 5K--The Only One of Its Kind in New England
For women and for men, anticipation! Yes, anticipation makes the excitement greater, and the pleasure of running more intense. This event is unique! And fun!

Rose Maguire’s Great Mill Girl Chase 5K--The Only One of Its Kind in New England

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Lowell National Historical Park

By Skip Cleaver
Posted Thursday, 17 May, 2007

This is the original in all the land, a 5K where women start first. However, the overall race is combined genders, and age divisions are shared. It is the fifth annual Rose Maguire Great Mill Girl Chase 5K. And those who have run it previously will tell you—the concept makes for a really enjoyable, unique, and exciting running experience. It is amazing how long two minutes and thirty seconds can be—or how short, depending on whether you are chasing or being chased. Anticipation!

The date is Tuesday, June 12, 2007, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in downtown Lowell. The sports bar, Hookslide Kelly's (Rose would love it) is race headquarters, and the start and finish are nearby. This event is for men and for women. Let’s face it, without a substantial field of both genders, there would be a lot less interest, and a lot less enjoyment. photo courtesy Jim Rhoades Collection

As for the course, this is one of the best and fastest—3.1 miles along the majestic Merrimack River. This unique 5K will be run in beautiful Renaissance Lowell, Massachusetts, zipping along the now-famous Riverwalk in Lowell National Historic Park, one of very few urban National Parks. Lowell is part of the great National Parks system, owing to the significance of this city in leading the American Industrial Revolution.

It is a city of innovation; therefore an innovative race is naturally a part of the culture.

Rose's Fun Facts

In 2005 the Rose Maguire Great Women Chase was the first race in New England and perhaps the country to give a pair of free running shoes to each entrant

Last year, women made up 54-percent of the field and won 62-percent of the prizes..

Kara Haas of Chelmsford, MA has won all previous Rose Maguire races.

In order to insure everyone has a GREAT time, this year's race will be limited to 400 entrants.

For information, please visit

The Rose Maguire is simply one of the best 5K races anywhere. It runs along the Merrimack and past the foundations of our national industry. This course is easy to describe, and easy to run. It begins at Lowell High School, where Jack Kerouac studied and developed. It is a lollipop course with a clockwise loop on the northern end. It runs adjacent to the Tsongas Arena (named for Lowell’s own Paul Tsongas, United States Senator and Presidential Candidate), and LeLacheur Park, home of the Spinners, the Red Sox minor league team. It travels along restored mill buildings, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, historic bridges, and venerable canals; it stays mostly along the river. This traffic free course finishes near restored Boott Mills in Boarding House Park (home of the famous National Folk Festival). There you can view the house where Rose Maguire lived and worked.

And there you can enjoy the post-race party and awards, which would make Rose Maguire proud. Irish sports barwith a party? I think so! Anticipation!

The Concept—The Original
This was the original, the innovator. As far as we can determine, this was the first “chase” concept race when it debuted five years ago as described here on Cool Running. There have been several races copy this concept in recent years, most notably the City of Los Angeles Marathon, which offers $100,000 to the winner--woman or man first across the line.

The concept is simple enough—all the women start. Two minutes and 30 seconds later, the men start in pursuit. For the men, it is the longest two and a half minutes ever experienced. For the women, it seems like the shortest 150 seconds on record. And the “chase” is on. The first person to cross the finish line wins—woman or man. Last year, the top ten were evenly split between men and women. Kara Haas of Chelmsford, Massachusetts won the overall title for the third year in a row. photo courtesy Jim Rhoades Collection

Historic Lowell
Why are we drawn so much by rivers, especially a river such as the mighty Merrimack? The movement? The energy? The irresistible force?

Water, water, let it flow.
Water, water makes it go.

Here, it was always the river that ruled the pace and flow of life. The Merrimack, especially around Pawtucket Falls, was central to the Pennacook Indians before the arrival of Europeans. Fish caught at the falls provided a dependable staple for centuries. When white settlers came, they made the river a highway. They engineered a safe route around the falls and rapids by building the 1-½ mile Pawtucket Canal. (The Pawtucket Canal was originally built in 1794 as a transportation canal—a means of getting shipping around the Pawtucket Falls traveling to and from New Hampshire.)

Taking river and canal transportation one step further in 1804, the Middlesex Canal departed the Merrimack one mile above the falls, and wound its way 27 miles directly to Boston, another transport canal built to bypass the falls—and in this case, bypass Newburyport as well.

And then came the hydro-powered mills. Investors, including Henry Cabot Lowell, recognized the value of the power generated by the 34-foot fall of the river over and around the Pawtucket Falls. They decided to put the Merrimack and the Pawtucket Canal to work as a power source to drive great mills. And a great city grew from a sleepy farming community into an industrial giant in a few short years. Beginning in 1823, the first mills were built, and soon there were ten enormous complexes powered through a series of canals. Those canals are still in place today: Pawtucket Upper and Lower, Hamilton, Merrimack, Western, Northern, Eastern, and the confluence of the Concord River. There are six miles of canals, which harnessed enough power to lead the nation in textile output. photo courtesy Jim Rhoades Collection

These were Rose Maguire’s mills, canals, boarding houses, streets, tracks, and trails.

Lowell today is living history. The canals still flow, and some of the mills still stand. A few of the boarding houses remain (where Rose spent so many years), and can be explored thanks to the creation of the Lowell Historic National Park (1978).

In many ways, Lowell has not changed very much since the early 1800’s when it was the second largest city in New England, the leader and focal point of American industry. The innovations in hydro-technology and mechanical engineering made Lowell world famous, and one of the world’s leading textile centers. No textile mills remain, but the energy and innovation, the legacy and the history are a powerful presence.

Lowell was then and is now a city of Immigrants, a city of fantastic diversity. Rose Maguire and the Irish, Kerouac and the French Canadians, Eastern Europeans, Asians, Hispanics, and Africans—all add tremendous energy to this vibrant city. Workers like Rose Maguire came from all over the East, and then from all over the world to labor in the enormous mills, which powered a change in America from a sleepy rural farm-based economy to a first class industrial power in only a few decades. And the evolution since has been equally remarkable.

Lowell is a city of energy. Lowell is a city of runners. Lowell reflects the best of the Merrimack Valley, one of the most potent running strongholds in the nation. The Rose Maguire Great Women’s Chase 5K is a celebration of the history, tradition, diversity, and energy of this historic region.

Who the Hell is Rose Maguire?
Rose Maguire spent most of her life in Lowell, and in many ways this woman reflects the dynamism, diversity, and transformation of the great city. It is, after all, the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. *

Rose was a strong Irish woman whose parents emigrated from Ireland in the early 1800’s. Her father went to work in the Pennsylvania Coal mines when she was very young. It was there that they met the Spencers. John Spencer had a brother, Irvin, living in Monson, New Hampshire, and Irvin Spencer was looking for help in operating a large farm. Rose’s dad, Thomas Maguire, was a farmer by trade in Ireland, and decided to move the family to Monson.

Rose had five brothers, only one younger, and they could run like the wind. But they could not keep up with Rose. It was said that nobody in the county, boy or girl, could keep up with her. She loved to run, and did so every chance she got.

In her late teens, she and the family learned from a traveler/recruiter who set up a temporary office in the village, that young women were needed to work in the mills in far-off Lowell. They offered room and board, an exciting urban life in the newly developing City of Lowell, and a chance to see the world outside of Monson. Her prospects otherwise being slim to none—and the family in need of additional income—she signed up for a year in the mills.

She worked 14-hour days, except for Saturdays, which were only 6 hours. Sundays were always off. She lived by the mill bell, as did everyone in Lowell. It was a dramatically different life than the quiet rural existence of her youth. She signed on, however, for another year, and then another.

She became a leader in the Boarding House, and was in the forefront of demands for better pay and shorter work weeks. She wrote a newsletter, and organized meetings. Not that she minded working—she was one tough woman—but she knew many of her friends, especially new young women from other farms and from Europe, were suffering poor health and injuries as a result of long hours and dangerous machinery. She was a survivor, but she saw many other workers lose limbs and break bones, as well as suffering overall ill health.

When possible, she took her friends and the younger women out for walks. And when out of view of managers and others, they ran. It was an outing that kept them fit and happy, and created a tremendous camaraderie in their boarding house. It was and exciting “club”, and the only time available when they were in complete control of their actions and their lives.

Eventually Rose met Sean O’Leary, a gifted mechanical genius who kept everything running smoothly in her part of the mill. And she knew she would not be returning to Monson. In the upheaval that was the Civil War, the mill work slowed. Sean enlisted in an Irish regiment, and served proudly for three years. Eventually, as promised, he returned to marry Rose.

During his absence, she was put in charge of her boarding house after the Smith’s departed—they had lost two sons during the war. Rose and Sean became the guiding lights for the young women who boarded in their house. After the war, the mills became a beehive of activity once again, and they had their hands full managing not only their Boarding house, but the adjacent one as well.

Rose had decided during Sean’s war service, that she would never change her name. So she remained Rose Maguire throughout her life—very unusual in those days. (But not surprising to those who knew her.) They had four boys and a girl, Rosey Maguire O’Leary. All five could run like the wind, and proved it. No other children in the area could keep up with them. They took after their mother in that respect. In fact, Rose’s grandson represented the USA and ran in the Olympic Games

So strong-willed and well thought of was Rose Maguire that they were often referred to as “the Maguires”. And Sean did not mind a bit. The Maguire family motto, “Justice and Fortitude Invincible”, went back many generations. It was their guide throughout their long life together. They were fair, and worked hard, raised good and generous children, and took a genuine parental interest in all their borders—hundreds influenced by them over the years.

Rose Maguire outlived Sean by nearly a decade, going to her final resting place in Lowell in 1893. She was well respected for her contributions to the community, the workers, and to the entire social fabric of Lowell. Rose Maguire was a person of action, a teller of stories, an individual who made a difference. Women like her, and innovative inventors, and thousands of workers, made Lowell a marvel of a city. They made it the world leader in Industry and Technology. They left a great legacy.

Race Awards
The Rose Maguire Great Women’s Chase 5K will present age group awards based on finishing time—not gender. There will be ten-year age groups through 70-plus, and a cash prize for the overall winner. The top 10, females or males, will be awarded merchandise prizes and gift certificates. Every finisher receives a very attractive and unique commemorative medal. And the top 150 will earn Rose Maguire Challenge T-shirts (they are very nicely done). Awards will be provided three deep in all divisions. Many will consider the T-shirts a unique prize as well.

Registration can be by mail or on-line. Because of the Riverwalk course, the field is limited to 400 runners. Race day registration (if available) and number pickup will go from 5:00 to 6:45 p.m. at the Hookslide Kelly's located at 19 Merrimack Street, in the center of Lowell and those historic canals. This is for individual runners and teams. Please allow time to walk or jog the 1/8-mile from registration to the start.

This 5K will be memorable. The Rose Maguire Great Women’s Chase 5K will give you a terrific run and a uniquely interesting weeknight workout. Tradition and history combine with a scenic course, and a unique chase concept to make this one of the most enjoyable 5Ks of the season.

* The story of Rose Maguire as related here is purely fictional. Any similarity to, or comparison with, actual persons is completely coincidental.


Event Website

Race date
June 12, 2007

Start times
7:00 PM

Limit to 400 Entrants

Typically mid-70s

Rosie's Old Fashion T-Shirt Challenge
Top 150 finishers (by place) receive a Rosie's Challenge T-Shirt

Top ten overall. Top three in the following divisions: 0-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70+.

Rose Maguire Finishing Medals
All finishers receive a Rose Maguire finisher's medal

Rockin' Rosies Block Party
All entrants are invited back to Kelly's Hookslide for an after race party featuring live music and good company courtesy of the Kelly's Hookslide

Personal Photos
Each participant will be professionally photographed during the race and photos will be available for FREE download




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