In lieu of class, Yalies flock to Road Race

About 6,800 runners competed in the 35th annual New Haven Road Race, an increase of about 600 over last year.
About 6,800 runners competed in the 35th annual New Haven Road Race, an increase of about 600 over last year. Photo by Harry Simperingham.

Early Monday morning, a horde of 15,000 to 20,000 runners and supporters descended on the Elm City’s streets. As they prepared for the 8:40 a.m. start time of the five-kilometer and 20-kilometer races, runners from Yale and around the country stretched on the New Haven Green and filled the starting lines on Elm and Church Streets as friends cheered them on.

The 35th annual New Haven Road Race brought together about 6,800 runners over three races, a 600-person increase over last year’s race and a record high, according to John Courtmanche, president of the race’s board of directors. Though the Road Race’s registration did not keep track of runners’ university affiliations, Courtmanche said more Yale students and community members participated this year, most likely because Yale cancelled classes to honor Labor Day for the first time in its history.

“It was definitely easier to not need to come back and shower in 15 minutes before class,” said Ben Scruton ’14 who competed in the 5K. Scruton said he has run in the race every year since he came to Yale, but would not have been able to participate this year if his 9 a.m. Monday class had been scheduled to meet. All but one student interviewed said that the new schedule influenced them, at least partly, to compete.

Several student organizations and residential colleges coordinated groups for the race. Ezra Stiles Master Stephen Pitti, who has run the race in the past, said at least 34 Ezra Stiles students participated, most in the 5K race.

On Monday, the Stiles students gathered in front of Lawrance Hall on Old Campus, which houses Ezra Stiles freshmen, just after 8 a.m. Rosie Buchanan ’14 said the Stilesians were decked out in black and yellow, their college’s colors, and many wore face paint.

“It’s a great race,” Pitti said. “It’s a great way to see New Haven and get out and about with other residents of the city and state. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”

Pitti said that due to the success of today’s effort, he has been thinking about doing something similar for a 5K in Stratford, Conn. later this month.

The Trumbull freshman counselor staff also competed in the 5K race. While looking through a calendar of the opening days of school, a freshman counselor joked that the group should run the race together, and Dean Jasmina Besirevic-Regan latched onto the idea, head freshman counselor Mary Weng ’13 said.

Ultimately, 10 Trumbull leaders joined the race, including six freshman counselors, Besirevic-Regan and Master Janet Henrich. During the race, most of the team stuck together and waited at the finish for Henrich and her husband, the last of the group to complete the race.

“There was a huge celebration when they passed the finish line,” Weng said. “We were all waiting for them.”

The men’s and women’s cross country teams did not participate in Monday’s race, because they are gearing for their first race of the season, which will take place in New York on Saturday, according to women’s team captain Nihal Kayali ’13. Although the race did not fit into their training schedules, Kayali said a group watched the 20K race for its big names and competitive running atmosphere.

One Yale cross country and track and field athlete, Tim Hillas ’13, competed, but said he was motivated by Ezra Stiles pride rather than by cross country training. Hillas was the first Yale student to complete the 5K race, crossing the finish line in 16:36 and placing 10th overall.

Other Yale sports teams used the race as a chance to bond and train before their seasons began. Eliza Hastings ’13, team captain for the women’s crew team, said 14 members of the team competed in the 20K and two in the 5K. After a team member mentioned the race in the summer, the team decided to “make something out of it,” wearing their gear and displaying lots of team spirit, Hastings added.

“I’m a rower, not a runner,” Hastings said. “What a better way to run for the first time than with your teammates.”

Hastings added that team members who competed in the past struggled with early morning crew practice, a long race and a full day of classes, so the team appreciated having the afternoon off.

Rachel Sobolev ’14 said she competed this year for the first time in her Yale career. She said the 20K race was a good training opportunity for the Staten Island half marathon in which she plans to compete this October. She said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the frequent water stops, time markers and bands along the course.

Courtmanche said that Yale sponsored the event, and many affiliated with Yale chose to compete. Two members of the New Haven Road Race board of directors also hold positions at Yale: Ray Fair is a professor of economics and Nina Glickson, assistant to the president and advisor on student affairs. Fair and Glickson competed in the 20K and 5K, respectively.

For the past 12 years, the New Haven Road Race has been the host of the men’s and women’s 20K national championship. This year, the top 10 men and women finishers walked away with a combined $44,550 in prize and bonus money. The newer 5K race, which started about 15 to 20 years ago, was more popular among participants — about 3,700 runners chose the shorter distance compared to 2,600 for the national championship.

“We want to support American distance runners,” Courtmanche said. “But 90 percent of the people that come out are just regular runners who love the race. For some, it is their only race of the year.”

To celebrate the 35th anniversary, Courtmanche said the Road Race awarded medals to each finisher for the first time since its 25th anniversary. The third race, a half-mile kids’ run, began at 8:15 a.m. The Road Race board also hired four clowns to amuse the children, many of whom participated in the half-mile kids run before the longer races began.

The winner of the 20K was Matt Tegenkamp of Portland, Ore., with a time of 58:30, and the winner of the 5K was Ryan Pearl of Hamden, Conn., with a time of 15:33.

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