Over 5,000 people gathered on the New Haven Green Monday morning to kickstart their Labor Day with food trucks, music and some cardio.
The 42nd New Haven Road Race drew Yale students, Connecticut residents and elite runners alike to the Elm City. Participants competed in a half-marathon, 20K, 5K and kids fun run. The 20K also served as the USA Track and Field National Championship, with nearly $40,000 in prize money available for top finishers. Sponsored primarily by the Faxon Law Group, other local sponsors included Elm City Market, the University and the News.
The first event of the day was the half-mile kids fun run, which kicked off shortly after 8 a.m. The starting pistols for the 5K, 20K and half-marathon followed 20 minutes later. Two-time NCAA champion and Olympian Leonard Korir of Colorado Springs, Colorado won the 20K with a time of 59:06, a minute and 11 seconds faster than his first-place finish last year. Matthew Ferrell of Glastonbury, Connecticut won the 5K with a time of 15:07. Crossing the finish line nearly seven minutes before the second-place runner, Moath Alkhawaldeh of Amman, Jordan won the half-marathon with a time of 1:08:48.
On the women’s side, the 20K winner was professional middle-distance runner Sara Hall of Flagstaff, Arizona. Hall enjoyed the support of local family members on the course — sister Amy Bei is a New Haven resident and assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale.
In an interview with the News, Hall offered advice for aspiring marathoners.
“Work on your speed when you’re young,” Hall said. “I’m really thankful I did shorter events younger … but yeah, definitely building in the mileage slowly and running on soft surfaces as much as you can.”
Like Hall, Korir had his sights set on an upcoming race of larger scale: the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar. Compared to last year’s oppressive heat, Korir thought that “today was better” for race conditions, but still “windy.” Korir told the News that he was hoping to maintain 4:40 mile splits, but the wind got in the way.
Amateurs and professionals traveled from around the state for Monday’s race. Kevin Grimes, a resident of Sandy Hook, Connecticut and director of the Connecticut Special Olympics Unified Long Distance Running Team, has fielded a team at the event every year since 1990. Half of his group is comprised of Special Olympians, while the other half are unified runners — the team trains side-by-side for four months and then competes in roughly five races each fall. The New Haven Road Race is always their first event of the season. Grimes noted that the race serves as a good indicator of athletes’ initial fitness.
Many attendees were also local. Gabriel Fulton told the News that the best part of Monday morning’s race was running by his house. Fulton, a Hopkins School student and New Haven resident, ran the road race for the first time this year, completing the 5K in just under 30 minutes. His friend Magda Lena Griffel, who clocked in at 33:41, said that her favorite part of the race were the cups of water distributed at the halfway mark.
Student volunteers from Hillhouse High School worked at the registration and packet distribution tables and distributed cups of water on the course. They volunteered in their capacity as cadets in the Junior ROTC program at Hillhouse, which is run by retired U.S. Army Sgt. Lisa Rodriguez. Rodriguez said that the ROTC program aims to foster leadership and good citizenship, two qualities which she thought the teens, who arrived on the Green at 6 a.m. for set-up, exemplified.
When asked about her favorite part of the event — which she has helped to coordinate for the better part of a decade — Rodriguez emphasized the community-building that the event fosters.
“[My favorite part is] probably letting the kids get out and see the different stations and the food and interact with what’s happening in New Haven,” she said.
Several Yale students who attended the race echoed her sentiments. Leet Miller ’23 said that the race was exciting because it forced him outside of Old Campus. As a prospective Urban Studies major, he was pleased to observe the diversity in buildings throughout the course.
Many residential colleges at Yale sponsored student entry fees in the race, with some college contingents — such as a group from Ezra Stiles — running together as a team. Runners from Yale’s varsity cross country team also attended the event as spectators.
“My favorite part about the race was getting to know New Haven a little better and seeing the community come together,” said Isabella Hay ’23, who ran the 5K.
An estimated 2,500 hot dogs were served at last year’s road race.
Olivia Tucker | firstname.lastname@example.org