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Andy On the Run: Thousands of runners can't be wrong


IF 2014 was any indication, the New Hampshire road race scene is about to experience something extraordinary. Starting today, over the next three weeks the Granite State is going to see five races exceed 1,000 finishers while three of them will top 2,000 finishers. Assuming the numbers at these races match last year's figures, what will happen will be historic for this state. Never before have there been "1,000-plus finisher" races in a three-week span.

There was a time when topping 1,000 finishers was a huge deal for a New Hampshire race. The first event to do so was in the 1980's, the Shirt Factory race in Salem, organized by legendary Dave Camire, the owner of Yankee Timing. When Shirt Factory faded in the 1990's, the Market Square Day 10K in Portsmouth became the standard bearer for the "1,000" club.

Fifteen years ago, you could count on one hand the number of Granite State races with 1,000 finishers. Thanks to the current running boom, the number of races with over 1,000 finishers has exploded. In 2014, there were 27 events that fit that category.

That brings us to the present and the five races that are about to make history on the local running scene. Here is a preview of the quintet.

May 3: Cinco De Miles 5K, Bedford

This is the third year for this race whose name is a spinoff of the Mexican holiday. From the start, the holiday theme ensured a big turnout by Manchester area runners who were looking for a race and a good time that followed. There were 1,456 finishers in 2013, and the race organizers, Millennium Running, quickly learned the event needed a bigger space. Last year, the race moved to the New Hampshire Sportsplex in Bedford and created a unique setting. The finish line is inside the place, making it one of only a few races in the country that finishes indoors. The result was 2,068 finishers.

Not surprisingly, the post-race refreshments have included beer and margaritas. It should also be pointed out that yours truly was so taken by the 2013 T-shirt that I declared it the greatest T-shirt in the state's road race history. That's how much regard I have for black long sleeve shirts with a collar.

May 10: Moms On The Run 5K, Dover

It has been well chronicled how the Dover Race Series has brought hundreds of participants to its Garrison City races, but no one saw this coming. In 2013, the year before the Dover Series, Moms On The Run had 594 finishers. Last year, the eighth for this race, the number jumped to 1,235. It turned out to be the largest of any of the Dover Race Series events and left race organizers speechless.

As the name indicates, there is a strong women's presence at this race and that has been the case from year one.

Before 2014, there were a large number of walkers who participated as a way of celebrating their day (Mother's Day). That presence continued last year but now that Mom's On The Run is part of the Dover series, there is a large contingent of serious runners who have jumped in.

May 16: Stonyfield Earth Day 5K, Londonderry

This race has an interesting history in a short period of time (this is its fifth year). It started as an April race in 2012 and had 1,080 finishers. In year two, also in April, the number almost doubled to over 1,800. In 2014, the date was changed to May and the number dropped to 1,045. It was held the same weekend as Cinco De Miles and that may have had an impact. This year, the conflict has been avoided by moving the date to mid-May.

The change in date may mean the race is not held when the real Earth Day occurs. but it is still a fun event that honors the environment.

It takes place on the Stonyfield Yogurt grounds with an Earth Day fair, with plenty of free food, drink and live music to create a festive atmosphere. There is also a kids run for the youngsters.

May 21: Rock N Race 5K, Concord

Using timed finishers as the measuring stick, the two largest New Hampshire races take place on a Thursday night and this is one of them (the Cigna/Elliot 5K in August in Manchester is the other). On the Thursday night before Memorial Day, expect thousands of runners and walkers to show up in the Capital City while representing their companies and organizations.

This race is a fund-raiser for the Payson Cancer Care Center at Concord Hospital and has used that fund raising approach to get a lot of folks to participate.

The question is how many will show up. This is one of a few races in America that allows walkers to participate without bib numbers. The only timed finishers are runners and, in the past few years, those numbers have been well over 2,500.

The race always claims to have over 6,000 entrants, which would put it on par with Cigna/Elliot. Since Cigna/Elliot times its walkers, its number of finishers exceeds 5,000.

Does Rock N Race match that number with the number of walkers who cross the finish line? Until those walkers are given bib numbers, the world may never know.

May 24: Runner's Alley/ Redhook 5K, Portsmouth

When it comes to party races in the Granite State all hail this event. It started in 1998 and was the first major party-themed event in New Hampshire. In 1999, it topped the 1,000-finisher mark and never looked back. When the Seacoast Series started in the mid-2000's, the numbers took another leap. Now the race sells out at well over 2,000 entries and has topped 2,000 finishers for a number of years.

Why so big? The start and finish are at Redhook Brewery.

As one runner said in 1998, just prior to the first year of the event, "this race is going to be a classic."

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RUNNING SHORTS: Left overs from the Boston Marathon: According to UNH track coach Jim Boulanger, about 20 former UNH runners ran the marathon, another indication of the strong performances former Wildcats are turning in at road races. There were 343 New Hampshire runners who finished, along with one wheelchair athlete. The wheelchair athlete, Andre Martin of Goffstown, was the youngest wheelchair athlete to finish the race. Concord's Eric Williams finished 14th in the 50-54 division, the best finish in any division by a New Hampshire runner ...

The winners of the Chief Maloney Unity 10K run were Madison's Jim Johnson and Somersworth's Christine Houde ...

Correction: When writing about former Dartmouth College runner Ben True setting the American 5K road race record, I stated he had gone to Dartmouth on a ski scholarship. He attended Dartmouth and was an outstanding skier, but was not on a ski scholarship.

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Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at schachat44@gmail.com.

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