To most people, the 4th of July conjures up visions of fireworks, back yard barbeques and parades.
To runners, the 4th of July represents the biggest road racing day of the year, and what better way is there to celebrate our independence then with the freedom of running?
Road racing on Independence Day is akin to high school football on Thanksgiving Day. In just about every community in the country you will find a race. Only a handful of these races stand out as being special. The 19th Annual Sons of Italy Fourth of July Road Races in Lawrence, MA is one such event.
After an eighteen year stint at the Sons of Italy Hall in Lawrence, this year the 5 kilometer and 5 mile road race will be changing venues as the event moves to the newly renovated Veterans Memorial Stadium. The new venue offers advantages over the previous location.
First the stadium is now part of the beautiful and new Lawrence High School complex. It has easy highway access, plenty of free parking and is terrific for viewing. Your friends and family can relax while the race is in progress and watch from the stands as you finish inside the stadium "This year the race will finish on the fifty yard line of the track," says the event's director Marshall McCloskey.
New Courses--Much Flatter
Along with the new venue there will be new routes for the 5 kilometer and 5 mile races. "These courses are much flatter then last year," states McCloskey. This will probably be a welcomed change from last year's challenging route. Both courses will pass through the working class neighborhoods of South Lawrence with the five mile race going through the Mt. Vernon section of the city where you'll find tree lined streets and parks.
The 5 kilometer race stays closer to the stadium. Lieutenant Michael McGrath of the Lawrence Police Department assisted in the course design to insure a safe route for all runners and walkers. Both courses are accurately measured and course certification is pending.
Road Racing Resurgence in Lawrence
If any city in the Commonwealth can be singled out as experiencing a road race renaissance it has to be the City of Lawrence. Over the past few years the events in the city have witnessed a tremendous amount of growth. For example, the Claddagh Pub 4-Miler has grown from 107 finishers in 2005 to a record 766 finishers this past year. The famed Mill Cities Relay, which ends in Lawrence at the Claddagh Pub, experienced its biggest year ever with 184 teams finishing. Other city events such as the Vietnam Memorial 4-Miler in October is also experiencing steady growth.
One of the reasons for this road racing resurgence is due in part to the cooperative attitude of city officials and the police department. From the mayor's office to the guys who sweep the streets, everyone in Lawrence is working in unison to make sure your visit to the city is a pleasurable one.
Another reason for Lawrence's resurgence is the cooperative effort among the member clubs of the Mill Cities Alliance (a cooperative of clubs that run the annual Mill Cities Relay). Members of these clubs have lent support and expertise to many of these events contrbuting to their success. The Merrimack Valley Striders, one of the founding clubs of the Mill Cities Relay, have been very influential in the organization of the Sons of Italy race for years.
It's a Family Affair
Families are encouraged to bring their youngsters to participate in a 1K youth race starting at 8:00 am, one-half hour before the adult races. Medals will be awarded to the first 3 finishers in 2 year age groups, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, and 13-14. And all youth race entrants will receive a medal indicating their participation.