On Monday, October 11, 2010, when the gun goes off at noon to start the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women, it will be the 34th consecutive year for this classic Boston running tradition. Back in 1977, just five years after Frank Shorter triggered the start of the "running boom" with his gold medal in the 1972 Olympics Marathon, the scene would have been quite different than it will most likely be for the 2010 event. However, the race started strong even in its first year when it drew over 2,000 runners, about 1,800 more than were expected.
In the early years, the field would have reflected many of the elite local or regional runners fortunate enough to have cut their teeth in girls' high school or college track programs. One such runner was high school senior Lynn Jennings, the 17 year-old winner of the inaugural event, who would go on to win the title here five more times, and make bronze or better a record 13 times. But the top spot the following year went to another northern New Englander, the swift young Joan Benoit of Maine. And the rest, as they say, is history. Joan Benoit Samuelson is currently the spokesperson for the race.
When Conventures, Inc. presents the 2010 Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women at Noon on Columbus Day this year, it is expected that about 7,500 runners and walkers of all ages and abilities will take off in unified celebration of health and fitness, like a moving stream flowing down Beacon Hill and historic Charles Street toward the river of the same name.
Elite racers and recreational joggers alike join together in a field that is varied and international, and all are attracted to this event for many different reasons. Some are drawn to this race with the hope of setting a PR (personal record). With a course almost as flat as the Charles River itself, and the supportive crowd and generally cooperative weather, this is the place to do it. Other participants are just trying to finish—maybe they've started a new exercise program to get in shape, and this is their first race after months of training. Or maybe they toe the line at the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women because that is what they have been doing every Columbus Day for decades, and they wouldn't consider being anywhere else.
Many women are also attracted to this event because it is an all-women's race. There is something about an all-women's race that builds a sense of camaraderie in addition to the competition. Not that mixed races aren't great, but there are really two events going on in one race—the women's race and the men's. At a race such as this venerable 10K, it is just one race, a wonderful emblem of collective strength!
Once again, some runners will be attracted by the opportunity to compete in the USATF 2010 USA Women's 10K Championship. The Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women has been the USA national championship 16 times in the last 17 years—making it the place in the United States for women to run a 10K race.
In addition to the USATF National Championship, the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women also participates in the USA Running Circuit (USARC), a USA Track & Field road race series consisting of a group of races in which standings determine prize money as well.
Oh, to Run a Flat, Fast Course!
Runners start on Beacon Street and follow a short downhill sprint, before flattening out onto Charles Street, arguably one of the classiest streets in the city, lined with shops and restaurants at the base of Beacon Hill. At the end of Charles Street, the runners approach a slight incline at the Longfellow Bridge as they head over the Charles River to Cambridge. The bridge drops the pack onto Memorial Drive in Cambridge, where runners head west along the river with a full view of the Boston skyline on the left, including the famous CITGO sign in Kenmore Square, and the domes of MIT on the right. This stretch along the river is one of the most popular running routes in the metro area, and thousands enjoy the views here every day. One of the highlights for many runners is that the entire route is closed to traffic.