It started in 1960 with 30 runners who finished the original distance of eight miles in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Now, 51 years later the New England running community is excited in preparation for Tuesday, August 2, and the 51st Yankee Homecoming races, the ten miler and 5K. By the time all runners cross the finish line on race night the totals will be around 3,500 for the two distances. It is pretty easy to say that the Yankee Homecoming races have grown quite a bit in the past half-century. For many runners in New England, the mid-summer Tuesday night Yankee Homecoming races are as much a part of the summer as going to the beach.
Why will so many travel to Newburyport on a Tuesday evening? The course accounts for part of it, as anyone who has been to Newburyport can attest. As one writer once put it, "Newburyport is a sightseers dream. With the sun setting on the old federal or colonial style homes and the run through the waterfront section of town runners get a wonderful view of a New England seaport town at its best."
The race is also part of a week-long Yankee Homecoming celebration in Newburyport, so you can imagine the festive atmosphere that surrounds the races. Folks line the street during the first half of the course when the runners travel through the downtown district. In the last five miles the course weaves through a residential section—usually quaint and quiet. However, it is a disappointment if there aren't at least a half dozen parties or barbecues along the course during that part of the race. It feels like a mid-summer's smaller version of the Boston Marathon.
Through the years the races have been a "who's who" of the New England and Northeast running scene. The men's course record for the ten miler is held by Simon Karori, a familiar sight at the Boston Marathon in the early 1990's. Karori set the Yankee Homecoming 10-mile record in 1994, running 48 minutes, one second. On many occasions the race was a New England championship race, bringing the region's best clubs to the race. Prize money totaling $4,300 for the ten-mile race guarantees the field will always be strong. The 5K history, while younger, has also seen some of the best of the New England running scene as well. Both races have age categories in five year increments with running shoe gift certificates offered as prizes.
A race as old as Yankee Homecoming has seen it all in its history. Over the years, as technology has changed the face of road racing, Yankee Homecoming has kept up with the times. From manual timing to chip timing, and now Chronotrack "B" or bib chip timing, Yankee Homecoming has provided the best services to runners. For a number of years the race has also had an announcer proudly calling out the names of runners as they approach the finish line, adding greatly to an already festive atmosphere.
It can be warm! Yes, this is New England and it is mid-summer. Some years the runners have been lucky to have cool conditions, but on other occasions, like 2006, the temperature has been right up there. Not to worry. The Lions Club has official water stops while the spectators also chip in. Almost every mile someone will be out there handing out something to drink; but one word of caution: If one of the cups being offered comes from a spectator it may require proof of being 21 or over before consumption.
And when all is said and done there is plenty of post-race refreshment. From the ice cream to the hot dogs, to the cookies, and a variety of liquids, runners can celebrate their 5K or ten mile run in fine fashion.
An event this size requires an organization committed to doing the job right. In 1960 the race was organized by the Newburyport Jaycees. In 1980 the Newburyport Lions Club took over and they have been running things since, with Jon Pearson serving as the race director. Dozens of volunteers spread out from the registration and start area to points all over town make sure the runners are taken care from start to finish. It can also not be stressed enough that for a race of this caliber, having an important local business step up as race sponsor is as valuable as any other part of the race. In 2010 Provident Bank returns as sponsor, helping to guarantee a successful night.Need to know more? The race's website is www.yankeerace.com Can't make it to this event? Search for other running events.