A Fabled Road Race Returns

Remember 1978? The year that President Carter convened the Camp David summit; Rev. Jim Jones’ followers committed mass suicide in Guyana, and Sony introduced the Walkman.

It was also the year the Westport Young Woman’s League introduced a 10K race.

The women’s organization and road running may not seem a natural fit, but 35 years ago 10K races were all the rage. Members traveled around the state to watch other races. They set a course and rounded up business sponsors.

By 1979 they were, um, off to the races. Running past the Minuteman statue near Compo Beach gave the April event a name it’s had ever since.

600 runners paid the initial $3 registration fee, and started at Jesup Green. The League provided coffee and donuts, water stations, electronic timers and t-shirts. The Staples Jazz Band played at the finish line.

The 2nd year, rain turned everyone’s labels to mush. But the race was a hit. Within a few years, proceeds contributed to charity doubled.

In 1985 the starting point was moved to the beach. The distance was changed to 5 miles. Two years later, a “scamper” race was added.

The start of a Minute Man race is always fun. This was the scene at last year's 10K.

The 1999 event featured online registration. The technological change met an immovable force — snow, hail and rain — but by then nothing could stop the Minute Man Race.

For the 25th annual running in 2003 the length was changed again, to a 5K. The hope — that more recreational runners would sign up for a shorter race — worked.

A 10K was added later, in honor of the League’s 50th anniversary.

Last year's kids' race. On your mark, get set, go!

This year’s events — a 5K, 10K and kids’ fun run — is set for Sunday, April 29. There will be over 1,000 runners. 120 volunteers will coordinate everything — including 4 water stations.

Participants can pick the recipient of their registration donation from over 2 dozen local charities. Alphabetically, they range from A Better Chance and Al’s Angels to the Westport Public Library.

Much has changed since 1978, including the course, distance and number of participants.

But it’s still one of Westport’s favorite events. It still benefits many worthy organizations.

And runners still listen to music as they pound the pavement.

On iPods. Not Walkmen.

(Click here for information on the Minute Man race, including registration.)

5 responses to “A Fabled Road Race Returns

  1. It’s not the first organized road race in Westport, though. I think it was my sophomore year at Staples, about 1963, when there was a 10 mile road race. Coach Paul Lane “encouraged” the football team to run it. It was my first — and last — long run. I realized i wasn’t built for distance — a 220 yard sprint was my natural outer limit.

  2. Now they need to bring back the Great Race!

  3. I actually came in 2nd in this once, to a stranger from Westchester County. It seems so long ago, because it was.

  4. Nice Dan. I was 9 years old for the second run in 1980. I ran with my older brother Robbie in the pouring ran. I remember the heavy blue sweat shirt I was wearing was soaked through and weighed about 20 pounds by the end. Thanks for all the classic memories. Loved the MiniBus story, also.