WORCESTER, Mass., AUGUST 31, 2014 — As we’ve seen on the local running landscape, terrific things come in threes.
The Tour de Patrick, which concludes with the Celtic 5K each March in Worcester, is growing in popularity as a three-race series, as is the Tour de Worcester, which finishes with the Canal Diggers 5K on Saturday.
Add another three race set to spice up the Central Mass. scene — the Fall Fitness 5K Series.
The Reliant Medical Group Foundation, YMCA of Central Massachusetts and Community Harvest Project have brought their already successful events together for this series, and each partner will retain proceeds from the race it hosts, all in the name of supporting programs for healthy living. These familyoriented events are spaced on alternate Saturdays, starting at the beginning of October.
The third Reliant Foundation 5K goes off at 10 a.m. Oct. 4, beginning and ending at the Greendale Family Branch YMCA in Worcester, looping around Indian Lake. Next is the third Spooktacular 5K run/ Walk and Kids’ Fun Run, set for 8:30 a.m. Oct. 18 at the YMCA of Central Masssachusetts Boroughs Family Branch in Westboro.
The series concludes with a trail event — the Community Harvest Project’s second Harvest Home 5K Dash, at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 2 starting and finishing at the Brigham Hill Community Barn, 37 Wheeler Road in North Grafton. The course follows Grafton Land Trust Trails around the farm.
Each course is USATF-certified, and each features chip timing from Yankee Timing. Overall men’s and women’s prizes will be awarded from those registered for all three races based on cumulative times. Team prizes are included at the Reliant Foundation 5K.
Entry fees range from $25 to $35 per race, with reduced rates for children 12 and under — the adult fee for all three races is $80.
“We were looking at how we could grow our own race,” said Kelsa Zereski, director of philanthropy for the Reliant Medical Group, “and we realized there were two other races of charities that Reliant currently supports, right at the same time of our race.”
Zereski approached the people at Community Harvest Project about the idea. “After our first meeting, we decided we might want to find one more partner,” she said, “and that’s when we found the YMCA’s race, right between ours.”
“The Reliant race is held at our Greendale branch, so it really made sense that we came in as the third leg,” said Betsy Moquin, director of marketing and advancement at the YMCA Boroughs Branch. “It’s a really nice fit.”
“It is amazing being part of this series,” said Marie Boyd, the fund-raising and events coordinator for the Community Harvest Project. “It’s brought about so much interest, and it’s been exciting to see it all unfold.”
“We’re all on a similar stage of growth, we all have a similar amount of experience. We’re still kind of new at this, but we can all learn from each other,” Zereski said.
“It’s like the stars aligned, and it was three very likeminded causes, and then we started to think about how we could impact the health of our community just by walking and running, just by holding these three events together.”
And while the three organizations are like-minded and very well organized pooling their resources, the courses are similar only in that they’re 3.1 miles in distance.
“The series will challenge a good runner, someone who likes to do the 5K and try all three courses,” Zereski said. “We want this to be for the serious runner and for the person out there for the first time. That’s very much our purpose.”
While the first two are road races, the Reliant remains a flat, picturesque tour of Indian Lake, while Spooktacular finishes with a challenging uphill over the final half-mile to the Boroughs Branch Y.
Plus, costumes are encouraged, for adults and children alike, in a race that also celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Young Men’s Christian Association.
“There are also a couple of more hills in the neighborhood,” added Moquin, who noted that the Boroughs kids’ race will be expanded to a mile, to the bottom of the big hill and back.
For the first Harvest Home 5K, there were nearly 200 participants, which pleasantly surprised Boyd.
“We were trying to see if a trail race would even work; I though we might get only 25,” she said. “Mapping out a trail is quite a bit different that a race for the roads. But we had 150 registered going into the day.”
While early in their existences, all three races have enjoyed impressive turnouts, fueling the optimism for growth.
“Each race hopes to reach 300 participants minimum,” Zereski said. “We’d love to grow this so that we end up with 500 over the years each.”
“We have so many similarities,” Boyd said, “and it’s all about building a healthy community.”
“We want to try to help Central Massachusetts get healthy, and encouraging people to get out and get active and start running and walking is a fantastic way to become healthy,” Zereski added. “I feel like we’re all having fun doing this. We’re hoping it a good end result for all three causes.”
For information to register for one or more races, visit www.lightboxreg.com.