In a few short weeks, summer will be here and with it comes the 44th annual Mattapoisett Road Race on July 4. The race is such an integral part of community life that the publicity committee wants to share some interesting moments in race history over the next few weeks. Runners, volunteers, and sponsors have graciously provided comments and thoughts on the race.
Today, approximately 1,000 runners enter the race. Quite a change from the first race that was run in 1971 with 30+ entrants. The race began at Pt. Connett. Runners were transported from the village to the starting line in a school district truck. Bob Gardner, the first race director, remembers the race was started with cannon fire. While this was an effective means of starting the race, this method came to a quick demise when windows in nearby homes were blown out. Runners would wend their way through Crescent Beach and continue on to the finish line. The five-mile race ended on the town beach wharf under the watchful eye of Beatrice Ingram. Bob’s daughter, Karen, would record a runner’s time on a chalkboard. Unfortunately, if race day was rainy, the results might get washed away. A quick dip in Mattapoisett Harbor gave runners the chance to cool off. With such a small number of runners, this was very doable. It would be a little trickier to have 1,000 people jumping off the wharf into the harbor.
The race today is far more sophisticated with high-tech timing, numerous officials stationed along the race route, medical personnel, police and volunteers in Shipyard Park providing water and fruit as runners finish. Runners come from all over New England and beyond to participate in this five-mile test of their running ability. But it is the local runners who have a special attachment to the Mattapoisett Road Race. It is best summarized by last year’s winner, Jason Eddy, who grew up in Rochester and graduated from Old Rochester Regional High School: “This race is an amazing tradition that brings the entire community together. To see all of the people of all ages out there on race day is so inspiring. The volunteers and spectators really make the race the success it is.”