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Shadow Runs are the Original Virtual Runs

November 11th, 2022

There are many things about the Boilermaker that make the race unique. From the anticipation that comes with standing in the crowd at the start line on Culver Ave., the crowd lining the course, the challenge of the hills, the post-race party and of course, the heat!

One thing that cannot go unnoticed when it comes to the Boilermaker is the huge undercurrent of patriotism that seemed to ooze from every part of the race. Of course, the race is always held on the second Sunday in July (barring the pandemic), so naturally, that is fresh in everyone’s minds, but it goes so much further.

From running underneath a huge flag that covers the entire street, held by a fire department tower truck, to runners carrying a flag through their entire race, to the Pratt and Whitney Military Mile (mile 7) where both sides of the street are lined with military members, veterans and equipment, you simply cannot run the Boilermaker and not feel proud to be an American. If a runner somehow made it through the course and wasn’t impressed by the patriotic display, the flyover, whether by an F-16 Jet or a Blackhawk helicopter is sure to get you there!

Unfortunately, our active-duty servicemen and women who are out on deployment, miss out on the race day fun through the streets of Utica.

Those same servicemen and women have been using their ingenuity to adapt and overcome obstacles and hold their own races.

“Shadow Runs,” are the original virtual runs, held in remote locations in and around military bases across the globe. The races will often be held on the same day as the actual race and feature everything from official race swag and race bibs to homemade versions when the real thing isn’t available.

Retired US Army veteran Jennifer Williams, who knows a thing or two about shadow runs, explained the process as well as the importance of Shadow Runs.

A native of New York State, Jennifer had always dreamed of running the Boilermaker and was sent off on a deployment before she could sign up. Initially sent to Korea, she joined a running club and amazed herself by turning out a 12-mile run to celebrate her daughter’s second birthday. After that day, she realized the power that running had over her to give her a sense of purpose and belonging. Her running friends became her running mentors.

After being sent to Baghdad, Iraq, in 2008, Williams continued to run and caught wind of a Boilermaker Shadow Run at nearby Sather Air Base. Using their adaptive skills, Williams and her friends “found” some vehicles and wandered to the base, found the race start and completed the race in temperatures that reached over 110 degrees despite starting before the sun rose. Next time I complain on a sunny 85-degree training run, I’ll think of those running a Shadow Run!

Jennifer’s Iraq Boilermaker was such a great experience that it inspired her. She started her own run club and began reaching out to stateside races for their help in organizing more Shadow Runs. It was something she would continue to do throughout her military career because of the many benefits she saw for herself and the others that were deployed overseas.

Aside from the physical aspects, running and having a race to look forward to each weekend gave her a sense of belonging and even a connection to her family and friends in the US. During her deployment, it was a chance to brag about finishing a race on a hot day, to joke about who finished faster and who was going to prevail in the next one.

Now retired, Jennifer works for American Corporate Partners (ACP), an organization that helps ease the transition from the military to the civilian workforce. ACP is the only nonprofit organization engaged in national corporate career counseling for our returning veterans and active-duty military spouses. For more information, please visit: www.acp-usa.org or look for them on social media.

On this Veteran’s Day, we’d like to thank everyone who has served our country and sacrificed everything from participating in America’s Best 15K to missing family milestones like birthdays and weddings to help secure our freedom. I’d also like to thank the organizers of Shadow Runs across the globe for bringing road racing to our active-duty military members.

Check out Jennifer’s story below!

No Elites, Plenty of Opportunity

September 9th, 2021

No Elites, Plenty of Opportunity

In normal years, we use the terms elite and sub-elite to differentiate the Olympic caliber athletes who are competing for cash prizes from the just really, really, really good runners. Elite athletes are generally recruited by our elite runner committee, headed by Boilermaker pioneer Dick Mattia. Their lodging and travel is often subsidized, they usually have professional representation and they don’t go through the same registration process as the rest of us. They are in a class unto themselves.

The fact that the Boilermaker serves as a venue for these incredible athletes is just one of the things that makes this race such a special event, not to mention a bona fide professional sporting event. For one day of the year Utica, New York becomes the focal point of the international road racing scene.

This year, however, will not feature an elite field or a prize purse. While they will be missed and we can’t wait to welcome them back, their absence affords a unique and very special opportunity for the abundance of really, really, really good runners out there – the chance to be a Boilermaker champion. Being a Boilermaker champion would put one in the elite company of athletes like Catherine “the Great” Ndereba (4x Boston Marathon winner), Lidia Simon (5x time Romanian Olympian) and perhaps the most renowned distance runner of all time, Bill Rodgers, who won the 1983 Boilermaker along with four Boston Marathons and a list of accomplishments too long to include here.

Another storyline to follow: In recent decades, the competitive race has been dominated by international athletes, particularly the incredible runners hailing from Kenya and its East African neighbors. In fact, the Boilermaker has not seen an American winner since Ed Eyestone of Utah took the men’s open in 1991. For the women, it has been even longer. Michelle Bush-Cuke, running out of Brooklyn, was the last American woman to be crowned a Boilermaker champion in 1989. Without an official elite field or the allure of prize money, there is a good chance 2021 will see the first American winner in 30 years!

nobody finish

So who will break the tape for this historic, fall running of the Boilermaker? The field is wide open. It could be you.

-Jordan Peters, Boilermaker Marketing Director

It’s Supposed to be Hard

March 11th, 2020


This will be my 4th Boilermaker as the race’s Marketing and Sponsorship Director. I’ve run the 15K five times, the last coming in 2016. Here’s a bit of irony: since making the Boilermaker my profession, my own road running prowess has hit the skids. Now that participating is no longer practical, I’ve lost the looming prospect of the Boilermaker 15K to motivate me each spring. I only bring this up to acknowledge the transformative potential of the Boilermaker. It really does change lives.

This led to another, potentially obvious, thought – this race is supposed to be hard! Aren’t all great achievements? There’s a reason the 15K world record will never be set here despite attracting the world’s best runners. This is a difficult race by any standard.

In the weeks before Boilermaker Sunday, we receive hundreds of requests from 15K registrants looking to drop down to the more approachable 5K. We understand there are countless reasons for doing this, including injury. And we are generally happy to accommodate these requests because runner safety is our number one concern. And we are incredibly proud of our 5K event too.

But I can’t help but wonder how many of these runners simply opted for the easier route – the path of least resistance, or just convinced themselves that the 15K is just too hard. If you’re finding that description hits close to home, here is my 2020 challenge to you: embrace the difficulty of the 15K.

For any runner, let alone a weekend warrior like myself, 15 kilometers is a formidable distance and the course is a challenging one but there are more than enough water stations to keep you hydrated, running partners to push you along, spectators to keep you motivated and the best distance party in road racing as your reward. And just remember, it’s supposed to be hard…Hard makes it great.

Staying Visible While Running

August 23rd, 2019

This guest blog post was created Personal Injury Help (www.personalinjury-law.com), an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only.

While road races are always blocked off and safe from traffic, we’re not always lucky enough to have designated running paths. If you find your running routine interrupted by traffic, here are some top ways you can stay visible on the road and ensure your run is as safe as possible.

Tip #1: Run Against Traffic

Pundits will usually recommend running against traffic because it gives motorists more time to see you and slow down accordingly. You do want to run against traffic, but not for the motorists’ sake—if you’re running against traffic you’ll have a couple of extra seconds to see any reckless driving and dive out of the way if need be. If a car approaches from behind, you lose this safety net.

Tip #2: Watch Intersections

If you’re running directly in the road (let’s face it, sidewalks are not built for runners), you’ll want to be sure to stop and really pay attention when going through intersections. You’re much harder to see than a car, so drivers may not notice you at an intersection as they would another vehicle. By stopping to assess the situation you can ensure you won’t have any close calls with drivers who may not be paying attention.

Tip #3: Adjust Your Outfit

While you don’t have to run with strobe lights in hand, wearing all black while running at night isn’t a good idea either. You should try to wear at least one piece of highly visible clothing every time you go for a run.

In the daytime, this means wearing something florescent. Bright green, yellow, and pink are all eye-catching. If you’re running in the evening it doesn’t matter what color you’re wearing because it’s impossible to see anything. You should instead wear something reflective so you’ll stand out against a car’s headlights.

Tip #4: Bring a Flashlight

Flashlights are good for two reasons. First, it’ll be a lot easier for a car to see a bobbing light from a distance than you running without one. Additionally, a flashlight is great because it allows you to see the path ahead. Cracks in sidewalks are the top cause of injury among runners, so if you use a flashlight you’ll dramatically reduce your chance of injury. If you’d rather run hands-free, you can consider investing in a headlamp. While it may not be the most fashion-forward choice, it will be equally effective.

Tip #5: Run With a Friend

When you run with a friend you’ll be twice as easy to see by motorists than you would be running alone. Running with a friend has additional benefits on top of staying visible. When you run with a friend you’re more likely to run faster, run longer, and stick to your exercise routines than you would if you ran alone. Waking up at 5 AM is a lot easier when you have a friend coming with you!

Four Tips For a Successful Boilermaker (that have nothing to do with training)

July 10th, 2019

This is a guest post by Boilermaker Ambassador Ryan Orilio. 

It’s taken me a number of years, but my day-of Boilermaker routine is pretty well honed by now. However, that may not be the case for any new or novice Boilermaker15k runners. If you’ve never run the race before, you can easily miss out on parts of the experience because you didn’t know what to expect. And even for those who have run before, it’s always worth reviewing how to make your experience as successful as possible.

To that end, here are 4 tips for having a successful Boilermaker experience, that have nothing to do with running or your training…

1-Get to the Start line early. 

There’s a lot that happens at the start. You may want to warm up a bit, grab some water, or socialize and take pictures with your friends. You’re very likely going to want to use the restrooms. All of those things will take time (especially the line for the restrooms). There’s nothing that can ruin your race day quicker than getting to the start too late and having to rush around. Everyone prepares for a race differently, but make sure you give yourself more than enough time at the start. 

Once you’re prepared, you’re going to want to head to your corral, and I also suggest heading there early. If you wait to head to your corrals, it will be crowded and frustrating to get there. Get to your corral early (with your friends) and you’re removing one thing to worry about before the gun goes off. 

2-Enjoy the unique aspects of the race. 

This race has some amazing things to see along the course. The community is awesome. Make sure to check out the things that the race has to offer throughout the 9.3 miles of pain that you’re putting your body through. Don’t zone out during the run. If you’re wearing headphones (which are discouraged by the race) make sure that your volume is low enough that you can still hear the cheer of the crowd and beleaguered breathing of the runners next to you. 

Every new runner should make sure to check out these community milestones on the race course. 

  • Unity Mile. A mile long celebration of all of the cultures in Utica. So many different nationalities, musical styles, and performers. It’s still early in the race, but such a cool cross-section of our community to see.
  • Kelly’s Popsicle Stand. On the downhill portion of the Parkway, between miles 4 and 5. The popsicle stand has been around for many years. Make sure to get a sweet treat to recharge during the downhill portion of this mile. Pro Tip: every single one of the volunteers at Kelly’s Popsicle Stand will high-five you as you’re running by them. 
  • The animals at the Utica Zoo. These change every year. Sometimes it’s a snake, sometimes a llama…. it’s a surprise every to me as I run by. If you like animals, stop and get a pic with this years Utica Zoo Boilermaker squad and whatever furry, scaly, or hairy companion they have with them this year. 
  • The showers on Burrstone Rd. These can be a lifesaver. Run under the showers for a quick refresh, just before mile 9. You’ll cool off, and get some much-needed help through that final mile-plus to the finish line. 


3-Don’t expect to meet anyone at the finish line. 

It is a huge mass of sweaty runners, great volunteers, and spectators. After you finish the volunteers will corral you down Varick street, and then Hamilton, towards the post-race party. This is a terrible place to meet your family and friends. Volunteers will be trying to keep you moving, and it’s crowded there already. Do yourself (and your family or friends) a favor and tell them to meet you at the post race party instead. 


4-Stay for the Party.

You don’t want to miss the party. Trust me, it’s worth it. But to make it a bit more enjoyable (after all, you did just run 9.3 miles) bring some sunscreen, a dry shirt, and sandals. You can check a bag at the Boilermaker start, or tell your friends and family who are there to support you to bring them for you. There’s nothing better than putting on a clean, dry shirt, and taking off your running shoes after a race. It’s pure bliss. 


There’s plenty to see and do at the party, but I recommend starting with replenishing a little bit of spent fuel first. There is food all over at the party. Personally I always look forward to a Chobani yogurt. The pirogies from the Polish Community home are to die for too!


The music at the party is always top-notch. Go dance. The band is fantastic, and seeing the awards ceremony is pretty cool too. In the past, I’ve always looked forward to the aircraft flyover. It’s a kinda surreal experience to be a part of an event of this magnitude. 


The entire race is a great experience, one that I suspect you’ll remember for a long time. There’s a reason that I tell folks that Boilermaker weekend is better than Christmas. It’s because it’s true. 


You’re already trained for the 9.3 miles, keep these things in mind to help the rest of the day be as successful as your run! I sincerely wish you the best of luck on your run, and hope you will continue to come back for the Best 15K in the World!

Ambassador Sarah Kirke

June 12th, 2019

This is a guest blog post from Boilermaker Ambassador, Sarah Kirke.

I can’t believe the Boilermaker 15K is just over a month away – and it’s sold out! I remember last year…I waited too long to register and was really bummed. The race would’ve fit perfectly within my training block for the upcoming Chicago Marathon in October. Thanks to the power of social media and the Volée (I’m looking at you, Instagram and Oiselle), my friend Katy helped find me a transfer bib and I was IN!


This would be my first time participating in this historic race and I couldn’t wait to experience the event. Friends raved about the crowd support, the course (even the hills), the elites, and the legendary after-party. I knew it would be incredibly challenging but I was up for it. Thankfully my friends were veterans of the race so they helped with race day logistics and thus I wasn’t nervous about getting to the start line. And off we went! I held strong through the golf course, let it rip on the downhills, and sprinted to the finish. The energy from the crowds helped carry me across that finish line and then it was time to party.


Now that Boston is behind me, I’ve begun working on some pretty serious speed training in preparation for this year’s race. I can’t wait to see how it pays off on July 14th!

Boilermaker: A Runner’s Holiday

March 27th, 2019

This is a guest blog post from Boilermaker enthusiast Ron Ayers. Good luck this year Ron! 

I grew up in Upstate NY, never ran more than a mile in high school, which is a fun way of saying, I had no idea I grew up with the Boilermaker in my backyard. The concept of going out for a run was not a natural thought that ran through my head. I always associated it with a penalty, or a gym class test. I actually only started because my company had sponsored a local 5K and my colleagues agreed that we would all run it. I agreed to walk it, they emphasized “run.” So… I ran.

I found running to be a great outlet for me both socially and competitively. I joined a local running group, the Waltham Trail Runners, and a local racing series, Race Around Waltham, and became immersed in a vibrant running community. Waltham is just outside of Boston. It’s about Utica-sized in population. For having 60,000 people, we certainly have a lot of people who enjoy running. Our running group has 4-5 group runs a week. We have anywhere from 7-10 5Ks, the largest of which draws over 1,000 runners. Being slightly over a mile away from the Boston Marathon course certainly helps, where we are used to the fanfare and runner support.


As it goes with runners, we often look for “experiences.” Which led me to the Boilermaker. I specifically remember my Facebook feeds exploding in March with “who is running the Boilermaker?” posts, mainly from my Upstate NY friends. Those posts never stuck out in the past, because, well, I didn’t run. Now they were intriguing, and so I signed up for my first Boilermaker in 2014.

Arriving in Utica on race day was a bit surreal, as my largest race at the time may have been a few thousand runners. But it’s not just the runners that make a race “large”, it’s the community. At most races runners are lucky to have a couple of neighbors out there giving us a hardy clap, or maybe a college student attempting to sprint across a crosswalk in front of us.

The Boilermaker was a bit different. I remember entering the corrals as a slightly faster runner, and being ushered toward the front of the pack. I also distinctly looking back down the hill at the start and seeing about 14,000 other people behind me. It was truly the first moment, I felt like a “runner.”


For me the things that make the Boilermaker truly a moment for many runners, are the little things I appreciate along the way, all driven by the community. At the start, I look forward to taking a quick glance down the hill to see the sea of runners ready to go. I enjoy the Mayor giving his “pump up speech” about the greatest race in the world. About 0.1 miles in, we’ll hear the Rocky theme, and then glimpse 9.2 miles to go sign at the right hand side. A long run up the hill into the golf course with a band on the top of the hill signaling the end of the long climb. I look forward to free popsicles around Mile 5, waving to the man on stilts around Mile 7.5, and the long sprint to the finish line at Saranac. All along the way, it’s clear…  Utica turns out for this race. It’s the only race outside of Boston that I’ve experienced that have people lining the entire course, cheering the entire way. It’s a runner’s holiday, capped off by a really fantastic party at FX Matt Brewing Company.

Since I’ve started running six years ago, I’ve now run over 100 races. I’ve completed four marathons, including Boston three times. This will be my 5th Boilermaker. My fastest Boilermaker was a respectable 1:06:15. I’m very involved with my local running group as an organizer, and I actively recruit our runners to join me in Utica every July, successfully winning a few of them over every year. (six already for 2019!)

To give you an idea of what the Boilermaker means for me as a runner these days, my running season is typically geared around two days: the Boston Marathon and the Boilermaker. That is high praise for a 15K in Central NY!

A Running Tradition Like No Other – Stephanie Gagliardi

February 21st, 2019

As a native of Connecticut, the world renowned Boilermaker Road Race was admittedly not on my radar until 2015. I can count on one hand the number of events I have seen that boast a 15K, a relatively unique distance in the world of road racing. But what else is it that makes this event so special that year after year I’ve made the three hour journey from Connecticut to New York to race 9.3 miles on one of the hottest Sundays in July?

gagliardi 1

The Boilermaker truly is “more than a race”. With a mission to “lead the healthy lifestyle movement through exercise and fun” the inclusiveness of the event with its Health and Wellness Expo, kids run, 5K, 15K, wheelchair division, and the Boilermaker Urban Initiative truly allows participation at all levels from the local Utica community and beyond.

On Sunday July 10th, 2016 my boyfriend and I toed the start line for the first time with 14,498 others, plus another 4,500 running the 5K. We quickly learned the first few miles is good place to catch a glimpse of two runners who dress as the Blues Brothers every year. Finding and taking a running selfie with them has become a welcomed distraction from the 300+ feet of elevation gain on the first half of the course. After conquering the peak elevation point in the golf course, runners are treated to a glorious downhill as spectators line the streets offering refreshing freezer pops. With only a couple of miles to go, you can high five a man on stilts, run through sprinklers, and enjoy another popsicle if you wish. Cold Saranac beer and snacks await you at the Post Race Party along with the untold numbers of runners and spectators.

gagliardi 2

Every aspect of participating in the Boilermaker has become tradition since our first time running it in 2016. The weekend serves as a mini vacation, starting with a long drive on the I-90 to Mohawk Valley Community College for packet pickup, to meeting my boyfriend’s parents for dinner at restaurants serving Utica staples like Chicken Riggies and Tomato Pie, and stopping for half-moon cookies on our way home from the race.

The magic of this race is hard to put into words without experiencing it yourself, but it’s the reason we’ve made the three hour journey to Utica again in 2017 and 2018, and will continue in 2019 and beyond…

315K Cure for the Cure

February 8th, 2019

Guest post from 315K co-founder Colin LaReaux

You’ve seen the ads depicting a young child, bald, IV in arm, bravely smiling with his or her family. The child has cancer. The ad tugs at your heartstrings, you think “that poor family” and you move on with your day.

Brooke McDonald and I were those kids. Our families were those families trying to smile and lead normal lives while we children battled a deadly disease.

Brooke and I were lucky, we beat pediatric cancer, and decades later we are cancer free. But the disease left a lasting impact.

In 2014, Brooke and I took action, deciding to help kids fighting the same battle we had years earlier, rather than passively expressing dismay. We founded 315K For the Cure, an organization that has raised and donated over $75,000 to benefit local pediatric cancer patients and their families treating at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. Supported almost entirely by family and friends, our small grassroots organization donates 100% of their proceeds to benefit local families.

As Uticans, Brooke and I share an affinity for all things Utica, especially the Boilermaker- the organization’s name is a play on the area code and the 15K race. Using the Boilermaker as a platform, we began fundraising, selling t-shirts and going on group runs. We now encompass a wide array of fundraising events, usually centered around fitness and beer (two hallmarks of the Boilermaker). We’ve hosted fundraisers with Mohawk Valley Wellness and CrossFit Utica, happy hours at local bars and restaurants, golf tournaments, and we throw an annual party at the Celtic Harp the “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day Fundraiser.

Halfway to St. Patrick's Day Fundraiser at The Celtic Harp

Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day Fundraiser at The Celtic Harp

Decades removed from treatment, Brooke and I haven’t forgotten how difficult the treatment process and resulting side effects, both physical and mental, can be for families undergoing the ordeal.  Now with families of our own, we’ve gained a new perspective on the disease: “As a kid, I wasn’t worried, my parents put on a brave front and made me believe I had nothing to worry about. Now as a parent myself, I understand how hard it was for them, how terrified they were.”

Colin with His Daughter at the Boilermaker

Colin with His Daughter at the Boilermaker

“We haven’t done anything extraordinary. We just did something. We created an opportunity for people to help. There are so many people, especially in our area, that want to act, that want to help those families they see on TV or social media fighting cancer. 315K gives them that opportunity. At our core we are just a group of like minded individuals who get together, raise a couple bucks for families in need, and have a good time doing it.

Teens Do Listen

December 18th, 2018

Rebecca Kearns – Community Outreach

Teens? Right? Whoever thinks they actually get through to them? Being eyeball deep in raising my own three teenage sons, I am convinced my words are Teflon – they just don’t stick. New Hartford Junior High hosts an annual “Horizons Day Program,” inviting the best local talent to come and speak about their jobs to these kids. I am sure the organizers and speakers hoped their words stick.

I have to tell you the guest list read like a sold out conference of cooking, TV personalities, lawyers, medical professionals and more that we adults gladly pay a price to attend. And somehow I was also on this list of speakers; invited to speak about the Boilermaker and Yoga.

I didn’t want to speak “at” the kids, they have plenty of people who speak at them. I wanted to engage them! Teens are still living in their bodies, unlike adults who tend to have a disconnection to their physical body. What better way to connect, then to get them to use those bodies through Yoga? I weaved my story of my passion for Yoga I found at 17, with a string of interesting jobs, degree programs that all ultimately led me here to the Boilermaker. I spoke to the importance of finding a buildable skill in every job they have even if the job seems meaningless. For example one summer, I worked as a tour boat guide on the St. Lawrence River. Skill? Public speaking of course. (And how to tie-up a boat. Definitely critical.) Talking while moving them through various poses, pausing to interject my words of wisdom.

Some of the words were simply to feel present in this moment, don’t worry about later, or tomorrow. I told them to not get caught up in what they want to be when they grow up because quite frankly at 42, I still don’t know what I want to be. (At this point I was convinced some parent would bust in and express disapproval of that but alas, no one did.) We talked about how life is a journey and an open mind would serve them well.

Apparently my words were not Teflon. Much to my surprise I received a good number of thank you letters from some of the 60 or so kids I interacted with that day. Words like confidence, hope, relaxed, inspired, and calm, emerged as a common theme.

During this time of year we could all use a little head and body space to breath and move. These teens taught me that we can all inspire and all learn how to chill out.

Meredith summed it up best I think. She wrote “by participating in your class I am encouraged to stay calm in stressful situations. By learning to take a deep breath, I am encouraged to be less stressed. I really enjoyed the very last activity (savasana) after stretching. I felt so tranquil after. Thank you very much for making us laugh and smile.”