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A Running Tradition Like No Other – Stephanie Gagliardi

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?

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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.

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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…

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