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Try Skating Barefoot

February 16th, 2017

I was walking through the garage and my eyes wandered to a large plastic can: protruding from it were a couple of metal bats and a defenseman’s lacrosse stick.
I’ve walked by this container hundreds of times on the way to the car and ignored it: not today.
As I rummaged through the can, baseball gloves, soccer shin guards, basketballs revealed themselves. It was a trip down memory lane as I remembered countless hours at baseball fields, hardwood courts and outdoor fields.
Then I remembered in the cellar were pairs of soccer cleats and skates whose life was cut short by one of my three kids growing feet.
I thought to myself “what a waste: this equipment is still in great shape and their owners have long since left home. This stuff needs new owners!”
And from that, the Skates and Sneaks Equipment Drive was born.
It felt like a natural partnership to do with the Utica Comets as we are two of the biggest sporting events that occur in our community.
It was a short conversation with the Comet’s folks- absolutely yes!
So at the March 3rd-5th Comets home games our friends from EJA Moving will have a truck stationed across from the Auditorium Drive entrance to pick up sporting goods equipment. We will be collecting for an hour and a half prior to puck drop: Friday and Saturday from 5:30-7:00 pm, Sunday 1:30-3:00 pm.
Approximately two weeks later, we will be distributing the collected gear to organizations that serve our local youth.
Here’s one thing we ask, PLEASE do not bring equipment that clearly has outlived its life: key words-gently used! We don’t want stuff that probably more properly should be carted off to a landfill.
The Boilermaker and the Comets understand the importance of physical activity.
Sports does more than build a healthy body- it nurtures discipline, instills teamwork and promotes goal setting- sort of nice life skills.
And if you are a believer that ‘idle hands are the devil’s play shop’ (and I am) then sports are clearly a better path for our young people than other activities.
You will in all likelihood never know the child whom you have opened the door to, perhaps for the first time, participate in a sport.
But that my friend is the true meaning of giving.

Erie Canal Half: A Boilermaker Event

January 31st, 2017

If you’ve been following this blog during recent months, it should be obvious that the Boilermaker is undergoing a change. Let’s call it an expansion of focus. We are no longer content with being confined to the month of July but instead have ambitions to be a year-round change agent. Blossoming outreach initiatives like the Boilermaker Urban Garden and the West Utica Public Market have certainly been tremendous steps towards this goal. However, did you know that the Boilermaker actually conducts another road race, a half-marathon at that? The Erie Canal Half, taking place on May 21st,  includes a 2-person relay, 5k, and even a kid’s run.

The Boilermaker is a lot of things, but above all it is a celebration of the indomitable Utica spirit. The course itself winds its way from east to west, painting a stunning portrait of our eclectic neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it entirely bypasses the city’s oldest and most exciting district: Bagg’s Square. As one of our most promising areas of redevelopment in recent years, Bagg’s Square deserves the spotlight and that is exactly the Boilermaker’s vision for the Erie Canal Race which starts and finishes in the heart of Utica’s “oldest new neighborhood”.

Now for a brief history lesson. In the early 19th century, the Erie Canal was instrumental in Utica’s emergence as a manufacturing center. The Erie Canal’s original path roughly followed modern-day Oriskany Street, bisecting Bagg’s Square which sprung up as Utica’s original core, centered around Bagg’s Hotel. The race starts and ends in Bagg’s Square while following the path of the modern-day Barge Canal. In a very real sense, the Erie Canal Race traces the history of our city while giving a glimpse into our future, in the form of the Bagg’s Square renaissance.

In my short time with the Boilermaker, I’ve heard the same sentiment on numerous occasions, “If only we could sustain the Boilermaker spirit throughout the year…” The Boilermaker has grown into what it is because you embraced it. Here we have another opportunity to band together around a civic event, and showcase the best of our city. Let us embrace the Erie Canal Half and Bagg’s Square with the same fervor as the Boilermaker. Look it as a warm-up of sorts if you’d like, but this much is certain: the Erie Canal Race will be defined by how we, as a community, choose to embrace it.



Looking Back, Looking Ahead

January 20th, 2017

So here we are in January of 2017, I must say I’m pretty proud of myself: wrote no checks with January 2016 (although my sons laugh at me that I still write checks- unless it’s to them).
This is a big anniversary year for the Boilermaker- our 40th running!
These are times when you remember your roots and celebrate the folks that made it happen. These are the times when you look back at where we have come from, things we no longer do and things that we (hopefully) do better and think about things we should (or shouldn’t) do.
Old stuff that comes quickly to mind- The Expo at Riverside Mall, the Utica National Kid’s Run taking place Boilermaker Sunday running the last mile of the course (before we had the 5k),a Post Race Party that easily fit into the courtyard of the brewery and when the 15k started at 10:30 in the morning (ugh).
I’m sure many of you have your own special Boilermaker memories that you either cherish or wish to forget.
And for me, this will be my tenth Boilermaker race as president of the organization-wow.
In my relatively short tenure we have seen a building move, the death of the paper registration, the meteoric rise of social media, enhanced security and our first, tentative steps involving community outreach.
Yet with all these changes throughout the years we have followed our ‘North Star’ of fitness, fun and community enrichment.
The Boilermaker, in my mind, is more than a race: it’s a force.
It’s a force that drives participants to achieve a bit more than they could.
It’s a force that brings athletes and volunteers together for a common purpose regardless of color, creed, age, gender or political affiliation.
And it’s a force that brings all of us a tremendous amount of pride in our home (and sometimes we really need that).
So this year, stands as an opportunity to both celebrate our rich history and to contemplate our future.
Hey, the big 5-0 is only 10 years away!

Boilermaker Square at Butler Park – Lou Matrulli, Boilermaker Square Director

January 10th, 2017

How many of you reading this message have run the full 15K race course? Next question – How many have walked the 15K miniature race course in Butler Park? OK, final question – Do you know what Boilermaker Square at Butler Park is all about?

With that out of the way – Here is your history lesson for the day.

The venture began in 1997 when a group of Boilermaker volunteers met to discuss how a vacant and seldom used Utica City park could be developed to honor and memorialize their 15K race. The location was ideal, near the finish line and adjacent to the post race party. The Boilermaker Race Committee adopted Butler Park, developed a plan to renew and revitalize the land and return it as a gift to the Community, as the Boilermaker celebrated its 20th Anniversary. Boilermaker Square at Butler Park was created.

The original concept included the development of a walkway in the shape of the race course route, tree plantings with a specific grid pattern, and decorative pole lighting.

The main feature is a 4 foot wide – red brick path – forming an exact miniature replica of the 15K Boilermaker race course as it winds its way through the City. Along the way are brick pads designating major landmarks such as the F.T. and T.R. Proctor Parks, MVCC, the Zoo, Utica College, and 15 others important Utica features. Engraved brick pavers, with personal messages from donors line the two sides of the pathway and the borders of several of the landmarks. Two of the landmarks are dedicated to the winners of the Les Diven Media Award and Volunteer of the Year Award. The Start line, Mileage markers and Finish line are also engraved and placed along the course.

Soon after developing the concept, a Boilermaker Brick Drive was initiated and several hundred bricks with engraved messages were accumulated. By late 1999 construction was started. Grading of the entire Park, subbase for the brick pathway was placed, decorative light poles were installed and more than 40 trees were planted. Nearly all of the work was completed with donated labor and materials from local contractors and material suppliers.

Today more than 1,900 inscribed messages have been selected by Boilermaker supporters and installed along the pathway with just as many blank spaces left to be filled. Are you one of them? If not, here is how you can participate.

  • Bricks are sold at the 2 day Health and Fitness Expo in the Boilermaker Merchandise Store.
  • Bricks are sold along with other merchandise at the Post Race Party.
  • Bricks are available for purchase from the Boilermaker web site.

Each brick includes your personal message:

  • Standard Brick is 4 inches by 8 inches. Cost $30 each.
  • Up to 3 lines of engraving.
  • Each line contains 14 letters/spaces maximum.

The engraved bricks vary from reading like entertaining scripts to memorials for loved ones, but each is a personal message created from their heart. From runners to spectators, to volunteers to race supporters they each have purchased an everlasting piece of Boilermaker history. Here are some examples from recent purchases:





For the Committee members and volunteers, Boilermaker Park has been a labor of love. The process to sell the pavers and install the engraved product has been long and enduring. We have been happy to have those who have supported our efforts by creating their individual lasting memories.

For more information, contact me at lmatrulli@boilermaker.com.

Running – Cindy Dardano, Boilermaker Volunteer Coordinator

January 3rd, 2017

I was never a great athlete. In my mind I was but in reality I wasn’t. I was just average. I tried many sports. I skied, skated, swam, played tennis and golf and cycled my little legs off but I never excelled. It didn’t mattered how good I was though, because I just enjoyed the experience. The glory and accolades were all in my mind. Then one day I discovered the pure joy of running. I wasn’t a fast runner. I never was in contention for a medal; I just loved the feeling of it. I loved the races. I loved the Boilermaker. I loved all the great friends. I loved running alone. I loved running in a group.  I loved running on an early summer morning…just me and the birds. Nothing could beat running through the snow on a crisp Sunday morning with The Beatles blaring on my headphones (Yes, headphones. Yes, The Beatles). I loved running in new cities I visited. I loved running. Then the bottom fell out.

As a teenager I had dislocated my knee a few times and I never realized that such a traumatic injury would result in problems as I aged. I ran 12 Boilermakers, my favorite race.  I even met my husband during the 1996 Boilermaker. A few years later my knee was no longer runnable (if that’s a word). No more Boilermakers. After 19 years I have finally accepted the fact that I will never be able to run again…ever. I am thankful to be healthy otherwise. I can walk, and exercise but I can’t do the one thing I truly wish to do….lace up my sneakers and run. I do have running dreams all the time. I can actually feel the wind in my face. When I wake-up it takes me a while to shake the reality of it and to realize that it was only a dream.  All is not lost, I did find a solution of sorts. I am working part-time here at the Boilermaker Office.  Now I deal with runners, listen to runners, read about runners, see runners, wear running gear but I am still not a runner.  I guess it’s the simpler things in life that mean the most. That first summer when I hung up my running shoes was the worst. But that too passed.  I am blessed to still be involved in this sport and working for the Best 15K in the Country. Happy 40th Boilermaker!  By the way, I still always buy the top running shoe….just to walk in….just because in my mind I am still a runner and always will be.

We Have Been Blessed

December 18th, 2016

“I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me”
Elvis Presley

The end of the year is marked with the inevitable lists chronicling: best songs, worst movies, sexiest celebrities etc. of the year.
And there is the sad list of famous folks who have passed away in 2016.
As an aside, this year was simply a horrible year for music- lots of losses.
And this year the Boilermaker lost two incredibly loyal volunteers Ted Petrillo and Julie Fatata.
Ted and Julie were different in gender, age and personality: for example ‘bubbly’ would not be the first word I would use to describe Ted.
Yet in spite of these differences, their passion for the Boilermaker burned equally bright.
And they did it for all of nothing: well, not for nothing.
Perhaps it was for the personal satisfaction of making the community a better place.
Perhaps it was the social interaction, working with old friends or friends not yet made.
Or perhaps just to bring a smile to someone’s face, often a person they don’t even know.
Simply amazing people!
Sometimes, there are folks in our community, hopefully only a few, that seem to perversely thrive on talking down our area (which, by the way, is their area). In the military we would refer to that as ‘calling artillery in on your own position’.
Julie and Ted were the absolute antithesis of this: if I were to make up a motto for them it would be “go positive or go home”.
The passing of Ted& Julie acts both as a reminder of the temporal nature of life and the criticality of finding folks like them to support the Boilermaker, indeed any not for profit group.
The Boilermaker, like many service-based agencies, is fueled by the efforts of its volunteers.
And we all want the folks who are busy, because those are the people who get things done.
Think about it, we are asking folks to give up their most valuable asset, time, to make the Boilermaker, and all its efforts happen. Our challenge, in many respects, is harder than businesses trying to hire good folks- at least a future employee get paid: our volunteers get a tee shirt (well, it is a pretty nifty tee shirt)!
I had said to a reporter at Ted’s passing “they don’t make them like Ted anymore” (ditto Julie): yet somehow we need to inspire folks to be in their image- to embrace the philosophy of service over self (as opposed to being self serving).
I know, somehow, we’ll figure this out -indeed it’s mission critical we do!
But for now, I just feel more than a little down over the loss of a couple of folks that were wonderful volunteers and fantastic friends!
To Ted and Julie’s families: thank you for ‘lending’ us these two, as I’m sure they missed family obligation to make the Boilermaker frequently called ‘Christmas in July’ happen.
A blue Christmas indeed…

Not Your Father’s Boilermaker

November 30th, 2016

In 1978, 876 runners lined up next to Utica Radiator in East Utica to participate in the first ever Boilermaker. It was a hellishly hot day. Among the masochists was my father, an area car dealer. He did not finish. He lost consciousness, fortunately near St. Luke’s Hospital on Burrstone Road. But to this day, my dad still talks about his participation and subsequent hospitalization in that first boilermaker with an immense sense of pride. That is because he was a foundational piece of something that would grow beyond Earle Reed’s wildest imagination. The following year, my dad crossed the finish line and ran a dozen more times while extolling to me the virtues of the race.

By the time I ran my first Boilermaker in 2004, the event had evolved into something that not even the most optimistic race pioneers could have imagined. My dad was right, it was infectious. The spectators, the music…the beer. It is now a massive community celebration, exceeding while simultaneously representing the humble city it calls home. It is a source of pride for all the people that are connected to this place: a place that holds onto its pride like a cold Utica Club. For the past decade, Utica was not my home but it remained my hometown. I’ve missed a few races but returning home in July for the Boilermaker has become an important tradition for my friends and I. It is a reunion for all of us who have been flung around the country by life.

Despite its growth, the Boilermaker’s evolution continues today. In 2014, Boilermaker headquarters relocated to West Utica with a simple yet ambitious goal in mind: take root in a community in need of a renaissance. This past summer, a dozen Utica students toiled in the dirt to create the Boilermaker Urban Garden or BUG as it is affectionately known. The area is known as a food desert, indicating a lack of access to affordable fruits and vegetables. Some of these young urban farmers had never tasted the food that they were now cultivating with their own hands. This program, sure to grow in coming years, is a key component of the Boilermaker Urban Initiative which is working to affect change at a grassroots level. The Boilermaker headquarters are also home to weekly yoga classes and will continue to serve, in the months and years to come, as a community rallying point for all forces of positive change in the city. In the spirit that the Boilermaker was founded, the possibilities are only limited by our self-imposed capacity for good.

This expansion of focus does not represent a “rebranding” for the Boilermaker. In its 40th year, the Boilermaker brand is stronger than it’s ever been. We are simply getting more ambitious, asking the question, “What can we do next?” The Boilermaker Road Race will forever and always be the country’s best road race. But why not be more than that? A lot has changed in forty years. Just imagine where we will be in another forty.


Sharing the Car

November 28th, 2016

There comes a time when you need to relent the steering wheel to others- at least on occasion.

And so goes Tim’s Blog as it morphs into the Boilermaker Blog.

There are a number of reasons.

If you commit to blog writing it’s mandatory you commit to frequent posts: at best my input has been ‘lumpy’: spats of articles followed by long stretches of silence.

Often I would begin writing only to catch myself thinking: “Does anyone, besides me, actually care about this?” Often off to the electronic trashcan it would go.

Contrary to popular belief I am not the wellspring of all good ideas and profound insights (that is a joke: ask my family and friends).

I am not the Boilermaker and the Boilermaker is not me. Obviously in my role as president I act as a spokesman for the organization, but there should be many voices because the Boilermaker truly is a community effort.

The perspective of many views, like peering a mosaic from different angles, is essential because only then do you truly grasp what the artist is trying to say.

You will encounter writers that will make you laugh, make you cry, perhaps enlighten and hopefully inspire.

So dim the lights on Tim’s Blog and bring up the stage lights on the Boilermaker Blog.

It’s gonna be great!

First up- Jordan Peters, Boilermaker Marketing and Sponsorship Specialist.

Jordan is around my kid’s ages so I’ll offer fatherly advice-“Drive carefully”!

A Month of Thanks

November 22nd, 2016

November is one of those few months where we have two National Holidays- Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving (biggest running day of the year)-both days built around thanks.
So I’m going to write a bit about thanks.
This month I was incredibly honored to be nominated and awarded this year’s Road Race Director of the Year Award. There is nothing more humbling than being acknowledged by your contemporaries for a job well done.
However, in my opinion, this award speaks as much (more!) about the Boilermaker than of me.
You see, I’m not the first, nor even the second, Boilermaker to receive this honor- I am the third!
My brother Earle received the award in 1998 while Bob Ingalls was recognized in 2007: no other race has achieved this feat: now that’s pretty cool.
A week later, the race was awarded the ‘2016 Outstanding Philanthropic Organization’ by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Central New York.
In both cases the reason the Boilermaker was singled out for honors was for its continuing community outreach.
Things like, our charity bib program, the wheelchair challenge (where we’ve given away 28 racing wheelchairs), the West Utica Public Market and Boilermaker Urban Garden (BUG).
You see we are, in the end, a 501c3 organization whose mission is to improve the health and wellness of our region with (obviously) a heavy emphasis on long-distance running.
So about thanks…
I give thanks to our tens of thousands of participants who circle that second Sunday in July on their calendar.
Thank you for coming.
I give thanks for the incredibly loyal volunteers, sponsors and staff who support us with ‘time, talent and treasure’.
Thank you for helping.
And finally, I give thanks that I have the opportunity to be a part of an organization as awesome as the Boilermaker.
Thank you for putting up with me!

The Currency of Caring

November 1st, 2016

I was honored to be asked to be the Keynote speaker for the 100 year celebration of the Utica Kiwanis Club, a terrific service-based organization.
Below is the speech I gave dealing with that most finite of things- time.
After I gave the talk I thought about our sport and time- we are one of the few sports where time, as opposed to goals, touchdowns and home runs, define how you measure success- pretty cool!
The Currency of Caring
If you were to ask someone what is the most valuable currency on the planet what do you think would be the answer?
The dollar, the euro, perhaps diamonds or gold?
Interestingly, in my opinion, it is a currency that is possessed equally by the President of the United States and the blind beggar in Calcutta.
It is the currency of time.
Time is the great leveler of man- 7 days, 24 hours, 1,440 minutes- no more no less.
It is my belief that how we spend this invisible currency that defines us as humans.
For the sake of this conversation I call it the currency of caring.
A saying that often runs in my head is ‘tell me how you spend your time and I’ll tell you what you think is important.’
So I’d like to take to you this evening a bit about the Boilermaker and transition into some thoughts about service in general.
Let me start when I say we fool folks that the Boilermaker is about the second Sunday in July when in fact it’s the other 364 days that are important.
The Boilermaker sets as its goal to be a change agent for health and wellness within our community or more simply changing people’s lives.
The Boilermaker or perhaps better said Boilermaker Spirit creates in the individual the belief that they can achieve a goal that formerly felt unobtainable. It’s not about giving out ‘free stuff’ and making ourselves feel good about ourselves with ambiguous results.
For example we outfit wheelchair athletes with a racing wheelchair only after they manage to do the race in a standard wheelchair and finish within a prescribed finish time. To date we have given out over 28 wheelchairs.
The Boilermaker is blessed to have a cadre of nearly 5,000 volunteers that act as the backbone of the race. They do for free what no amount of money can buy: they donate their time.
Think about it, there is nothing more selfless than helping someone who you don’t know and in all likelihood you will never meet again.
On occasion I feel like Tom Sawyer convincing folks that whitewashing the fence really is fun!
Our move of Boilermaker Headquarters from Genesee Street was more than getting ourselves closer to the Finish Line, it was a commitment to what is the poorest neighborhood in the City of Utica.
Because that’s exactly where we belong.
This year we have established a Public Market that not only provides fresh fruits and vegetables to the food desert called West Utica but offer education such as cooking tips, addictive services and financial fitness.
The Boilermaker Urban Garden or BUG has offered 20 inner city children were given the opportunity to tend their own garden bed and find out that zucchinis aren’t grown in the store and actually don’t taste bad. Perhaps more importantly, we have in a small way instilled in these kids things like ownership, discipline and teamwork as they toiled ‘alone together’.
Next year we plan on the core of these teenagers to run a smoothie bike business where they will make healthy smoothies via a stationary bike with products from the Public Market.
Over the past 4 years we have supported local charities via the Boilermaker Charity Bib Program raising nearly $500,000.
So now a bit about service.
When I looked at the Permanent Objects of Kiwanis it seems like our two organizations are certainly in alignment- a couple of examples:
To render altruistic service and to build better communities,
To give primacy to the human and spiritual rather than to the material values of life.
So what is our biggest challenge, well in my opinion, it’s the biggest challenge of any service-based organization- it’s called the Millennials, those folks who are now 18-35, also known as the ‘me-me generation’ or ‘trophy kids generation’ perhaps an homage to AYSO where ‘everybody wins’.
I don’t know about you but we are seeing the ‘graying of the Boilermaker volunteer base’: many have been with us for decades and as I’ve said countless times ‘immortality is a lousy succession plan’.
While I’m a huge believer that the most powerful force in the universe is guilt, or at least it felt that way when I dealt with my Mom as a kid service over self really has to be a thing that resides and grows within us. How we mold these young folks from selfish to selfless without selling our souls? As the owner of three sons in this group I’m open to suggestion!
Here’s the great thing about service, last time I checked there are more than a few problems on this planet, it’s not a graded event to do the right thing for others- you don’t have to find the cure to cancer to make a difference.
In fact, often I find the smaller the task, for lack of a better term, the better. You will have a greater chance of success, it’s measurable and you will team build- let’s face it everyone wants to be on a winning team.
However, service ain’t for sissies, there will be times you get your heartbroken, you will say to yourself “and I’m doing this because…?
Saying that if not you-then who?
So think about how you ‘spend your time’ cause it’s the one buck you don’t get back.
We will not be remembered by the things we had but rather the things we did.
As Mohammed Ali said “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
Thank you for listening to my rambling and far more importantly thank you for your caring to make this place we call home a better place.