Eight Stories in Eight Days. Day 4: Numbers add up to make Litchfield Hills Road Race one of area's premiere events
LITCHFIELD - The 36th Annual Litchfield Hills Road Race is set for Sunday with the 7-plus mile race beginning at 1 p.m. and with the start and finish lines both located at the Litchfield green.
The race is no joke. It contains a section where the runners must travel on Gallows Lane, aptly named and a tough steep climb near the end of the race. The race can be so tough that there is even a note of caution on the road race fact sheet as the second item "Strongly suggests" that if the day is hot and humid and you haven't trained in that weather - DO NOT RUN.
Otherwise it's a leisurely stroll on a scenic course, well not really, the race is tough but parts of the course are nice to look at and maybe it will take runners' minds off the agony they are putting themselves through.
First run on June 12, 1977, the LHRR attracts local runners as well as well-known participant. Bill Rodgers, a multiple Boston and New York City Marathon champion, won the first men's race and Olympic Gold Medalist Joan Benoit won the women's race in 1980 and 1982 and has run three of the five fastest times in the history of the women's race.
The race also attracts runners from all over New England as well as the world. Runners from Ireland, New Zealand, Kenya, Great Britain, Belgium, Canada, Tanzania, Poland, Morocco and Yugoslavia have participated.
The race caps off a fun-filled weekend in Litchfield and has come to serve as a reunion, road-race and party rolled into one.
Here are some numbers from the first 35 Litchfield Hills Road Races and they add up to make the race a great event.
2011: Mourad Marofit of Morocco won the men's race last year while Kenya's Pasca Cheriuyot finished first in the women's race.
Marofit posted a time of 35:28, the highest time by a winner in the history of the men's event. Cheriuyot's time of 40:04 would have been good enough to win four of the six women's races from 2005-2010.
BEST OF THE BEST: The men's record is held by Godfrey Kiprotich, who turned in a winning time of 33:21 in 1997. The closest anyone has come to Kiprotich's record was Reta Alene who ran 33:30 in 2007. Half of the top 10 times in the history of the men's race were posted in the 90s.
Patti Catalano established the women's record of 38:27 in 1981 and only two other runners in the history of the women's race have turned in sub-39:00 times. Sarah Rowell ran a 38:48 to win in 1985 and Benoit has the next three fastest times at 38:50 (1982), 39:09 (1981) and 39:26 (1980).
Benoit won the race in 1980 and 1982.
LAST MILE: Mile marker 6 lets runners know they are almost home but it also comes on Gallows Lane, a steep hill and almost a cruel joke on the runners as they head for the home stretch.
After winning in 1977, Rogers said "I had to go into ninth gear, and I don't have to do that too often," about the closing mile. Gallows Hill got its name because of the location of a hangman's tree reportedly used in the 18th century.
Over the first 35 years of the race, Gallows Lane has undoubtedly been the site where some race runners' dreams of winning have gone to die.
2K: It is estimated that about 2,000 people will participate in the race with somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,700 running the entire 7-plus mile course.
ALL AGES: Last year the men's top 15 finishers ranged in age from 16 to 46 years old while the women spanned a 19 up to 56 year old gap.
Divisional winners were crowned from an age 12-14 group up to an 80+ group. Bob Davidson, 81, from Collinsville ran a 1:24:51 to win the male 80+ group while 83-year-old Anneliese Monniere from Pleasant Valley, CT won the Female 80+ group in 2:07:02.