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2011 Year in Review. June 12. LHRR: 35 Thoughts for 35 Years. Story by Rick Wilson.

POSTED December 26, 2011
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                          LHRR: 35 Thoughts for 35 Years

            It is the 35th anniversary of Litchfield County’s iconic event – the Litchfield Hills Road Race.  We salute you oh noble event and in honor here are 35 tidbits of information that you know, or don’t need to know, or could care less about, or just will make you morning breakfast a bit interesting.

  1. Godfrey Kiprotich owns the fastest time, covering the 7.1 mile distance in 33:21 in 1997.
  2. The first race back in 1977 was won by the legendary Bill Rodgers with Marti Newell capturing the women’s title.
  3. The only three-time winners of the event are Julius Kiptoo (2006, `09, `10) and Sue Faber (, 1988, `90,  96 )
  4. That is really Dave Driscoll’s hair.
  5. There were 234 runners in the first LHRR.
  6. Nine of the original  runners who have laced up the sneakers and piled on the Ben-Gay for all 35 races are: Gary McKenna, Rick O’Dell, Jim Cardillo, Rick Evangelisti, John Scanlon, Leo Kulinski Jr., Bill Neller, Frank Tees and Bill Sweetman 
  7. The fastest time set run by a high school participant (age 15-18) is 37:14 set by Ken Reilly of Boston in 1982.
  8. Biff Pond closely resembles Sacajewea as evidenced by his photo on page 67 of this year’s official program.
  9. The Mary B. Concannon Award presented to the Litchfield resident of grammar school age (11 and under) has been won three straight years by Cal McKenna. Brother Quinn also won the award three times (2003, `04, 05).

     10.  Thomaston’s Sabrina Olsen owns the 2.3 mile Children’s Race course record (14:42) set in 2009. Griffin Randall owns the boys record (14:04) set in 2006.

11.  One of Biff Pond’s favorite on-course musical acts was Hot Ethel.

12.  Road Race announcer Brent Hawkins did not purchase his attire from Talbot’s so he cannot be blamed for the store’s closing.

13.  `Marathon’ Bob Gardella will be on hand during the LHRR despite a sprained ankle while rotor-tilling something this week. Marathon’s PR man, Dave Driscoll, said it is nothing 3,000 cc’s of cortisone won’t cure.

14.   Venerable reporter John McKenna will have run 31 of the 35 races and cut 30 minutes off his time since posting a 79 minute finish in his first race.

15.  Fabled Gallows Lane at the six-mile mark with a 9.2 grade was not part of the original race route. Originally the plan was to come down North Street past the mansions. However, it cost too much to close off the road with State Police so to make a long story short somebody came up with the idea of just running up Gallows Lane and finish back in the center of town by the Village. The FBI is still searching for the person who came up with the idea.

16.  Great Quote No. 1 – “It’s the only race the goes past the same bar (the Village) twice,” Bill Neller said many moons ago.” This is no longer true as Neller points out once race near Cornell University that goes past the same bar 10 times. It is 10 times around a one-mile circle.

17.  Great Quote No. 2 from LHRR Board of Directors President, Beth Murphy – “If the hill (Gallows Lane) doesn’t kill you, the Village will.” How true.

18.  Legendary Joan Benoit owns three of the top five fastest times for the women’s race.  Patti Catalano’s 38:27 set in 1981 is the record.

19.  The great snail mile-markers along the race route are dedicated to co-founder Joe Concannon (mile 1), co-founder Billy Neller (mile 2), Falmouth Road Race founder Tommy Leonard (mile 3), legendary friend and tireless worker for the LHRR Dave Driscoll (mile 4),  LHRR announcer the nattily attired Brent Hawkins, and the iconic Village Rest. (mile 6).

20.  Gary McKenna one of the nine who has run every race, finished in 49:24 in 2010. Wow!

21.  Marathon Mary is no relation to Marathon Bob. I think. But just to be sure ask Neller.

22.  Great Quote No. 3 – “Tom Leonard is the genuine article…He’s the real deal. Whenever I was fortunate enough to spend any time with Tommy I always walked away shaking my head with a smile on my face.  A cold beer always tasted better when served up by Tommy Leonard…” – Mass. Senator John F. Kerry.

23.  The First Litchfield Artillery Regiment has fired the cannon to start every LHRR.

24.  The Hank O’Donnell Awards are given to the first male and female Litchfield residents in the race.

25.  Over 400 elementary school students ran in the culmination of the KidsMarathon program Saturday. Olympic bronze medalist winner and 1983 New York City Marathon winner, Rod Dixon, started the program in Litchfield because of his friendship with the people associated the LHRR.

26.  The Cemetery Walk saluting the departed friends of the LHRR just keeps getting bigger and more meaningful. Almost 100 hearty souls told stories and raised their never empty glasses Saturday to many of the departed who have made the LHRR what it is.

27.   The Louis Armstrong of the LHRR, Dennis Meltzer, did not make it this year, but sends his best wishes with a toot.

28.  `The Postman Always Rings Twice’,  Jerry Shea, is back and ready to run the race he loves so much.

29.  Dave Austin still has photos of previous LHRR if you are interested. Only kidding, guys.

30.  Jack Neller and Rick Neller join brother Billy in continuing more than three decades of non-stop efforts for the LHRR.

31.  Terry Collins has said his running days are over. Just thought you might want to know.

32.  The reporting contingent of Joe Palladino (Waterbury Republican), Lori Riley (Hartford Courant), Rick Wilson (Waterbury Republican), Tim Gaffney (, Peter Wallace (Register Citizen) and others have now survived more than a decade of riding in the press truck.

33.  Thea Vigeant will always be remembered.

34.  Dave Vigeant is still a better shooter than runner, but he gets out there.

35.  There are no better people than the LHRR people. Long may they live. Long may the race be run.      

For more from Rick Wilson click here