By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Northborough – Runners of all ages are invited to participate Saturday, Sept. 17, in what has become a premier local event – the Applefest 5k Road Race. The race, which is sponsored for the 18th straight year by the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce, will start and end at the Zeh School, 33 Howard St., Northborough.
Organizers are expecting over 400 runners that morning for the 5k, which is being held in conjunction with Northborough's annual three-day celebration, Applefest.
Two of those runners, a father and son duo, Rich and Matt Toronto, will get special recognition that morning as well by the Chamber of Commerce. They are, respectively, the 4,999th and 5,000th runners to sign up in the race's history.
The race is a way for the chamber to really be a part of the community celebration that Applefest has become over the years in Northborough, according to Chamber of Commerce Vice President Karen Chapman.
“It's a way for us to build a presence and show that we support Northborough,” she said. “The first year we had decided as a chamber that putting together a race would be a perfect thing to hold in conjunction with Applefest. And it's grown steadily over the years and become a great event.”
The Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce was initially part of the Worcester Area Chamber of Commerce before breaking off to become the Westborough/Northborough Chamber of Commerce and then ultimately, Corridor Nine in 2001. Now in its current incarnation, it represents over 50 communities, and primarily serves the towns of Westborough, Northborough, Southborough, Shrewsbury and Grafton. Proceeds from the race will help support business development in those communities, Chapman said.
The race will be sponsored once again by local businesses AstraZeneca and the Community Advocate, as well as a new sponsor this year, BJ's Wholesale Club.
Chapman said during the early years of the race, there were about 200 runners. Last year, there was nearly double that amount, and race organizers expect this year to have a big turn-out as well.
“For the last few years we have also invited local high school cross country teams to come compete,” she said. “That has definitely helped keep interest up, too. We'sl be awarding a trophy to the team that has the best time.”
“This year promises to be our best race yet,” said Dave Jacobs, who will be the race director for the fifth straight year. “We have lots of surprises for the runners.
“But we definitely couldn's do it without the support of our three main sponsors and the many other businesses that help out as well,” he added. “And we appreciate that the town supplies all the emergency details to make sure everyone is safe that day.”
One high school runner this year will be Matt Toronto, who has just started his freshman year at Algonquin Regional High School, where he is a member of the cross country team. Matt will be running his third Applefest 5k along with his father, Rich.
“This has become quite a wonderful tradition for families to participate together, like Matt and Rich,” Jacobs said. “Personally, I am thrilled that they were [numbers 4999 and 5000]. Rich has been a longtime participant and supporter for the race.”
Rich noted that he had been a casual runner for many years until a few years ago, when he decided to take it seriously, mostly to stay healthy. He has now become so dedicated to the sport that he even ran in the Boston Marathon two years ago.
“I think this will be my 10th year running [in the Applefest 5k],” he said. “It's a great run and fun to run with Matt.”
Registration will start 8:30 a.m. with the race itself starting at 10 a.m. Prizes will be awarded to the top finishers in categories including 12 and under, 13-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69 and 70 and over.
The cost to register for the race is $15 before Friday, Sept. 9, and $20 on and after Sept. 9. Runners who pre-register will receive an official race T-shirt. Walkers are also welcome to join in, but they will not be timed.
Race applications can be downloaded from the Corridor Nine Chamber of Commerce's website at www.corridornine.org or by calling the office at 508-836-4444.