By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson/Marlborough – On Saturday, June 1, runners and walkers are expected to arrive en masse to the 27th annual Hudson Community Fest as participants in the Highland City Striders (HCS) first Finnegan's Fantastic Five Road Race. Proceeds will go to the Hudson Elks Scholarship Fund for graduates of Hudson, Marlborough and Assabet Valley Regional Technical high schools.
HCS is a running club with about 100 members from Hudson, Marlborough and surrounding communities. Among several races they organize is a one-mile run held in conjunction with the annual Marlborough Heritage Festival. Jim McKenna, the club president, felt a road race would be an excellent addition to Hudson's festivities.
“Based on the success we'se had with the Marlborough Main Street Mile, we thought this would be a great idea to have along with Hudson's biggest annual party,” he said.
HCS was founded in 2004 by Mark Vital, former track coach at Marlborough High School, and current track coach and English teacher at the Advanced Math and Science Academy. He still serves on the HCS executive board.
In 2003, Vital started the Laborious Labor Day 10 Miler, beginning and ending at Ghiloni Park in Marlborough. Admission is 10 nonperishable goods for the Hudson Food Pantry. Vital started another 10 miler on the same course in 2008, the Tough Ten Turkey Trot held the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Runners donate 10 items for the Marlborough Community Cupboard.
McKenna said the holiday-themed 10-milers keep outdoing themselves.
“Last November at the Tough Ten, we had 140 people and they were very generous with donations,” he said. “I thought the guy who hauled all the canned goods to the food pantry was going to lose the springs in his truck – there was so much food.”
When HCS launched the Running with the Wolves 10K Road Race in 2009, the two food pantries were chosen as benefiting charities along with Shoes for Schools, a program providing running shoes for local students facing financial challenges. The 10K begins outside Kelleher Field in Marlborough, and then travels on the Assabet River Rail Trail to Hudson, then back for a stadium finish. Last year, over 200 runners ages 14 to 69 participated.
“We decided to focus on a 10K because there aren's very many of them,” McKenna noted.
The fifth annual Wolves 10K is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 6:30 p.m.
HCS first partnered with the Hudson Elks from 2009 through 2011 with the School Spirit 5K Run/Walk, which began and ended at the lodge. Inspired by the longtime football rivalry between Hudson and Marlborough, the race recognized not only the fastest runners, but also the community with the most residents registered. Proceeds went to the Elks Scholarship Fund.
“We wanted to accomplish the same things we did with the School Spirit 5K; we just wanted to change the seasons from fall to spring,” McKenna explained.
For 5K runners, the Finnegan's Fantastic Five will begin a 9:15 a.m. at Finnegan's Pub on South St. The 2K walkers will begin at 9:25 a.m. All will travel on the Assabet River Rail Trail for much of the race.
At 10:45 a.m., youngsters ages 2 to 6 are invited to take part in the Mighty Mite Marathon, a free 26.2-yard sprint. All finishers will receive a commemorative ribbon.
“We'se hoping the race gets a nice draw from surrounding communities and that folks will participate in all the fun afterward,” McKenna said.
Runners and walkers registered by Friday, May 17, are guaranteed to receive a technical T-shirt. For registration information, visit highlandcitystriders.org/Finnegans_Five.html.
For information about the Hudson Community Fest, visit assabetvalleychamber.org, and click “Event Calendar.”